Costa Rican exchange program supports cultural diversity | ParkRecord.com

Costa Rican exchange program supports cultural diversity

Megan Yeiter , The Park Record

Seeing and playing in the snow for the first time has been a favorite pastime for Costa Rican students visiting Park City as a part of an exchange program. The students have attended Park City Day School classes, toured the Park City Historical Museum, volunteered at the food bank and Holy Cross Ministries and gone sledding.

This is the first year for the exchange, according to Park City Day School teacher Molly Alden-Rabenau, who said it has been a dream to start the exchange program with the Liceo Experimental Bilingue de Turrialba.

"I lived in Costa Rica for three years and taught students and they said ‘Could you take us to the U.S.?’ It’s not the same students, but at least we made it. I’m really excited for this group to have this experience," Alden-Rabenau said. "They will host Park City students down in their homes in June. We hope that this can be something to continue each year."

Alden-Rabenau said that the students who were selected for the trip have the highest grades in their classes. Costa Rican student Hellen Baltodario said attending school in Park City is different than she’s used to. Costa Rican students attend school from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. during the week.

"I love everything around here, the snow and the people are really nice," Baltodario said, adding that her favorite activity so far is sledding.

Costa Rican teacher Corina Diaz said she spoke with her students about the cold temperatures and what cultural differences to expect on the trip.

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"To be in a country like this where they have to be really open as far as food, culture and language, I suggested that they open up to their host families and encouraged them to bring pictures as an ice-breaker activity," Diaz said, adding that her hope is that the American students will feel comfortable when they visit Costa Rica because of the picture sharing.

Students take between 18 and 20 English classes per week and they get excited when they can communicate with other people in English, Diaz said, adding that students are required to speak English at school.

"They have to speak English all the time. They love to watch to TV and listen to music in English too," she said. "I’m so proud of their attitude and the way they behave in the (Park City Day) school and with their families."

Jose Mario a 9th-grader from Costa Rica said English is a large portion of the curriculum they cover in school. Internet is available at the school, but only for teachers, Mario said.

"We have a little less free time. When we are not in school we hang out with friends maybe at the park, get ice cream, pizza or have a drink," he said, adding that they have homework almost every day.

Alden-Rabenau said about eight students from Park City Day and Park City High School will travel to Costa Rica in June. She said the group will stay with host families, help with community development projects and attend school with their counterparts.

"It’s been very interesting because the students have exchanged information about cultures and about politics, government systems, and nature and the similarities and differences," she said, adding that the exchange students spent one afternoon teaching local middle school students about the Costa Rican government.

An information session for those interested in participating in the exchange program will be held at Park City Day School on Feb. 16, at 3:45 p.m. Students 14 and older and their parents are welcome to attend. For more information contact Molly Alden-Rabenau at molly@costaricaexplorations.org . For more information about Costa Rican Explorations visit http://www.costaricaexplorations.org .