Grad students completed internship in Costa Rica

Chelsea Cassudakis

When Heather Demming and Stephanie Horvath stepped out of the cabin they were staying in this summer, they found themselves surrounded by a jungle, complete with monkeys, snakes and other wild life.

Demming and Horvath, graduate students in nutrition, went to the La Suerte Biological Field Station in Costa Rica for a dietetic internship. They went with one other Kent State student for two weeks this summer.

“I learned about the struggles and happiness of farm life,” Horvath said, “and have witnessed a lifestyle that is less dependent on material possessions than my own. I hope to now permanently have a more informed, contentious perspective on food and a more grateful outlook on my life.”

The program offered the students to have the opportunity to experience the food and culture of Costa Rica. Students on the trip got to learn about local ingredients, preparation techniques and visited a variety of farms and plantations, Demming said.

The women found out about the opportunity when their internship director received an e-mail about the program from another college. Demming and Horvath were the first group to embark on this international dietetic internship, they said.

While the students got to learn and experience the culture of Costa Rica, they also worked there almost every day.

“The Biological Field Station holds a variety of classes, so we worked in the kitchen with the local women,” Demming said. “We cooked the students lunch and dinner.”

Horvath explained the best part about being in Costa Rica was just observing how the local people live.

“The people of Costa Rica live simple lives,” she said. “They don’t have much, but they don’t seem to notice. They work with what they have and don’t focus on what they don’t.”

Demming explained that her favorite experience there was visiting a local papaya plantation.

“When we went there, we met the gentleman who owned it. He was definitely struggling and was telling us how expensive it was for him to drive his papayas to the markets,” she said. “When we left, he just kept giving us more and more of his fruit, and it was so neat to see his generosity. All the people down there are like that. They’re so content with what they do daily.”

The girls developed an “ultimate goal” down in Costa Rica, which was to figure out how to educate Americans on cooking traditional Costa Rican meals.

“A lot of the ingredients they used can be found in stores in the U.S.,” Demming said. “We wanted to see how we could, in the future, educate someone on these ingredients. Seeing how they use these dishes in their culture — it can be brought back to our culture.”

The Costa Rica trip will be offered again next year as a dietetic internship opportunity. Students looking to find out more about the trip can visit The program is called “Tropical Cooking.”

“I think it is sometimes easy to get caught up in our own lives and difficult to see past our own problems,” Horvath said. “Expanding my world view in a completely different culture was one of the most enlightening experiences I’ve had in my life.”

You can contact Chelsea Cassudakis at [email protected].