Building on the success of its decade-long summer field courses in Costa Rica, the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) launched a full Semester Abroad program open to all York University students in May.
The first Las Nubes Semester Abroad attracted 53 students from six York Faculties (FES, Glendon, Health, LA&PS, Science and Education) to York’s EcoCampus, situated in the heart of the Las Nubes Forest Reserve in the Alexander Skutch Corridor. The program offered students six environmental studies courses that touched upon a wide range of topics, including food sovereignty, indigenous issues, conservation, sustainable development, environmental health and tropical ecology.
For the 2018 Semester Abroad program, FES continues to foster the integration of all parts of the University into the Las Nubes EcoCampus. This year’s programming will once again include six courses, four of which are offered by environmental studies. New this year, course offerings will expand to include one course offered by the Faculty of Education and one course offered by Glendon.
All York University students are encouraged to attend this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The goal of the Semester Abroad is to immerse students in the cloud forest of Costa Rica and surrounding local and indigenous communities. The courses provide students with experiential learning opportunities to explore the historical and contemporary, environmental and social dynamics of this extraordinary environment. In addition, students contribute to lasting community engagement activities (such as the annual Alexander Skutch Festival), explore neotropical conservation methods, learn about agriculture and sustainable business practices, contribute to citizen science projects, apply citizen science to their species identification walks and learn to consider the influence of global perspectives that influence health, politics and economic life in Costa Rica.
The experience of the Semester Abroad is far more than just course-based learning; while attending the program, students are completely engaged in the local communities that are just outside the EcoCampus in their home stay accommodations.
In 2017, the Semester Abroad contributed nearly $50,000 to the local economy, out of which almost half went to 31 home stay families. The program also supports local knowledge and expertise, with all of the courses including invited guests or local guides.
Students returning from the EcoCampus recognize the home stay as one of the many invaluable experiences of the Semester Abroad program.
Students say they return to Toronto with new perspectives on global challenges to environmental well-being, global sustainability and social equity. Not only do they utilize their new knowledge when they return to their studies at York’s Keele or Glendon campuses, but it also proves useful in their future academic and career pursuits, having established a lifelong connection to the EcoCampus and the Las Nubes Project.
Interested faculty members and researchers are welcome to contact the Las Nubes Project (email@example.com) to discuss potential future course offerings or projects at Las Nubes.