Monday, March 23, 2015

The Free Time Dilemma

Having now been in Costa Rica just over two months, I have come to the realization that I still struggle with a common dilemma: what do I do with my free time? At first, the program was densely packed with activities, so the need to fill time rarely arose. Endearingly called the “day-by-day”, our group is provided with a weekly schedule that allocates when activities, lectures, or research projects will occur. However, once we all adjusted to the schedule and we started designing our own research projects, I realized that there were frequent blocks of time where no set activity was planned. By no means am I saying that balancing free time is a new concept for me, nor for any college student I would imagine, yet being in Costa Rica poses a different time management priority.

Here, we are not only research students, we are also foreigners and tourists. There is urgency in our actions to see and experience as much of the environment and culture as possible while still managing the requirements of the course. Everyday that I have been at this biological station in Las Cruces, I find myself making a decision to either go for a walk through the botanical gardens or study lecture material. It is often possible to do both, but then, which takes priority?

The formal education we receive through research and lectures is important, but so too is the informal education that we discover for ourselves when we explore our environment. For example when we go on group nature walks, there is both informal and formal education at the same time, but with other activities, there is a more obvious distinction in what type of education the activity provides. But then I wonder, is one more important than the other? When I leave here, what will I remember more, the material I learned in class or the times I spent outside in the forest? Realistically, I know it will be a mix of both, so I think that I need to maintain a balance between the two. I consider myself extremely fortunate that deciding how best to use my time is one of my tougher struggles here.

Liz Stratton

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