Elon Center in Costa Rica to offer new internship program

Kassondra Cloos
News Editor, The Pendulum

The Elon University Center in Costa Rica will begin offering internships for students outside the School of Education beginning fall 2012. Currently, education majors have the opportunity to obtain internships at local schools in Costa Rica, but there are no options for students of other majors.

“We’re trying to build the program to raise the numbers and get more students interested in studying abroad in Costa Rica during the fall semester,” said Richard Mihans, associate professor of education.

Mihans has been leading an initiative to raise interest in the program. Teaching Fellows are required to study abroad in either Costa Rica or London during the spring semester of
their sophomore year, he said, but the program has historically had difficulty meeting necessary numbers in the fall.

At least 10 students need to sign up for the program and this past fall it was canceled because of a lack of participation.
Adding internships to the list of experiences available to students in Costa Rica will help them delve deeper into the culture and more quickly gain valuable language skills, Mihans said. He led the Winter Term course in Costa Rica earlier this year and has been working to establish connections with businesses and other organizations that are interested in hosting Elon students.

“We’re looking at really opening up so students can have an internship experience where they can get really immersed in the culture,” Mihans said.

Many of the agencies Mihans has been working with are bilingual, he said, in order to allow students with no practical Spanish skills to be able to have a valuable work experience as well.

“What we’re shooting for is a very diverse list of options,” he said.

Students, including sophomores, studying abroad in Costa Rica through Elon’s program also have the opportunity to take one of their required upper-level general studies courses. Upper-level GST courses are typically restricted to those in their third and fourth years of study. While sophomorescanreceiveupper-levelGST credit at other Elon centers, Mihans will be teaching the course this coming fall and said the program is very supportive of sophomores.

Junior Whitley Dozier, a Teaching Fellow who studied in Costa Rica last spring, said she had an amazing experience in the program and highly recommends it to students who are considering their study abroad options.

The structure of the program allows for weekend group adventures like rainforest hiking and zip lining. Dozier said she particularly enjoyed the culturalimmersion.

“Costa Ricans are so welcoming to everyone,” she said.

Even without taking a single Spanish class prior to going abroad, Dozier lived with a host family and taught English to third graders while in Costa Rica. She said she thinks students will learn a great deal from the new internship opportunities.

“You really do become part of the family,” she said. “It really makes you step back and realize there’s another world outside of the States.”

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