Reflections on a world away: Costa Rica 2024

February 26, 2024

Experiential learning – or learning by doing – is a hallmark of a Nichols education, which is why one group of students experienced the trip of a lifetime to Costa Rica over winter break. As part of the faculty-led travel course Humanities 270: The Costa Rica Experience, five students spent the fall studying Costa Rica’s culture, history, politics, climate, languages, religion, and economy, and then traveled to Costa Rica during winter break for a 13-day trip where they experienced all of the above firsthand.  

Costa Rica is a Central American country known for its biodiversity, with more than 25% of its entire land area dedicated as protected land. The country has remade its economy in order to include a significant focus on ecotourism, for which it ranks 3rd in the world.  

The trip offered a balance of cultural experiences while showing students what the country has to offer. The students met and experienced local families and customs, visited sites of interest within the country’s farming and ecotourism industries as well as participated in outdoor activities, from hiking to dolphin watching to swimming in beaches and hot springs. Some highlights include: 

Traveling to Costa Rica to see course topics firsthand and exploring the differences between Costa Rica and the U.S. made a lasting impression on students. Reflecting on the trip now that the dust has settled after their return, students Gabrielle Maranchie ’27 and Marissa Gosselin ’26 discussed why the trip was so impactful for them. 

“Traveling to a new country taught me so many new things and allowed me to try so many new things I never would have experienced. Traveling on this Costa Rica trip was valuable for expanding my knowledge on the world,” said Maranchie, who is a General Business major. 

The trip not only expanded her horizons, but her passion for travel and culture also grew, she says. “Physically living through someone else’s culture has deepened my eagerness to learn more about other cultures, and it’s made me want to share my passion of traveling with others and teach them how important it is to travel the world and gain new experiences.” 

“This experience brought me out of my comfort zone and made me want to take more opportunities that Nichols presents,” added Gosselin, a General Business major and Hospitality minor. She also found additional personal meaning. 

“I’ve always wanted to travel, so it helped me realize I can travel without my family and still have so much fun. I have also always had a fear of planes, and after 4 flights I think I have started to overcome that fear.” 

The students’ reactions sounded spot-on to Boyd Brown, M.A., Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, and Kristen Malinowski-Paine, M.S., M.A.T., Director of the Nichols Academic Center for Excellence and Support and PDSO of International Programs, who planned and accompanied the students on the trip. 

“Boyd and I have literally seen students change intellectually, emotionally and physically by traveling to another country, which is why we present students with the opportunity,” says Malinowski-Paine, who organized the logistics for the trip.  

Given that topics from students’ majors were also seen during the trip, from international business to hospitality to societal issues, having such an impactful experience early in their academic career means the experience will pay dividends for the students as they move through their remaining years on campus. 

“The hope is that as the students start getting into some of their leadership opportunities and upper level classes and topics come up, that there’ll be these connections in their mind from Costa Rica, and they’ll realize how that experience relates to things that they are learning and doing here at Nichols, which can inspire student learning,” said Brown, who teaches the Humanities course. 

As a last reflection, the students were asked – what was your favorite part of the trip? 

“This is an impossible question, there are so many parts of the trip that were my favorite,” joked Gosselin. “Traveling with my best friend, traveling out of the country for the first time, seeing so many new types of animals like sloths and monkeys right outside our resort room, and spending two weeks in warm tropical weather in the middle of the winter.”  

“My favorite part of the trip has to have been when the professors had a surprise for us. This was the last day of our trip, and by that point everyone felt like family. When we finally arrived at our surprise, we found out that it was Latin dance lessons. This was such an amazing night, and we shared so many laughs and created forever memories,” said Maranchie. 

For a video of Maranchie and Olivia Charette ’27 explaining the course’s contents and recalling their experiences in Costa Rica, please watch here.

About Nichols College  

Nichols College has earned business accreditation from the prestigious Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International), the longest serving global accrediting body for business schools and the largest business education network connecting learners, educators, and businesses worldwide. Founded in 1815, Nichols College transforms today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders through a dynamic, career-focused business and professional education. Nichols offers real-world learning focused on professional depth – combined with vibrant living, competitive athletics, and an unmatched alumni advantage – equipping students to exceed their own expectations. To learn more about Nichols College, visit  

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Denise Kelley  

Marketing and Communications Writer/Editor