BROWNWOOD – Thirteen Howard Payne University students, faculty and staff members visited the country of Costa Rica following the end of the spring 2015 semester. The international experience was led by Carla Hawkins, then assistant professor of Spanish, and Keith Platte, director of HPU's Baptist Student Ministry.
The expedition was HPU's first hybrid trip combining students from Spanish class with mission volunteers of the BSM. However, all students participated in each of the activities during the 11-day trip.
The students and supervisors made their first stop at Hogar De Vida, an orphanage, where they witnessed to others by serving and repainting parts of the facility.
"We spent the first three days serving at this orphanage in Atenas," said Platte. "The workers there rely on volunteers like us to help maintain or repair the facility. We also helped lead devotionals."
The group then spent three days in Cahuita along the eastern coast experiencing the Caribbean culture, three days in the central mountainous region of Costa Rica at Paraíso and three days in San Jose, Costa Rica's largest city.
Activities included guided tours of the mountain ranges, coffee plantations, art and history museums, churches, marketplaces and more. The goal was to give students an immersive experience in the Spanish-American and Caribbean cultures in a range of locations.
"The country has so much culture and a rich history," said Platte. "We visited their oldest still-attended church, which is even older than the United States."
A common greeting in the country is "pura vida," or "pure life." It epitomizes the cultural experience of the HPU group, according to the students.
"I love that they all say 'pura vida' because it shows that they aren't worried about other things and that they love the life they live," said Adrienne Sanchez, junior Spanish major from Ozona.
The diversity of the culture, geography and opportunity for service made Costa Rica a prime choice for HPU's first hybrid trip. The students studied the country before arriving to better appreciate the experience.
"From the relaxing lifestyle of the coast, to the beautiful views from the volcanoes, to the ever-busy life of the markets in the cities, Costa Rica has it all," said Ashley Chapman, senior Spanish and Guy D. Newman Honors Academy major from Ennis.
Additional students on the trip included Kyndal Broome, senior management major from San Angelo; Anthony Bryant, criminal justice major and May 2015 graduate from Copperas Cove; Tara Carroll, sophomore Spanish major from McKinney; Yessenia Cazares, senior psychology major from El Paso; Camryn Lopez, senior Spanish major from Wallis; Cody Perrin, junior history and Guy D. Newman Honors Academy major from Eastland; Trystin Teale, freshman liberal arts major from Midland; Hannah Williamson, junior Spanish major from Fort Worth; and Mikayla Warren, senior cross-cultural studies major from Salado.
This piece was written by Chandler Condra, a senior at Howard Payne University. A group from HPU is pictured at the top of the Irazú Volcano at a national park in Costa Rica. Back row, left to right: Keith Platte, Anthony Bryant, Cody Perrin and Trystin Teale. Middle row, left to right: Camryn Lopez, Mikayla Warren, Hannah Williamson, Adrienne Sanchez, Kyndal Broome, Yessenia Cazares and Tara Carroll. Front row, left to right: Ashley Chapman and Gustavo Abarca, the group's tour guide. Not pictured is Carla Hawkins.