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Costa Rica Provides Plenty for Field Period™

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of features on recipients of the Judith Oliver Brown Memorial Award. The award, named after the late 1963 Keuka graduate, is supported by Brown’s family and the Class of ’63. It is designed to assist students who pursue a culturally-oriented Field Period™.

Brittany Gleason

Like many people, Keuka College junior Brittany Gleason has a bucket list. And like many people, traveling is among the items on the list.

Thanks to receiving the Judith Oliver Brown Memorial Award, Gleason had the opportunity to cross ‘traveling’ off of her list during her January Field Period™. The mathematics major and Carthage resident traveled to San Jose, Costa Rica, where she took classes at Centro Cultural de Idiomas (CCI), a cultural language center.

“To me, traveling means learning and experiencing new cultures and broadening my horizons,” said Gleason. “It also means meeting new people and forming lifelong friendships. I was excited to push myself and get as much out of the experience as possible.”

But she was not the only Keuka student who traveled to Costa Rica for her January Field Period™. Sophomore Kathryn Zawisa, another recipient of the Judith Oliver Brown Memorial Award, went too, intent on learning more about how Costa Rican small businesses are run.

Gleason, Zawisa, a marketing and management major from Amsterdam—and four other Keukonians—participated in Finger Lakes Community College’s (FLCC) study abroad program. During the Field Period™ each conducted, Gleason and Zawisa had the opportunity to improve their Spanish language proficiency, and develop an understanding and appreciation of Costa Rica’s culture. They also had the opportunity to tour sites of interest and be housed with a host family.

Kathryn Zawsia

“It’s been my dream to travel to a Spanish-speaking country where I could use what I have learned,” said Zawisa. “Taking Spanish classes since sixth grade has transformed into a minor at Keuka. Not only have I enjoyed learning the language, but I’ve also found myself yearning to learn more about the culture. Costa Rica gave me the opportunity to understand the Spanish culture and feed my interest.”

It was also a chance to practice community service.

“I have been involved in my community from an early age, so when I heard we were going to work with young girls, I jumped at the chance to help,” said Gleason.

She worked at a social services organization which provides room, board, and schooling to adolescent girls who have been removed from their homes due to domestic violence, neglect, and or abuse.

Gleason enlisted the help of her fellow Enactus teammates to ask the College community for donations for the girls. Together they collected pens, pencils, erasers, markers, colored pencils, notebooks, stickers, ponytail holders, headbands, and barrettes, among others. Zawisa also intended to donate part of her award money to a Costa Rican charity.

“I believe I am a driven and passionate student, which is shown through my interaction with others,” said Zawisa. “I hope I displayed this passion while in Costa Rica.”

Part of that passion was the desire to compare how a small Costa Rican business is run versus an American one.

“My family owns two small businesses in New York state so I already know much about how to run one,” said Zawisa. “But seeing what differs in Costa Rican businesses, instead of reading it online, was an unforgettable opportunity.”

And she was not just interested in how the businesses are run.

“I wanted to learn the differences of communication in a Spanish-speaking country such as nonverbal cues, inter-gender communication, and more,” said Zawisa. “Learning these skills could put me one step ahead of other Spanish minors because I’d not only know the language, but I’d also know how to approach, and speak to, a native Spanish speaker.”

Added Gleason: “Being at Keuka has given me the confidence and knowledge I need to be a productive member of society. I believe traveling to Costa Rica was a life-changing experience, especially because I learned more about the world while helping others in need.”

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