GEE Students Explore Costa Rica
The first batch of students from the Global Entrepreneurship Experience (GEE) program traveled to the "happiest place on earth" — Costa Rica — as part of the International Seminar class this spring.
Costa Rica was selected because of the country's focus on sustainability and ecotourism, said trip coordinator and international business professor Keong Leong. Costa Rica is known for its emphasis on education and healthcare, political stability, and a solid national healthcare system. While Costa Rica represents only .03 percent of the planet´s surface, it is ranked in the top 20 richest countries in biodiversity on Earth.
Costa Rica is rated the happiest place on earth by a British independent study based on the Happy Planet Index, which measures the impact of human well-being and environment. (The United States ranks a distant 114.) This happiness can be attributed to Costa Ricans embracing "pura vida" or "pure life" as part of their culture, food, and relationship with one another.
The trip was a mix of educational and cultural activities including business visits to the U.S. Commercial Service, McCann San Jose, Finca Zurquí Banana Plantation, Doka Estate Coffee Plantation, and Corsicana Pineapple Farm.
"This was an incredible opportunity for the students to experience an emerging market business environment and learn about sustainability concepts that are applicable in the United States," Leong said.
The students gleaned many business and cultural lessons from the trip, he added.
"Any firm looking to do business in Costa Rica has to take into consideration Costa Rica's plan of achieving Carbon Neutrality by 2021. The government has done a terrific job identifying the most important resource that Costa Rica has, which is the environment," said Firas El Nasrani.
"They are taking a lot of steps to protect, maintain, and resourcefully use this environment, and most of the companies and firms operating in Costa Rica are reducing their carbon footprint."
GEE Coordinator Janet Runge, who also made the trip, said she was pleased to see students apply their classroom concepts in observing Costa Rican businesses. "Many conversations during the trip focused on the opportunities they saw, their thoughts about how to strengthen the enterprises they visited, and ideas that they believed could translate into their lives at home."
During the students' free time they had the opportunity to try out several activities including the Canopy Zip Line. The final zip run was 700 meters long and from one of the highest points in the forest with a spectacular view of the surrounding area. Many of the students also joined the Blue Dolphin tour where they went on a 40-foot sailing catamaran to go snorkeling, kayaking, and swimming.
"This trip was very educational and interesting. I learned about plant production, advertising and marketing, both in Costa Rica and the rest of the world, and Costa Rican culture and life," said Ron Duprau.
"We learned the impact of tariffs, government, and religion on different business practices that differed from the customs we have here in the United States. We saw the beautiful country and experienced the unique culture of Costa Rica, and everyone was better for it."
Rebecca Dodd added: "I have told all my family and friends about my wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience in Costa Rica. I did not expect to learn so much from such a small country in such a short period of time. The country's friendly disposition and surplus of eco-tourist destinations and activities has made me more interested in seeing what else it has to offer."
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