The Biblioteca Kitson ESL internship in Nosara, Costa Rica continues Middlebury’s mission of placing importance of language acquisition. At Middlebury, we as students, are compelled to learn a language not only to effectively communicate in a highly diverse and globalized world but also to learn more about the cultures that are associated with the target language. By participating in this internship, I took the skills and experiences that I’ve taken from my liberal arts education and was able to teach English to the inhabitants of the small town known as Nosara. For many in Latin American countries, bilingualism in English is necessary to be an ideal candidate in the highly competitive job market. However, to become truly bilingual is highly ambitious in a country where equal access to education does not exist due to a person’s socio-economic status. Being part of the internship, allowed me to give back to a community that needs the resources and support to learn English—a language that would result into a better future for those who participated in the program. For 20 hours a week, I was able to target and work on the specific English needs of a group of adults and a separate group of high school students.
Every year, the Center for the Comparative Study of Race & Ethnicity seeks to encourage discussions within the context of race and ethnicity and intersect them with the center’s annual theme like citizenship, education and the environment. However, this year the center is focused on promoting awareness on migrations and how they relate with race and ethnicity. Issues tackled can be how patterns of migrations influence education attainment, cultural identity construction, and specific location of residence. Through discussions, films, lectures, and events, Middlebury campus has the opportunity to understand the impact patterns of migrations have on not only the migrant himself but also the impact on the United States or even beyond our country—whether the impact be socially, economically or politically. The center strives for the Middlebury campus to critically learn and deepen the student body’s knowledge in understanding these topics.
Regarding my Winter Internship at Costa Rica, one of my main goals was to continue Middlebury’s tradition of “giving back” by providing English language services to this relatively small community located in the west of the country. In addition, I also continued the CCSRE’s mission emphasizing the importance of learning about race relations in a domestic, international, and transnational context. The students who want to learn English in the Costa Rican community understood that to be competitive in this global market, hands down bilingualism is necessary. I provided them this service for the month. However, it is very evident in the education community that there is a social divide between the Costa Ricans and the foreigners. This very small picturesque town is flooded with American tourists and ex-pats. Though they try their best to invest in the community and provide a variety of social services so that the Costa Ricans can have better job opportunities, it is clear that there is a lot of social discrimination.
Many of the Costa Ricans, don’t have the privilege to afford English language programs that would result in a better future. The local high school, because of lack of funding and resources, cannot even adequately prepare its students for college. That being said, the foreigners have invested in creating a private school nestled in the mountains of the town. However, this school really caters to the foreign population and essentially promotes a social and ethnic divide between foreigners and Costa Ricans. The Costa Rican education is seriously underfunded and can’t provide its students with the necessary skills and qualifications so that they can clinch a well-paying job. What happens here is that with the creation of the private school, those who graduate from it are fluently bilingual, they are prepared for college and are skilled enough to be extremely competitive in the workforce. The school only has 17% of Costa Ricans and while half of those can afford the tuition, looking figure one sees that the local community is left out from an opportunity to rise the socio-economic ladder. Basically, they are blocked from obtaining a quality education.
To remedy the situation, the library tries its best to provide year round academic and social programs to adequately prepare the locals to be qualified as possible for any potential job. More services to be offered to the locals. Given the wonderful opportunity I’ve had to partake in internship, I’ve realized how critical it is for English language instruction. Without, many locals are at an extreme disadvantage because they are competing for the same jobs as the ones who graduate from the private school. The staff of the local library is trying its best to equalize the playing field for the locals but with inadequate resources mixed with lack of funding, it becomes extremely difficult to assist the local community. I’m very grateful for CCSRE’s contribution to make this trip possible. With this internship, I was able to witness the disparity that continues to grow between the local community and the foreigners—mainly Americans and Canadians. This opportunity allowed me to see how important education is and how critical that an adequate education should be offered to everyone regardless of nationality, race or ethnicity. I sincerely hope that, with time, the necessary social measures are taken so that this educational disparity can be eliminated.