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Ready to go on an adventure of new beginnings in Turrialba?! This week, we’re featuring Verto Education Trailblazer Talia Christner! As a Trailblazer, Talia will share stories of her fall semester in Costa Rica. Read more to hear all about Talia’s travels and personal growth!

*** This is an example of a student’s experience from Fall 2021. Specific programming and activities are subject to change semester by semester.

Student Blog: The Story of New Beginnings in Turrialba

Hello travelers! My name is Talia Christner, and I’m a Verto student in Turrialba, Costa Rica! I come from a town in Pennsylvania called Lititz, and I enjoy museums, mountains, oil paints, and the occasional karaoke session. I’m more than excited to bring you a peek into my life for the past few weeks, and I can thank Trailblazers for that opportunity!

So… where am I coming from?

Talia, holding flowers

Talia, holding stunning flowers before starting a semester in Costa Rica with Verto Education!

My dream before traveling is vivid, but not as informed as it may become. My dream is to design things in a way that brings people together. I hope to study advertising and one day become a creative director or art director. I want to know the stories of the earth, the stories of its people, and use those stories to encourage empathy, and connect people and the earth with what they need. These new stories I am adding to myself in Turrialba may surely change my dream of advertising– all for the better if it does.

Talia's Art

This original painting that Talia created is AMAZING! We love seeing Verto students engage in self-expression and creativity!

Verto is a passage for me to find entirely new ways to find joy and share it, and gain entirely new perspectives. Before I can tell stories myself, I must collect many stories from others, and that is exactly what I hope to do here. There are an infinite amount of things that I have not yet seen, that have not yet interacted with me. It’s like seeing a color you’ve never seen before; I don’t know how I will be changed, or all the things I will see, but I know that I will be changed, and added to. So much newness will surely make me a more whole person, capable of loving more people.

Costa Rica View

The path to self-discovery begins with a path to Verto classrooms in Costa Rica! 😉

I have always believed that ignorance is the thing that drives humans apart. However, empathy crushes ignorance, like water to fire. The more we stay true to ourselves, the more capacity we have for empathy.

So… what has my journey looked like so far?

Costa Rica Umbrella

One word: color.

My eyes have stayed in Pennsylvania most of my life, rarely crossing state lines and never leaving the country. A gray-brown hovers over most of the shopping centers, rite-aids, and prisons. Angry trucks race across the earth, scarring the sky with streaks of yellow exhaust. The 55+ communities multiply every year like cancer cells, spawning millions of cul-de-sacs lined with identical houses, less than one tree a block. They cover the once-sacred land with lonely sidewalks and white plastic siding, swiftly deleting the green. However, mother earth still finds some windows to show herself despite the smothering industry of human comfort.

In the summer, the patches of forest littered with picnics and people glow green. In the spring, a kind yellow light shines through the pink parking lot trees, their roots eroding the concrete inch by inch. In the winter, the town is intersected by snowy roads, queued with auburn horses and Amish black carriages. And, in the fall, the windows of the office buildings reflect a vivid amber.

The Colors of Costa Rica

Vibrant colors, eclectic foliage, and (literally) wild animals are all a part of Costa Rica’s landscape!

Nothing could have prepared me for the colors in Costa Rica. From a plane’s view, the land is completely engulfed in green. Every inch of the campus is something new- 2,000 varieties of coffee, armadillos scuttling across the path, rainbow eucalyptus trees that look like peeling paint, and a beautiful array of unique palm trees that sprout and tower everywhere. Green soaks the landscape, highlighted with vivid orange-pink and a smiling yellow.

In the morning, white clouds sleep around the bottom of the blue mountains, allowing the mountaintops to float in the sky with the egrets. Many days, you’ll see the nearby volcano spitting ashes. (you can even climb it!) This country’s natural climate truly is paradise, and the wonderful people who call this land home strive to save it every day.

Pacuare River in Costa Rica

Rafting is one of many thrilling excursions that Verto Costa Rica students can join! Talk about an ADRENALINE RUSH!

As a thrill seeker, I took the first opportunity available to go white water rafting down the beautiful Pacuare river. Floating through the lofty jungle, with great canyons folding above me and waterfalls beside me, my smile beamed brighter than the sun. Although my joy was unmatched, a twinge of sadness was offered to me. To my right was a National Geographic lodge, a beautiful wooden structure in all its glory peeking out of the jungle and kissing the river.

Advertised as “off the beaten path” and “unique”, the pricey lodge meant to observe this powerful ecosystem was destroying it. The extravagant palaces are built illegally close to the river (<25 meters), disturbing the water and throwing the jungle out of balance. As our rafting guide Alvaro explained to us, when you kill a river, it can never come back; it is not a renewable resource. The river is the vitality and nourishment of the jungle, and without it, the ecosystem suffers. Despite possible threats like dams and buildings, there is still a shred of hope. The great Pacuare floods and takes back what belongs to it, and as Alvaro says, the new generation has the power to save these vital parts of the Earth, our biggest and only asset.

A semester with Verto = lifelong friends + a lifetime of memories!

Finally, a word on the people. In Turrialba, I find my home in Casa Quatro, a beautiful house under tall palm trees with white walls, black shutters, a red roof, and 19 wonderful souls. When you walk in, you will find a warm melody in the air, lights strung above the fireplace, and notes of gratitude on the wall. Within the rooms are the behind-the-scenes of humanity, sparkling with grit and realness: an alarm clock crying at 6am, the pillows that store the dreams, screams, and makeup of its owner, and a collection of stolen cafeteria cups repurposed for killing cockroaches.

Despite our vastly different backgrounds, personalities, and experiences, there is one thing that ties us together: each of us has the desire for discovery and understanding. Each one of us has so many unique stories to tell, and it is that which makes us strong.

We remind each other of the beauty of everyday life, and hold each other accountable to remain grateful for the millions of things we are given every day. Our willingness to share our lives with each other has formed a place that fosters acceptance and support, and it is noticeable from the second you walk in the door.

Talia's Airport Quote

^ To end one of many stories I will tell on my journey, here’s a quote that I found in an art exhibit in the airport the morning of my PHL —> SJO.

I find myself returning to this quote often. My time in Turrialba has shown me that the quantity of my growth as a traveler is up to me. I’ve learned to see the best in others, see the best in my environment, and see the best in myself.

Thank you, reader, for gathering yet another story, and for giving me the honor to act as your storyteller.

With love, Talia 🙂

Talia Enjoying Popcorn

Interested in learning about how you can start college like Talia?! Read all about our semester offerings and check out our admissions process! Don’t forget to stay tuned for next week’s blog post –– We can’t wait to share more stories like Talia’s!