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Midterm Update

October 12, 2017 at 9:02 am
By Jacob Cohen '19

As we reach the end of 5th week, the halfway point in the Carleton term, I realize that my study abroad program is also about halfway done after seven and a half weeks. Also, by pure coincidence, I have a midterm break this weekend as well! Today, October 12, is the Costa Rican equivalent of Columbus Day (it’s way better here). El Día de las Culturas translates to Cultures Day and celebrates the diversity of America and of Spanish heritage. When the holiday falls in the middle of the week, it is moved to the following Monday. In this case, Cultures Day will be celebrated on October 16 and as a federal holiday, workplaces and schools, including the Universidad Nacional where I am currently working, will be closed.

While this scheduling coincidence parallels Carleton’s term, my academic experience this year has been unlike any at Carleton. I am currently working on part of a graduate student’s thesis on risk analysis of water resources for human consumption related to climate change. I am looking at meteorological data from the last 20 years to identify extreme weather events in the area. The work is very interesting and increasingly relevant in the wake of recent weather events.

Speaking of recent weather events, I had some first-hand experience last week. Three students and a professor were going to Quepos, a town outside Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, to lead a workshop on parts of the overall project and to attend a community meeting on climate issues that is held monthly. I went along with them so that I could learn more about the project and about related issues.

We left on Wednesday morning and the country was in “yellow alert” mode as a tropical depression was forming to the northeast of Costa Rica. A couple hours later, Costa Rica upgraded most areas to “red alert.” Due to the formation of the storm, the Pacific coast was going to receive a significant amount of rain, creating the potential for floods and landslides. We got to our hotel and started preparing for the next day’s activities, keeping an eye on the weather the whole time. When we got dinner in the hotel restaurant that night, wind whipped through the room and it was clear that the weather, now upgraded to a tropical storm, was going to be rough.

The next day we found out that severe flooding had affected the area around Quepos and the day’s events had been cancelled. And it continued to rain. We headed over to the fire station in town to help with any relief efforts and spent the next several hours sorting incoming donations of clothing to be given out to families in need. We returned for a couple hours that night to sort more donations that continued to come in. I eventually made it home on Saturday once the major highways reopened. My home and town had been relatively unaffected, but some other students on my program dealt with flooding and power outages.

It’s been an eventful week and a half in my new home, and I promise, I’m having a great time!


Jacob is a junior physics major interested in environmental science, which he is currently studying in Costa Rica (along with Spanish, of course). At Carleton, Jacob enjoys going on outings with CANOE, the outdoors club, and playing ultimate frisbee with the Gods of Plastic, Carleton’s Division III men’s ultimate team. During his fall term hiatus, you can follow his Costa Rican adventures through this blog! 

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