College of Nursing Student Kaléi Kowalchik Reflects on ¡Pura vida!

¡Pura vida!, the trademark slogan of Costa Rica, translates to “pure life” in the English language and describes the simplicity of the Costa Rican lifestyle. Pura vida is not just a phrase but rather a feeling found in the center of your heart that is filled with emotion, a positive attitude, and happiness. t I not only learned about the healthcare system but the country and its entirety this past week while studying abroad. Today, however, was the most bittersweet of all—the final goodbye.

As we adventured and trekked through Costa Rica one last time, all of the students tried to ignore the impending future—saying goodbye. First we occupied our minds with Catarata Rio Fortuna, a large waterfall located on a biological reserve in La Fortuna. With each descending step, the sound of the waterfall rushed through our ears providing a soothing melody of water and nature. Swimming, hiking, climbing on rocks—oh my, we spent this cultural immersion activity taking nature’s beauty all in.  During this trip, we learned about the importance of the preservation of nature and its wildlife so others may also have these types of experiences for many years to come. After a long morning of expending energy at Catarata Rio Fortuna, we stopped for lunch at Cafeteria Flory. The fragrant scent of homemade tortillas and pinto gallo mixed perfectly with the warm sunshine as the strumming of a guitar created tones of soul and happiness which danced peacefully through the restaurant. Here we learned about a small family owned luncheon business and the importance of serving authentic Costa Rican food to their customers. Our last cultural visit was spent at the Herpetological Refuge Costa Rica in San José where animal biologists and volunteers spend their time rehabilitating native animals to Costa Rica back into the wild. Walking through the refuge was like taking a stroll through a “mini” rainforest—scarlet macaws squawking  in the background, colorful flowers spread throughout trees so tall and full you can barely see the sun as the sound of trickling water runs in the background. From monkeys, snakes, sloths, and crocodiles—this refuge educated all of us on the uniqueness and importance of each animal to Costa Rica’s ecosystem.

La Fortuna Waterfall

We concluded with a final dinner where we all reminisced on the memories of the trip with our phenomenal tour guides Juan Pablo, Maria, Carola, and Fernando (Chino). While we all left that night with some tears, we realized how this trip has come full circle for all of us. We all came to Costa Rica to explore the healthcare system; however, we all took away so much more from the trip. Collectively, not only were we fortunate enough to learn and understand about Costa Rica but also see it applied in the multiple settings throughout the country as well. While I took away a lot of valuable information from this trip, the most moving piece I finally understand is that anyone can say pura vida; however, it is another thing to feel and understand the true meaning of pura vida—this is simply not obtained until you visit and take the time to enjoy Costa Rica’s beauty and wonder. Until next time Costa Rica–¡pura vida!