New Study Abroad Program Takes Service Learning To Another Level

Dr. Erin Barnhart discusses her recent trip down to Costa Rica and the vision of CCS’ unique study abroad program starting this Fall 2016.

by Dr. Erin Barnhart

When I think of Costa Rica, what first comes to mind is the beautiful natural environment: Surrounded by lush rolling hills, San Jose and Cartago are truly stunning. As you rise up in elevation, you are treated to a vista of red roofs, winding streets, and green as far as the eye can see.

During my short visit, I witnessed the stark beauty of Irazú Volcano, with its lush foliage and wispy clouds, along with architectural wonders such as the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles. I stayed in the Cross-Cultural Solutions Home-Base, which is tucked into a quiet neighborhood within walking distance to the heart of Cartago. It is a warm, welcoming place with a hammock, shared open spaces, and delicious meals prepared by friendly staff. Every evening the air was cool and comfortable, and the Home-Base hummed with music, activity, and energy.

The purpose of my trip to Costa Rica was to meet with Cross-Cultural Solutions staff, as well as faculty and administrators at the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR), to discuss the newly-designed study abroad program launching there this Fall 2016.

Everyone I met was knowledgeable, friendly, welcoming, and excited for the adventure ahead. The Cross-Cultural Solutions staff are experts in Costa Rican culture and service and eager to share what they know with new arrivals. The faculty and staff at UCR are invested in this new opportunity to partner with Cross-Cultural Solutions to provide a service-learning experience that is as memorable as it is educational.

As I discussed my class with fellow instructors at UCR and the CCS staff, I became more and more energized. We swapped ideas, shared stories, and discussed how we could make this program one that most effectively engages students in meaningful learning and service, taking advantage of this unique experiential education program that takes place in the classroom, on the computer, and in the community.

I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat, thrilled by our discussion and eager to begin teaching, facilitating, and engaging students in this new program.

My specific role is to facilitate the online service-learning and reflections course. In my class, we will explore topics like how to be an effective and ethical international partner, what it means to develop intercultural competency, and how to investigate and build awareness of our own sense of self and identity while living in a culture other than our own. We’ll have online discussions, write reflection journals, and play with new media to capture our experiences as we go.

You too can experience the many wonders of Costa Rica while engaging with the community in beautiful Cartago and taking courses at the Universidad de Costa Rica.

Join us, starting Fall 2016!

To learn more, visit

Erin L. Barnhart, Ph.D., has developed and delivered effective engagement tools, trainings and resources for volunteers, volunteer management professionals, and nonprofit and government organizations worldwide.

The Founder & President of Effective Altruism, LLC (, Barnhart is also the Director of Operations for the American Gap Association. In addition, she serves on the Board of Directors for the Building Bridges Coalition, as a member of the Oregon Committee on Volunteerism, and as an online instructor for AmeriCorps VISTA and an adjunct professor at the University of Oregon and Concordia University-Portland.


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