Thirty-eight Jordan Spanish Club students and seven chaperones embarked on an 11-day trip across Costa Rican rainforests, mountains and coasts last month.

Many students returned not only with souvenirs and a suntan, but also a newfound appreciation for traveling and learning about new cultures. Between June 10-18, students traveled to capitol city San Jose, the mountainous village of Monteverde and the gorgeous coastal region of Tamarindo.

Sophomore Winona Warden said her favorite part of the trip was zip-lining near the Arenal volcano at a height of 460 meters. Winona’s mother, Autumn Warden, was one of the chaperones. Autumn was impressed by the diversity of the trip’s programming.

“They got the culture aspect, they got geographical elements because we traveled to three different regions ... they saw the different economic classes — there were so many different elements they were exposed to in those eight days,” Autumn said.

Outside San Jose, in a city called La Guacima, the students stayed with host families for three nights. Many host families, like Winona’s, didn’t speak a word of English.

“They speak a lot faster and have more of a Spanish accent, so it takes you a little bit to process what they’re saying and respond quickly so you’re having a conversation,” Winona said.

Spanish teacher Amy Peters said this portion of the trip allowed for an immersive experience students couldn’t experience back home.

“It’s amazing for them but it’s also challenging and a little bit scary,” Peters said. “Hearing how they navigated using Spanish because they were forced to for the most part, and using the language and communicating on their own without a teacher there to help them — that was fun.”

Other stops along the trip included a coffee plantation, a market and a factory. The students spent half a day at a school laying sod on a dirt soccer field so local kids could have a better surface to play on.

“It was really good for the students to have some service as well,” Autumn said.

In order to finance the trip, students raised money for the past two years. Fundraising activities included bagging groceries at Cub Foods in Savage and Skakopee, operating the concession booth at school sporting events, selling gift cards and volunteering at Heimatfest.

“I have really hard workers, they’re good kids. They really show up,” Peters said. She estimates some students raised enough money to cover 90 percent of their trip cost.

Members of the Jordan Spanish Club will travel to Peru in summer 2021. Fundraising efforts are already underway and Peters is hopeful that some of the younger students who traveled to Costa Rica will take advantage of the future trip.

“These trips offer them that insight into what it’s actually like to live in that country and hopefully it lights a fire and some of them want to become an exchange student some day,” she said.

Winona said the trip, even with its challenges, has only fueled her desire to better develop her Spanish skills.

“It makes me want to learn Spanish more because I realized that when they were talking to us I didn’t know what they were saying sometimes. I think it pushes me to learn more Spanish so I can understand people better,” Winona said.

Autumn suspects, and hopes, the trip affected her daughter in other ways that will allow for future outings between the two.

“She also said that it makes her want to go and travel now and have more of these experiences,” Autumn said. “I’m excited because for me that was a life-changing thing when I studied abroad, so for her to have that travel bug, I’m hoping we can have some trips together ... It was nice to be able to let her go and do things on the trip but still be able to check in. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing that we’ll have that no one can ever take away.”

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