Psychology Study Abroad in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Study Abroad 2024

Over winter break 2024, fifteen students in Dr. Julian Nolen’s psychology class, "Health & The Human Experience" traveled abroad to Costa Rica for a two-week, 3-credit study abroad trip and included students from a cross-section of majors including psychology, health sciences, public health, education, biology and nursing.

The goal of the course was to explore new cultures and ways of living, while also directly participating in key activities and practices that we know are tied closely to mental health.

We explored gratitude and altruism while volunteering at a local school, practiced mindfulness as we swam through bioluminescent waters, and learned the value of "awe" and physical activity as we observed humpback whales and hiked volcanoes.

Each activity was accompanied by relevant research, and enhanced by student reflection/discussion about how best to incorporate related practices into their own lives and in their future human service work. Along the way, we had a lot of fun, built new and wonderful relationships, and did our best to create a life-changing experience together. ~ Julian Nolen, PhD, Associate Professor, Psychology

Our immersive educational experience in Costa Rica reinforced the value of being present and to appreciate each experience and each person. Approaching each day with an adventure-based mindset, deconditioning ourselves to set aside what we’ve been wired to think, while learning about self-sustenance, mindfulness, shared triumphs, and purpose for creating lasting change in the world. I am so grateful for this opportunity and this journey to broaden my worldview. It helped me think outside the box and understand I have greater potential and purpose to impact the world in a positive way. I look forward to the future and the next adventure. ~ Carlin Lechner, senior, psychology major, Missoula, MT

This experience took all expectations I had in my head, and exceeded them twofold. Although I will forever remember the feeling of ziplining over the jungle and snorkeling in aquamarine water, what may have been most memorable were the moments after - talking and reflecting with everyone on the beach at sunset or around a fire. The relationships and friendships I made in Costa Rica are the pieces I got to take home with me, and I will forever be grateful for that. ~ Myah Rietze, sophomore, psychology major, Coeur D'Alene, ID

The “Human Well Being in Costa Rica” trip involved an array of experiences. Students began their journey with a tour of a coffee plantation, followed by expeditions through dense jungles, serene rivers, and scenic canals complete with exotic animal and bird sightings. They engaged in cultural immersion by partaking in community-based activities such as celebrating New Year's with locals, community service, cooking, and shared language-learning. The adventure continued with a nighttime exploration of the rainforest, trekking through nature trails, diving into waterfall pools, relaxing in natural hot springs, and snorkeling in warm waters full of tropical fish. The itinerary also included viewing volcanoes, exhilarating ziplining and waterfall rappelling. Additionally, the group visited a wildlife sanctuary, experienced beachside camping accompanied by a bioluminescence night tour and an artisanal fishing excursion. The journey culminated in a heartfelt cultural exchange volunteering at a low-income school for local children in San Jose. 

“My favorite part of this trip was being in Montezuma. While here we spent time in the ocean, got to see whales, went snorkeling, and created deeper bonds with each other. Specifically, one of my favorite memories was sitting on the beach at sunset talking about the awe that we had experienced during the day and in our lives. This trip had so many awesome and life changing moments and I am super grateful to Dr. Nolen for putting this experience together.” ~ Bella Chalmers, junior, psychology major, Happy Valley, OR

Studying abroad in Costa Rica was a once in a lifetime experience. My favorite part of the trip was how Dr. Nolen would incorporate learning into our fun activities. Coming back from Costa Rica I am enjoying getting to use the things I learned in my internship. ~ Emma Chaffin, junior, psychology major, Duvall, WA


You can see highlights of the trip from Carroll sophomore Emma Barron on Carroll’s Instagram page and in our Instagram Highlights Study Abroad section.