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      Freshman in Costa Rica

      Students Participate in Freshman Seminar Course Abroad

      Widener Students in Costa Rica

      Freshman seminar students visit sustainable farming sites in Costa Rica.

      Most students start their college career moving into a residence hall, but 17 students started their tenure at Widener University by boarding a plane with three professors and flying to Costa Rica for a weeklong immersion in “Culture Competence and Global Awareness.”

      The immersion is a freshman seminar course, which allows students from all majors the chance to study abroad before even starting class officially on Main Campus. In the first year of the program, students focused on sustainability and community health globally, studying the environment and how everyone is affected by it. Biology Professors Bruce Grant and Itzick Vatnick, along with Normajean Colby, as assistant professor of nursing, started formulating the course a year ago.

      “It was an idea we had for a while, and it’s a great way to offer a study abroad experience to nursing students, as their clinical schedule doesn’t typically allow for it,” Colby said.

      Each of the faculty attended Widener Days and Accepted Student Days to promote the course to the incoming Class of 2021. Interested students had to submit an application and attend in-person meetings with the faculty before traveling.

      Students traveled to Costa Rica on August 12, a week before moving onto campus. While in Costa Rica, the cohort stayed at CARES 21, a villa that Widener University purchased in 2016 in hopes of affording opportunities such as this for students.

      During the immersion experience, students visited sustainable farming sites, coffee farms, and even a high school where students studied English. They also learned how to improve their time management skills and focused on ways to better transition to life as a college student. Of the students attending the trip, half are nursing majors, as it’s one of the only opportunities nursing students have to study abroad.

      The overall trip was a chance for students to get comfortable in their new role as college students.

      “The experience studying abroad has made a lasting impact on me,” Abigal Sazblowski, a freshman nursing major, said. “It showed me how to make new friends, even when it’s difficult. And that professors are easy to talk to. I never expected to be able to have relationships with my teachers, but they really care about the students.”

      Siobhan Cottle, a business a major, agreed. “I was nervous about being thrown into a new environment, but this trip helped me feel more relaxed. Now that I know some friendly faces on campus I feel more confident.”

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