The Gift of an International Experience
Study abroad scholarship gives student a Costa Rican adventure
Eating local foods. Immersing herself in a foreign language. Making friends from around the world. Visiting volcanoes, beaches and cloud forests. Kaylee Nye’s experience studying abroad in Costa Rica during spring 2019 was about more than just taking classes in another country.
The Weiser native wanted to experience something completely new.
“While looking for a study abroad location, I wanted something different than Idaho, or the United States in general,” she said. For Nye, the unique classes and proximity to beautiful beaches made Heredia, Costa Rica the ideal destination.
Now a junior studying English with a creative writing emphasis in the University of Idaho’s College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, Nye took a variety of classes at Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica that complemented her major and allowed her to learn more about the local culture.
“I took a track program, which allowed me to finish four Spanish classes in the course of a semester and gave me a more immersive environment to study another language,” she said. “I also took a food and travel writing course from a visiting American professor and a Latin American cuisine course from a local Costa Rican.”
Nye believes the experience will be helpful as she continues her studies in the hopes of working as an editor at a book publishing company and as a non-fiction writer.
“Studying abroad in Costa Rica allowed me so many educational and cultural opportunities that I couldn’t receive at a normal university,” she said. “I gained further understanding of myself through writing and gained skills and confidence in new avenues of writing from my travel blog or the food and travel writing course.”
Exploring Costa Rican Culture
Outside the classroom, Nye chose to immerse herself deeper in the local customs.
“To increase my knowledge of the Costa Rican culture, I decided to live with a host family, which included a single mother and her son,” Nye said. “She cooked common Costa Rican foods like gallo pinto with plantains or black bean soup with a hard-boiled egg.”
Nye also explored Costa Rica outside of Heredia.
“Because of the affordable bus system throughout Costa Rica, I had the opportunity to travel across the majority of the country,” she said. “I visited the beaches of Guanacaste to Limon, volcanoes like Arenal and Irazu, and beautiful cloud forests that Costa Rica is so well known for. Finally, I visited Panama for a week through a school activity offered over spring break.”
Giving the Gift of Study Abroad
Nye credits being able to afford her study abroad experience to the financial aid she received, including the Tricia McCullough Memorial Study Abroad Scholarship, a fund offered to U of I students.
“Receiving scholarships like the Tricia McCullough Memorial Study Abroad Scholarship gave me the option to even consider visiting another country for a semester,” she said. “It allowed me to explore many hidden gems in South America while diving deeper into the language, culture and religion. None of those things would be possible without this.”
Nye is the scholarship’s first recipient, which was created as a way to honor Tricia McCullough ’93, who passed away unexpectedly in 2017. Having caught the travel bug from her mom at a young age, McCullough loved to explore the world, including going on international adventures with longtime friend and fellow U of I alumnus Matt Strange ‘06.
“Tricia and I traveled all over together, visiting seven different countries. We rarely set an itinerary and tried to experience each place in the most authentic way possible,” he said. “In thinking how to honor her, I realized that the most meaningful way to do so was to allow someone the opportunity to have their own adventures like the many we had together. Supporting study abroad made sense and felt like the perfect way for her love of travel to last forever.”
Strange also found giving the gift of study abroad aligned with McCullough’s practice of regularly giving experiential gifts rather than items to friends and family.
“You might forget what you learn in the second lecture of your second week of class, but those experiences you have while you’re outside the classroom, you don’t forget them,” he said. “To give students the opportunity for something more meaningful – friendships in jazz band or an experience abroad – is truly what makes the college experience.”
Building a Legacy of Exploration
Strange hopes to continue to grow the scholarship fund so it can get endowed, honoring McCullough and helping U of I students study abroad in perpetuity.
“Supporting study abroad made sense and felt like the perfect way for her love of travel to last forever.” Matt Strange
In February 2019, he even launched a Facebook campaign celebrating what would have been McCullough’s 50th birthday. It raised $7,346 from 89 people.
“What people don’t always realize is that every little dollar adds up fast,” Strange said. “My goal is to grow the scholarship enough to fund two awards per year, but it will get there by the $25 gifts as well as the $2,500 gifts. A little goes a long way. If everyone gives a little, that little becomes a whole lot.”
This year, those little donations added up to a big experience for Nye.
“Donations to help fund a study abroad for a student helps them experience opportunities not always provided at a conventional university,” she said. “These scholarships allow students the freedom to gain an understanding of the world outside of rural Idaho. They learn new languages, discover how to appreciate different cultures, and expand their career opportunities.”
By Kathy Foss, College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences
Published August 2019