Experiential Learning in Costa Rica With University of Wisconsin-Stout & API

June 23, 2023
experiential learning in costa rica

In early 2023, 10 students and two faculty from the University of Wisconsin-Stout (UW-Stout) traveled across Costa Rica. They had a transformative experience studying politics and modern business challenges through a Latin American lens. Leveraging a partnership with API and funding from an IDEAs grant from the U.S. Dept. of State’s Capacity Building Program, it was the first of its kind for the university. 

Exploring International Business in Latin America

API and UW-Stout’s Office of International Education (OIE) developed the program. The overarching goal was to improve access to global learning and experiences for students of different minority backgrounds. The flagship program, Exploring International Business in Latin America, was open to all business students. However, it was primarily focused on Latinx students and nearly half of participants had this background. Increasing access to global educational experiences for all is closely aligned with API’s mission. So, we gladly built a hands-on, high-impact experiential learning program leveraging our global network and skilled on-the-ground team. 

Led by a father-daughter team, Dr. Glenn Rodríguez, “Dr. G,” and UW-Stout Provost Glendalí Rodríguez, the students visited a diverse range of businesses. They centered around the capital city of San Jose and cultural and environmental sites. In addition to the focus on Latin American culture and heritage, another objective of the program was to teach students how businesses in Latin America vary due to the culture and politics of the country.

Making the Most of Experiential Learning in Costa Rica

“Our group was unique in a positive way,” Provost Rodríguez said. “We got our hands dirty, tried new foods, and interacted with the community. We’re very engaged because we are a polytechnic. We’re ready to make the most of every learning experience — and API recognizes that in our students.”

“The group gelled…,” Dr. G added. “I was absolutely thrilled when the first morning we’re all there…They were in the classroom and they’re sitting next to their roommate. By the next morning, I would have thought they picked each other. It was a perfect, perfect match…To bring 10 strangers together with instructors they’ve never met before and build community, it was beautiful.”

The UW-Stout group immersed themselves in the areas they visited while exploring cultural and historical sites, giving several students studying Spanish an opportunity to practice their language skills and further their polytechnic experience while abroad. Sarah Durst, a junior in hotel, restaurant and tourism management, shared, “This really put my direct interpretation skills to the test, something that written classroom tests couldn’t do.”

Through this experience, Provost Rodríguez and participants also developed deeper relationships with the local API staff. Over the course of the trip, API was able to secure many of the same staff, such as the same bus driver, with them throughout the week for continuity. “We got the bus driver to dance with us, he had never danced in his life. He did salsa with the students!” Provost Rodríguez noted. 

UW-Stout Partnership with API and IDEAS

Providing access to students from minority backgrounds, and those who traditionally do not participate in study abroad, is a long-term goal for this program. Building on the success of the customized API program, UW-Stout hopes to expand to Asia and Africa. Scott Pierson, Director of the Office of International Education at UW-Stout noted,“With only 11% of U.S. undergraduate students participating in study abroad, and disproportionately lower underrepresented participation, the United States has much work to do to provide access and equity…This program, through a partnership with API and IDEAS, has helped us to make an immediate impact in advancement of these efforts,” he added.

API’s team in both Costa Rica and stateside built enriching and meaningful experiences in all program aspects. Andrew Probelski, an adult learner participant, noted, “Study abroad will broaden your cultural aperture, shatter expectations and stereotypes, and give you life-changing new perspectives on how others live. Ideally, you will come away from your study abroad experience a better person — I did. I am beyond grateful to UW-Stout, API, and everyone that made this a reality for me.”

To learn more about this program and the student’s experiences, visit the UW Stout  website. Interested in building your own customized program with API? Learn more about the API Value and our six-step custom program process now.


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