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Gilman scholar Sanner has memorable experience in Costa Rica

Gilman scholar Sanner has memorable experience in Costa Rica

Jake Sanner ’19

When Jake Sanner ’19 found out he was awarded a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, he might have been the happiest person on campus that day.


“I felt like I had just won the lottery,” he said.


That feeling of happiness carried over during and after his study abroad experience.


Jake studied abroad in Costa Rica for around five weeks this summer, from the beginning of July until mid-August. He took an Intermediate Spanish and Environmental awareness and sustainable development class as part of the Gilman Scholarship program. Jake stayed with a host family in San Jose but also visited a number of cities including Puerto Viejo, Guanacaste, and La Fortuna.


“My time in Costa Rica taught me to take it one day at a time and to take every opportunity I have to try something new or go somewhere I’ve never been before,” he said.


Jake had a number of memorable experiences on the trip and took in scenery that you can’t find in the Midwest.


One weekend Jake and newly made friends went to Volcan Arenal, staying at the foot of a dormant volcano. They enjoyed the natural hot springs and ziplined through jungles and waterfalls. They also visited Manuel Antonio National Park, where they were surrounded by sloths and monkeys, went snorkeling, and saw a mother whale and her calf swim by their boat on a tour.


As an Environmental Studies major, the most memorable part of the trip for Jake came during a visit to the beach on the Pacific coast.


Sea turtles can be killed from natural predators and their eggs can be eaten by crabs or stolen by locals in an effort to sell on the black market, but one evening, Jake saved roughly 125 Olive Ridley sea turtles by replanting hundreds of sea turtle eggs in a hatchery so they could safely make their way to the ocean upon hatching.


“The feeling this brought, along with the fact I was with friends from around the world, sitting on a beach at Costa Rica, all hit me at once,” Jake said.


Russ Souchek, professor of Environmental Science at Doane, is excited for Jake to bring his experiences in Costa Rica back into the classroom at Doane and into his career after graduation.


“I believe this interdisciplinary experience provided Jake with a background that included exposure to unique plants and animals, as well as exotic cultures,” Souchek said. “I’m certain this experience will benefit him in the classroom and long after he graduates.”


This year, Jake is working with biology professor Ramesh Laungani on a senior research project examining the impacts of biochar on prairie restorations. As Laungani explains, adding biochar to soil is a way to fight climate change. As a part of his research project, Jake will be looking at how the addition of biochar to prairie soil, in an attempt to fight climate change, impacts the plants in the prairie.


Laungani says Jake is a highly motivated and curious student who will benefit tremendously from his study abroad experience.


“Not only do study abroad experiences expose students to cultures that they might not be exposed to normally, but they also develop cultural sensitivity,” Laungani said.


As Jake puts it, “It was a life-changing experience that I will cherish forever.”