Nearly everyone that goes through the Dartmouth Biology Foreign Studies Program (FSP) longs to repeat the experience. As a course faculty member, I very nearly have the monopoly on that honor (along with my 2014 colleagues Matt Ayres and Celian Chen). This is my fifth consecutive year on the Dartmouth Biology FSP. Each year has been special and this year is no exception. The group just finished its first week and we’ve already passed through a series of exciting transitions. Perhaps most noteworthy was the transition from Boston to San Jose, which for one student and one TA (Annie and Jessica respectively) took an abysmal three days and a super-human degree of patience from both. Trapped in Boston, first by weather, then by an over-worked pilot, and finally by “failed hydraulic lift” and a change of planes, the two eventually reached Miami. There they spent another night (if you can call it that when arriving at 3 a.m.) in transit before finally showing up in Costa Rica. Bored but unbowed, they loaded their gear onto the bus. We rolled away from the airport and FSP 2014 had officially begun.
The learning curve in Costa Rica is steep and the rapid uptick in scientific maturity comes at the cost of some sleepless nights. Those hours are never lost on the students. Time seems to pass on a different scale here, as students become enthralled with their projects and collaborations. Breakfast, lunch and dinner become opportunities to discuss ideas before heading back to the field. Fatigue is eclipsed by fascination with some new problem. As a faculty member, this transition is the most exciting to watch unfold.
The transition to mature scientist is also certain to be only partially captured by the pages of this blog. Our hope however, is that whatever small part of the experience is actually conveyed here, you the reader will share in the joy of discovery and the wonder of work in the tropics.