During the January intersession, 10 public relations students and K-State associate professor of public relations, Barbara DeSanto, traveled to Costa Rica for two weeks to collaborate with the University of Costa Rica on a tourism project for their “Travel and Tourism” class.
“This was a well thought out studied travel,” DeSanto said. “The goal was to see how tourism worked for Costa Rica and to help with public relations strategies to promote their enterprises.”
K-State students divided into groups and worked with three tourism clients – a small tourism provider specializing in eco-friendly methods; an agency focusing on life outside San Jose; and a posada, or resort, in the mountains. Five Costa Rican students and professors assisted with the projects and introduced the culture to the K-State students.
Frederick Amstutz, senior in public relations, worked with a rural bed and breakfast located in the mountains.
“We developed a plan with a goal, objectives, tactics and target audience,” Amstutz said. “We also created a brochure and set up a social media plan for them to use.”
Leah Baus, senior in public relations, assisted another group to in developing ways to help their business.
“My group assisted with people in Escazú, a city outside of San Jose,” Baus said. “We helped create a small brochure for trade services.”
During that time, students in the class who remained in Manhattan had to consider what media channels the students in Costa Rica could use.
“Communication back with students at K-State was difficult,” Baus said. “Email wasn’t quite as fluid as it could have been, so one way we combatted with that was through Skype. Having a face-to-face conversation made our points across clearer and ended up working really well.”
While the students worked during the day, they made time for exploring and were able to experience the culture. These activities included shopping at flea market, zip lining through the rain forest or visiting coffee and sugar plantations.
“Hiking in the rainforest was definitely a highlight,” Amstutz said. “It’s like what you see in the movies, vines hanging down and everything is covered in plants. It’s all extremely green.”
At the end of the seminar, each group had a chance to present what they had come up with to the clients. The Costa Rican students helped translate each presentation into Spanish.
“My favorite part was seeing how students were prepared and eager to take charge,” DeSanto said. “It was wonderful watching them work together with the Costa Rican students.”
Amstutz said the trip forced him to come face-to-face with a new culture.
“It’s a good college experience to be put out of your comfort zone,” Amstutz said. “It forces you to try new things and makes you think in a different way than here in the middle of the United States.”
For Baus, the experience brought a financial opportunity. She received a scholarship from a Costa Rican K-State alumnus this year. The scholarship was designated to a K-State student from a small town who wanted to study abroad. This gave her the chance to meet her donor while in Costa Rica.
“He said I was the first recipient he was able to meet,” Baus said. “He still comes to homecoming games. The first thing he said when I met him was if I saw the K-State basketball game the other day.”
Baus encourages students who are unsure about attending the seminar next year to go and don’t second-guess it.
“This experience confirmed that I am in the right field of public relations,” Baus said. “I wish it was longer. It was amazing learning about new cultures.”