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Next Stop for MLK Scholars: Costa Rica

Written by Courtney Clemente

MLK scholars combined community service with research on their last trip to Costa Rica in 2005.

This January, I’ll be taking my last international service-learning trip with the MLK Scholars Program. We will be traveling to Costa Rica to explore issues of environmental justice, race, economics, and the intersection of all three issues.

Our trip will begin in San Jose, where we will attend lectures at the Universidad de Costa Rica on subjects such as the nation’s economy, its national healthcare system, women’s issues, immigration and eco-tourism. Eco-tourism is the largest "product" of Costa Rica, and we will be studying the ways in which eco-tourism is constructed, the ways it affects the economy, and the affect it has on the local population. In San Jose, we will meet at the U.S. Embassy.

Junior MLK scholars pose with Assistant Professor Sean Eversley-Bradwell after presenting their research at IC's annual Whalen Symposium.

Junior MLK scholars pose with Assistant Professor Sean Eversley-Bradwell after presenting their research at IC's annual Whalen Symposium.

We won’t be traveling all the way to Costa Rica to just listen to lectures. We’ll visit the Caribbean coast for a chocolate processing tour, a banana plantation tour, a tour of a Talamancan farm to learn about the iguana reproduction project, and meet with Universidad Earth -- an international, non-profit university focused on education in the agricultural sciences and natural resources in order to contribute to sustainable development in the tropics. Universidad Earth seeks a balance between agricultural production and environmental preservation.

Continuing Dr. King’s legacy of service, a main focus of the travel will be the service project we complete in the Limon/Manzanillo area. Parts of this service project will include painting a local school and work on construction, tree planting, and beach cleaning.

Before traveling in January, MLK scholars participate in a semester long course titled "Case Studies in Global Justice." In this course, we learn about the aforementioned social justice issues we will encounter on our travel, so as to be well informed before arriving. A main component of this course is to research and explore a social justice topic in Costa Rica of our choosing. Each of us present learning proposals on this topic and focus on the topic while we are traveling.

Junior MLK scholars present these research findings at the Whalen Symposium in the spring. The idea is for scholars to choose a similar research topic, ideally related to their major or career goal, and follow it for three years across each country we travel to.

I have been researching women’s issues since I began internationally traveling with the MLK scholars three years ago. I studied the representation of Korean women in South Korean media in Seoul, South Korea, and the social justice issues raised by female migration from Morocco to Spain in Granada, Spain and Rabat, Morocco. This year, I will be examining research conducted by the Center for Justice and International Law in Costa Rica, and the legal obstacles and triumphs women in Costa Rica have faced historically, and are currently facing.

These trips have had a great influence on me and I look forward to continuing my work on social justice issues long after I’ve graduated.



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