Marie Piette and Katie Naszady are at opposite ends of the college experience — Piette is a freshman and Naszady is months away from earning a master’s degree — but this week they’re sharing a common bond. They’re part of a group of 15 students and staff currently on a spring break adventure through the university.
The Experiential Learning and Adventure Center at USD has organized an eight-day, seven-night eco-adventure trip to Costa Rica that started last Friday and runs through March 13. Upon arrival, they were to enjoy outdoor activities such as whitewater rafting, mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, a canopy tour and a visit to the Arenal volcano (pictured).
One unique aspect of the trip is a planned sojourn to Turrialba to explore the jungle conditions on the Cabecar Trail, home to Cabecar Indians who are considered among the most private and remote indigenous people living in Central America. The USD group — accompanied by tour guides who have a solid working relationship with the tribe — will set up an eco-camp and then carefully explore the land, remaining sensitive and respectful of the area. They then plan to go whitewater rafting in the Pacuare River.
“This is a once in a lifetime experience,” said Mark Ceder, outreach coordinator for the center.
To say that Piette and Naszady are excited about the trip, happening during USD’s Spring Break, is an understatement.
“This was an opportunity I wouldn’t have thought of even doing,” said Piette, an electrical engineering major. “I think it’s amazing that the university has something like this. I really like all the stuff you can do here. I want to do a trip like this every year.”
Naszady, who graduates in May with a master’s in counseling, is looking forward to a brief respite from her studies to have some outdoor fun. “I’m excited about this vacation. I like the camping component, the white-water rafting, the zip-line, everything.”
Plans for the trip started in October, Ceder said. He got a lot of feedback on the country from others in the USD community. The center advertised the trip on the MySanDiego Web site in December and students responded so quickly that a waiting list developed.
“We felt that Costa Rica was a trip of a lifetime, a bucket list kind of thing,” Ceder said. Previous Spring Break trips have included Ecuador and the Grand Canyon, he said.
Ceder said the center, which offers an array of San Diego-based adventures such as surfing, kayaking, rock climbing, hiking and ski trips to Big Bear Ski Resort during the school year, provides an outlet for students interested in outdoor recreation. Bus this trip is something special.
“What I’m most excited about is the shared group experiences,” Ceder said. “We’re not going to see anyone else but our group. There are freshmen and sophomores, seniors who heard about it and want to do something like this before they leave USD, and graduate students too. It’s a unique collection of individuals that are going. We’re going to be paddling in boats, biking and hiking together and I think there will be some friendships that develop from this trip.”
— Ryan T. Blystone