SRU students travel to Costa Rica for Leadership Abroad program


add alt

Sixteen Slippery Rock University traveled to Costa Rica, Jan. 2-12, as part of the Leadership Abroad program, touring sites that included the La Fortuna waterfall.

Jan. 29, 2020

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa.— A group of Slippery Rock University students had an eye-opening experience in Costa Rica learning about the Central American country's social and environmental issues and taking in its picturesque beauty.

Sixteen SRU students traveled to Costa Rica, Jan. 2-12, as part of the Leadership Abroad program led by the Office of Student Engagement and Leadership. Among them was Hope Gettemy, a senior recreational therapy major from Slippery Rock. Gettemy had never previously traveled outside the U.S. but had been wanting to visit Costa Rica since she researched the country for a Spanish class project in high school.

"That was the most alive I've ever felt in my life," said Gettemy, about the experience, which included jumping in the water near the La Fortuna waterfall in the Costa Rican rain forest. "Just to be surrounded by good people in a beautiful place, I just felt so incredibly alive. It was a great."

Hope Gettemy


Students were recruited for the excursion by the OSEL staff and enrolled in Leadership Abroad, which teaches leadership competencies identified by program leaders Lauren Moran, director of student engagement and leadership, and Jayne Piskorik, assistant director for fraternity/sorority life and student organizations. Last May, a separate group of 10 SRU students traveled to New Zealand as part of a Leadership Abroad program.

"The Leadership Abroad program is an incredible opportunity for our students to learn more about themselves and other cultures through the lens of leadership," Moran said. "They gain a deeper understanding of their own leadership abilities through real-life examples and daily reflection, and how they can apply and further develop leadership competencies when they return to SRU."

For the Costa Rica trip, students took a walking tour of San Jose, the capital city, and traveled to other tourist destinations that included Baldi Hot Springs, Tamarindo Bay and El Viejo. For the second half of the 10-day trip, they attended guest lectures and toured an animal rescue center.

The guest lectures included a representative from CIEM, a research center for women's studies, for a discussion about women's and human rights initiatives in Costa Rica; a representative from Essential Costa Rica, a government-led initiative to promote commerce in the country; and a visit to Veritas Universidad for a lecture on environmental policies and conservation.

"I went in with rose-colored glasses, almost thinking Costa Rica was perfect," Gettemy said. "Obviously, I knew it had flaws and learning about some of the injustices, like the struggles that women have there with gender equality, were definitely eye opening."

The group discussed several aspects of leadership and how they can use that in their lives as students and in their careers. Students who do not currently fill leadership roles within student clubs and organizations were specifically recruited for the program in order to help them improve their skills.

"The biggest thing I learned about leadership is the importance of going deeper, below the surface, of problems so that you know what to focus on, and that ties back in with the injustices that we learned about," Gettemy said. "We learned just from observing people. I believe our group did a really good job of demonstrating the various leadership competencies that we talked about throughout the trip."

The competencies included: group development, organizational behavior, confidence, diversity, self-development, listening, appropriate interaction, vision and reflection/application.

"Everyone had different takeaways, and I'm sure they'll continue to reflect on the experience, but my biggest takeaway was how traveling as a group, to a different country, and immersing yourself in a whole new culture, can really help you form lasting relationships," Gettemy said. "The 17 of us may never have interacted with each other had we not gone on this trip. Human relationships are so important. You can be a great public speaker or be very organized and have all these characteristics that people typically consider normal for good leaders, but good leadership means looking out for the people around you and their needs. Going to Costa Rica, and learning about other people, opened my eyes to that."

Gettemy said she also benefitted from the experience in terms of career development. Following the trip, she has found interest in learning more about professions in the field of wilderness adventure therapy. Adventure and wilderness therapy are clinical therapies that happen outdoors with the idea behind them being to employ natural consequences of the challenging environment to help troubled youth.

To learn more about the Leadership Abroad program at SRU, click here or the Office for Student Engagement and Leadership at 724.738.2092 or The next Leadership Abroad program is scheduled for Summer 2021. A destination has not been determined.

To learn about other study abroad opportunities at SRU, contact the Office of Global Engagement at 724.738.2057 or click here.

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854 |