Costa Rica Reflections

Guest Post By: Isabella Ramirez, Full-Time MBA Class of 2023

From our multiple company visits & lectures, there were a few themes. One is the importance of education in Costa Rica and the huge amount of funding allocated for that. The literacy level is extremely high. Additionally, there is wide access to health care, and land protection is also a priority. However, we also learned that the growth of Central American countries is slower relative to other regions – although Costa Rica & Panama lead the group. We heard a few potential reasons for this, including lack of institutions, socializing of some systems (such as education), and one reason cited was even the inherited “conquistador” attitude. I personally find countries like Costa Rica (or, for example, Cuba) with some socialized systems to be better overall despite “lower” GDP growth. I aim to find and use metrics beyond GDP.

Prior to the study trek, I had no expectations aside from the brief description of the trip. This resulted in two things. First, I was pleasantly surprised by many aspects of the trip, including the ease of wildlife viewing, the weather and natural beauty, and the variety of company visits. However, I was also not completely prepared for a trip focused on study, not leisure, especially after a busy fall quarter. I also have done a ton of traveling on my own and have developed my own travel style, which did not completely correspond with the study trek. Additionally, much of my identity revolves around my huge number of travel experiences and my love of travel; however, recently, I have preferred to stay home due to a variety of factors (cats, family, coziness, mental health, etc.). This disconnect made aspects of the trip difficult, like being away from my pets, having issues traveling long distances (read: motion sickness), and general mismatched styles of travel. If I had developed more expectations and visualized what the trip would be like, I could have avoided this malaise and/or altered my decision to attend the study trek. However, once again, I have no regrets and overall am very happy with my decision to do the trip. Gaining more experiences is always valuable to me. My tendency to not develop any expectations extends beyond my experiences in Costa Rica; I believe in some cases it’s positive, some it’s negative, and some it just is. Overall, it’s a very valuable takeaway. 

We talked about the apparent differences between the Costa Rican & US governments’ approaches to sustainability. As we discussed as a larger group, it seems that Costa Rica has environmental sustainability as a core tenant of its governmental policies, whereas in the US and other countries, it tends to feel like it is something that has been added on later due to climate change urgency. This is due to a variety of reasons, including cultural changes and integration of nature into society, along with the stark individualism of the US. I find that the individualistic nature in the US leads to less collective care about the environment (and less collective care/mutual aid in general). The slow nature of our government, the profit seeking large corporations, and disjointed individuals instead of communities make it very difficult to accomplish sustainability goals in the US. That being said, countries like Costa Rica can be used as a model, and there has been some great progress everywhere.

Isabella Ramirez has experience in semiconductor manufacturing and R&D and came to Foster to gain business knowledge, practice people management, and learn ways to make an impact in the workplace. She is interested in sustainability roles, consulting, and project management after her MBA. She has experience traveling solo to 20+ countries, including 1 year in SE Asia and 6 months in Latin America. She is a Global Business Center Scholarship recipient.

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