Karen Beatriz Bonilla, Gilman Scholar

Gilman Scholar

Karen awoke early each morning to a rooster’s crow; watched monkeys stealthily steal food from tourists at a national park; visited various and uniquely gorgeous beaches; and marveled at the ash and tremors from the eruption of Volcano Turrialba —all while studying abroad in Costa Rica in the Spring of 2015. Karen, a Rutgers Future Scholar and recipient of both the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and the Center for Global Education’s Diversity Scholarship, studied cinema and history last spring at San Jose University, where all of her courses were taught in Spanish.

Local Wonders

Karen was a houseguest of a gracious local woman, Marlene, who treated Karen as her granddaughter. The house resembled a flower and butterfly preserve, overlooking a small farm with chickens, ducks, rabbits, and bravely protected by the thirteen-year-old family. One of Karen’s favorite typical meals was “chifrijo,”a home-cooked dish consisting of a rice and beans base with pork, fresh avocado, lime, tomato, cilantro, and tortilla chips. Karen’s favorite saying from Costa Rica is “Pura Vida,”—a phrase that can mean “hello,” “goodbye,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome,” or even “how are you”—and became a part of Karen’s everyday language.

Thanks and Encouragement

Karen thanks the Center for Global Education for making her study abroad experience possible, and she hopes one day to return to Costa Rica to visit Marlene and her family. Although Karen, a first-generation college student, felt anxious and didn’t know what to expect starting college let alone studying abroad, she now offers this advice: “Don’t be afraid to chase after something new that seems scary at first because it will work out in the end.” In the words of Costa Ricans, Pura Vida!”