Millikin Students Get Performance Learning Experience During Trip to Costa Rica

The group of mostly Nursing students toured a clinic and met with local medical professionals.

Costa Rica

DECATUR, Ill. – A group of 27 Millikin University students and three faculty and staff members packed their bags and grabbed their passports to take part in a trip to Costa Rica from March 19-26, 2023. The group, comprised mostly of School of Nursing students, also featured a diverse collection of majors, including Business, Psychology, Education, Biology and Criminal Justice, on the part Performance Learning trip and part Central American sightseeing. 

Sophomore Elementary Education major Lauren Auton was excited about her first international trip and getting to use some of her Spanish skills. 

“I had never been out of the country, so this trip drew my attention because I’ve always wanted to go. It was a Nursing trip, but I knew I could learn from that experience,” Lauren said. “I am doing a B.A. in Elementary Education, which means I focus on foreign languages. I take Spanish, which was a great opportunity to practice my Spanish-speaking skills. I was certainly given the chance to do that. We got to visit a school while we were there, and I got to learn more strategies to become a better teacher.”

Costa Rica
Millikin students visit a Costa Rican rain forest. 

The group was based in the city of Heredia, Costa Rica, located about 10 kilometers north of the capital of San José, and they also ventured out to see nature, including the Costa Rican rainforest and the Poás Volcano National Park. 

The trip was led by Nursing faculty members Gail Fyke and Julia Auton and Center of International Education Coordinator Athena Pajer. The students also visited a local clinic and witnessed the challenges of delivering healthcare to the more remote areas of Costa Rica. 

Costa Rica
Millikin students met with Costa Rican healthcare workers during their trip. 

“They live so far out that they don’t have health care services and are several hours from good health care. They have healers in their villages, and our speaker was one of them,” Julia said. “He talked about the challenges and was proud of his people. He showed how he treated diabetes in his village. We compared some U.S. healthcare tactics with Costa Rican methods and how it is alike and different, which was great for us in healthcare.”

For junior Nursing major Faith Marinier, the experience will aid her as she enters the job market after graduation. 

“It was unique compared to what we have in the United States. It was an overflow clinic, and many nurses were doing telehealth and video chatting. They also had trucks and trailers that they used, especially during COVID, that they turned into a full-blown exam room,” Faith said. “I thought this trip was a great learning experience and I got to travel with my friends. In healthcare, if you can show that you have a little bit of international health experience, that is beneficial. I’m so happy I jumped at the opportunity.”

The group also took a tour of a coffee plant which gave them a closer look at one of Costa Rica’s leading exports. Another popular event was an evening filled with salsa dancing. 

“I have been a dancer for quite a few years, but I had never done salsa dancing before, so I was very excited about that,” Lauren said. “Our instructor was very kind and patient with us and created a good environment. Everyone was having so much fun. We did single and partner dancing, so we got a good variety. We tried different styles too and the instructor danced with us, so we got to dance with a real salsa dancer.”

Costa Rica
A butterfly lands on Millikin student Lauren Auton while visiting a Costa Rican rain forest.

Gail and Julia also encouraged the group to take reflection periods each day and journal about their experiences.  

“We have our journals now and we can look back on what we learned. We can look back at things we may have forgotten if we hadn’t written them down,” Lauren said. “I think everyone really took advantage of our free time during the trip. Everyone went out and explored because you might only be in Costa Rica once, so you have to take advantage of it.”