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Students get a hands-on lesson in bilingual education

August 13, 2010

Culture shock, community service and the chance to understand the importance of education worldwide – these were just a few of the experiences awaiting students who participated in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College annual trip to Costa Rica. The program allows sophomore and junior education students the opportunity to study abroad while also setting time aside for students to interact with local schools and take in the scenery.

From May 29 until June 13, the 10 students traversed the land starting in the capital of San José where they went to several elementary and early educational schools, one that was the location of their service project. During these visits, students had the opportunity to see the differences between public and private institutions as well as some of the challenges they will face with bilingual or English language learning students.

The trip began with a visit to one of the local schools where the students observed and interacted with a fourth grade class. In the days following, they visited several other schools and began planning for their service project at the Yuanario Quezada public school in Escazu, a suburb of San José. Because earthquakes and other natural disasters are a concern in the area, the students came together to design an emergency evacuation plan and spent time constructing signs to be installed in the school.

In her final project, elementary education junior Brianna Bramanti, who is in the diversity in language and learning program, recalled one specific moment when the students gave children at Yuanario Quezada souvenirs from ASU upon completion of their service project.

“Each and every student looked genuinely grateful at the gesture and showed us a lot of love throughout the day,” she said. Her favorite part, however, was passing out gold t-shirts to one class and teaching them about life at ASU.

“We taught them the Sun Devil pitchfork. It was exhilarating to be able to share with them a glimpse of our college lives at home.”

When they weren’t in the capital city learning about different types of education, they were taking trips to the stunning Arenal Volcano and Manuel Antonio National Park, whose attractions include natural hot springs, beautiful beaches, butterfly pavilions and horseback riding through lush rainforest canopies.

Along with the scenic side trips and service events, in order to receive credit for the study abroad each of the participants blogged daily about their trip and were required to complete a final project about their time in Costa Rica. Topics of blog posts ranged from pictures of bugs and students taking excursions down waterfalls to quotes and in-depth descriptions of each day’s events. View the blog at:

It wasn’t always easy for the students, though, who faced many challenges including a language barrier and some moderate cultural differences. However, a quick 3-credit Spanish class and some welcoming natives helped ease the tension.

Alissa Koerner, one of the instructors who accompanied students on the trip, said watching the students overcome their fears and grow as teachers are just some of the benefits of the Costa Rica Education Experience.

“It challenges our students' beliefs and allows them to see the world through different eyes,” Koerner said. “It will allow them to better teach the diverse student population in Arizona.”

For Bramanti, the Costa Rica Education Experience forever changed her views on teaching and making a connection with her future students to be a better educator.

“Practicing empathy, I can make a serious effort to focus on what is most important, the main reason we are all in the classroom, and something universal: the children’s education.”

The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College offers world class academic programs for educators and scholars preparing to enter or advance in the profession. Teachers College provides challenging education programs to prepare successful and highly qualified PreKindergarten-12th grade teachers as well as programs for those interested in advanced study and research activities leading to careers in school leadership, school and educational psychology, education policy, education technology, higher and post-secondary education, and many other fields. ASU’s graduate programs in education are consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report as among the nation’s best.  For more information, visit

Written by Lauren Proper,

Jenni Thomas,
(602) 543-5951
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College