Hi, I’m Nora, and I’m so excited to be interning at Bodhi Surf + Yoga for the summer! I was born and raised in Naperville, Illinois, a city 30 minutes outside of Chicago. I’m a rising senior at Northwestern University where I’m majoring in Radio/TV/Film and minoring in French as well as Environmental Policy and Culture. I’m on the exec board for a hiking program, Project Wildcat, that leads incoming Northwestern students on an eight-day backpacking trip, and I served as one of the Vice Presidents of Membership for my sorority. I also work part-time as a consultant to help high school students through the college application process. With all that being said, how exactly did I end up in Bahia Ballena for the summer, over 3,500 miles from Chicago?!
What made you apply to intern with Bodhi Surf + Yoga?
I initially planned on applying for a grant through my college to conduct summer research in the Osa Peninsula (located in the southern half of Costa Rica). I reached out to dozens of professors and experts in the field to learn more about ecotourism in the area and find contacts to connect with throughout my travels. I found a fantastic mentor, Professor Todd Comen, who put me in touch with Travis Bays, one of the co-founders of Bodhi Surf + Yoga. Though I originally contacted Travis to learn about his awesome ecotourism operation, as he described the role and responsibilities of an intern at Bodhi Surf during our initial Skype call, I instantly knew I had to be there for the summer. Luckily, Northwestern offers grants for internships and research — after applying for and receiving a summer grant, I couldn’t have been more excited to accept the summer internship at Bodhi and get to work!
There’s a bit of a back story to how I became interested in doing work in Costa Rica in the first place. Last summer, I studied abroad in Bocas del Toro, Panama in a program entitled “Tourism and Island Systems: Assessment of Sustainable Practices.” Throughout my four weeks in Bocas, we traveled to multiple islands within the archipelago and learned about everything from local and indigenous cultures and the types of tourists visiting the area to the region’s biodiversity and the threats it faces due to Panama’s rapid spread of tourism. I’ve always been interested in sustainability and environmental policy, but after spending time in Panama, I fell in love with both ecotourism and Central and South America. My time in the area refocused my academic and career interests and taught me how much I don’t know about the world — and how passionate I am to learn as much as I can. There are many flaws in Panama’s tourism infrastructure, and stakeholders in the area that I talked to often referred to Costa Rica as the gold standard for ecotourism — in fact, the country has been deemed the Ecotourism Capital of the World. Therefore, after spending time in Panama and learning a bit about ecotourism, I set my mind to traveling to Costa Rica the next summer to continue to learn more.
What are you doing at Bodhi Surf + Yoga?
I’m doing a little bit of everything this summer! As a Radio/TV/Film major, Environmental Policy and Culture and French minor, I’m always looking for academic and professional opportunities that allow me to merge my skills in photography and documentary filmmaking with my passion for sustainability and ecotourism. At Bodhi Surf + Yoga, I’m doing exactly that. While I’m here, I’ll be filming instructional videos for past and present Bodhi guests, writing blogs about Bodhi’s new B Corp Certification as well as reviews of restaurants and attractions in the area, and helping out with the release of Bodhi’s upcoming documentary, The Bodhi Wave. I’m also creating a social media campaign announcing the recent name change from “Bodhi Surf School” to “Bodhi Surf + Yoga”, along with a campaign discussing how Bodhi Surf + Yoga is taking steps towards the UN’s 2017 Sustainable Development Goals. Finally, I’m in the process of redesigning some pretty cool pre- and post-visit resources for Bodhi Surf + Yoga guests, including the upcoming 2017 Ocean Guardian Contest!
First impressions of Bahia Ballena?
I’ve been here for almost three weeks now and I’m still trying to adjust! As a college student, I’m used to balancing too many projects at once, sprinting to get to class on time, pulling all-nighters to finish projects, and generally always being in a rush. The first time I realized I wasn’t in Chicago anymore was when it took me and my host family 30 minutes to walk less than half a mile to the beach (Marino Ballena National Park)! Things are much, much slower here: days start with coffee and family time, everybody stops to talk to friends and neighbors that they pass on the street, and as a result, people seem much more relaxed and content than they do back on campus.
I stayed in a homestay for the first few weeks of my time here in order to learn more about the culture and practice Spanish; I often get teased for minoring in French when I spend so much time in Central America, so I decided to commit to learning a third language! Staying with a host family was a great experience, and I’ve gotten to take a closer look at the cuisine, culture, and lifestyle of Bahia Ballena. That being said, I was super excited to move into my own cabina at the beginning of July — it’s only a few steps from the beach!
What do you love most about your internship?
I love how close we are to the ocean. After living in Illinois for 20 years, it’s a nice change! I’ve started practicing yoga three times a week, and will soon (attempt to) learn how to surf. I also love how easy it is to travel to other nearby towns and cities. I’ve already spent a weekend in Dominical (highly recommend Café Mono Congo for vegan and vegetarian eats) and am planning trips farther south, maybe even back to Panama if I have the time! There’s a ton of great restaurants, day trips, and natural attractions in the area, and I’m hoping to make it to most of them before my time here is over.
By Nora Maxwell