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Catawba College Administrator Set to Travel with Students to Costa Rica for 10th Year

May 11, 2005

Category: Academics, Events, Faculty, Students


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Catawba College’s Vice President and Dean of Students Dr. Carl Girelli is so accustomed to the life and sights in Costa Rica that he doesn’t even take photos there anymore, but his students do.

“No matter how many times I’ve seen it all, it’s still a real kick to watch new students experience this,” Girelli explains.   “It’s a life-changing experience for them.   The first year we went, I had a student who cried for a week because she was homesick.   We called her Miss Rain.   Now, we could call her a world traveler, because since that trip, she’s traveled and seen many places outside the States. It was an eye-opener for her and for others like her.”  

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May 15th, Girelli, his family, and a group of 22 Catawba students will take a month-long trip to the tiny Central American country which is bordered on the east by the Caribbean Sea and on the west by the Pacific Ocean.   The students are going to study Spanish at a private language institute there, spending four hours, five days a week in class.   It will be a class with no more than four students in it and Spanish will be spoken exclusively.

Most of the students will stay in a bed and breakfast sort of facility located in the city of Heredia, but a few will actually live with Costa Rican families.   When they’re not in class, the students will see the country.   Their weekday mornings are free, and then every Wednesday and every weekend, Girelli will take them sight-seeing.  

They’ll travel to La Paz, a waterfall with nearby a butterfly garden and a hummingbird gallery; to the Arenal volcano, one of the country’s two active volcanos, and spend a night at a nearby hot springs spa; to San Jose, the capital city, where they’ll tour the national museum and the theatre; to Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific side of the country for two days watching monkeys, lizards, macaws and other wildlife, and they’ll feed crocodiles on the way there; to the Café Britt Coffee Plantation, where they’ll see Arabica beans grown; and finally, to the Puerto Viejo, where the students will experience a blended Hispanic-African and Caribbean culture.

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The tri-lingual Girelli, who speaks Portuguese, Spanish and English, notes significant changes in Costa Rica, a democratic republic of more than 4 million people, since he first began traveling with students there.   Everything is much more connected and convenient, he says, citing the proliferation of Internet cafes, ATMs and eco-tourism.   Yet, Costa Rica, he notes, is far from commercial, largely because of its eco-tourism efforts.   In addition to tourism, the country’s stable economy depends on agriculture and electronics exports.

When asked what he’s looking forward to about his Costa Rican trip, Girelli simply smiles and begins remembering the food he’s sure to have.   “I’ll have fried yucca, some rotisserie chicken, gallo pinto (speckled beans and rice) and some sea bass grilled with garlic.   And the naturales (juice drinks) are good too – papaya, mango, tamarind.”

Catawba College students traveling to Costa Rica include Elizabeth Ballard of Culpeper, Va.; Courtney Blum of Fuquay-Varina;   Hayley Bollinger of Simpsonville, S.C.; Tiffany Cox of Woodbridge, Va.; Craig Emory of Beltsville, Md.; Kellie Fountain and William Milligan, both of Matthews; Kolbe Greer and Brent Smith, both of Ellicott City, Md.; Victoria Hamilton of Wake Forest; Chelsea Hibbard of Wilson, N.Y.; Kaitlin Kolesnikoff of Oakton, Va.; Stephen McKenzie of Springfield, Va.; Brian Moye of Alpharetta, Ga; Ryan Musil of Whitefish Bay, Wis.; John Matthew Rich and Lindsay Stobaugh, both of Greensboro; Marissa Robbins of Takoma Park, Md.; Aileen Thomason of Burlington, Vt.; Tara Woods Turner of Salisbury; Jillian Varkas of East Sandwich, Mass.; and Charles Walters of Mooresville.


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