SPRINGFIELD , Ohio — Wittenberg University considers experience in other cultures a vital element in educating today’s students for tomorrow’s world. Sarah Shivler, class of 2008 from Springfield, Ohio, has taken advantage of opportunities to immerse herself in several cultures south of the border through her education and service.
Thanks to the efforts of Wittenberg’s Director of International Education JoAnn Bennett, Shivler connected with Northern Illinois University Study Abroad program to create an academic experience in Costa Rica.
“The school, Costa Rica Study Abroad, only had five classrooms, one conference room and a computer lab — the whole school could have fit into Wittenberg’s student center,” Shivler said. “I took Advanced Composition in Spanish, Applied Spanish Conversation, and Intensive Reading and Intro to Literary Analysis.”
Shivler discovered a passion for mission work as a college student, and she joined a mission trip with Sports and Cultural Exchange International (SCEI) to Mexico in 2000. In the six years since, she has traveled several times to Mexico and Nicaragua, and once before to Costa Rica with SCEI.
“SCEI is an evangelical, international, Christ-centered, faith mission,” Shivler said. “We use sports, music, medicine and construction as evangelistic tools to reach Latin America for Christ.”
After several mission trips and an internship with SCEI, Shivler elected to study abroad in Costa Rica. After two months of schooling in Costa Rica, Shivler stayed on with her host family, the Arguedas Zamoras in Tibás, where she continued her Spanish education studies with a private tutor.
“I received private lessons for three weeks in Tibás, by a lady who’s starting her own Spanish school called Natural Spanish,” Shivler said.
Between school and volunteering with Puente Ministries, Shivler went sightseeing. Visits to the active volcano Arenal, the Manuel Antonio National Park and Monteverde for a canopy tour allowed Shivler to experience the natural and raw beauty of Costa Rica.
“Arenal erupts red hot lava, which can be seen at night,” Shivler said. “However, there are two other volcanoes within Costa Rica that are very popular, called Poas and Irazu, which tourists can visit and look down into their craters. It’s something I was able to do.”
Shivler developed such a strong bond with her host family that she slips into calling her host mother, Lilliette, mom. Having lived with her host family for three months, she started just by helping her ‘mom’ wash the dishes and accompanying her to the market, but soon found her place in the family.
“I felt blessed my entire time in Costa Rica, to be able to experience the culture, learn and practice the language, and make some new friends,” Shivler said.
As students are settling into their fall routine at Wittenberg, Shivler pines for her friends, her host family and to see the fiery explosions of the Arenal volcano at night.
“When I returned to Wittenberg I was reminded of how beautiful the campus is, but there’s so much to experience in the world,” Shivler said. “I’m ready to go back and study abroad tomorrow.”
- Written By: Dani Nicholson '07