More students going to Latin America

Jamie VanGeest

The Southern Hemisphere is looking a little more attractive to students looking for adventure.

According to the Institute of International Education, the number of U.S. students studying abroad in Latin America increased by 14 percent from 2002 to 2003.

Brazil had a 26 percent increase in the number of students choosing to study abroad there, and Chile had a 30 percent increase.

The four most popular countries for study abroad in Latin America are Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile and Ecuador, according to the institute.

Katherine Moss, a program associate with the University’s Learning Abroad Center, said she has noticed a steady increase in the center’s study abroad programs to Latin America through the University.

In particular, she said, she has noticed more people traveling to Venezuela.

“Instead of studying biology in the lab, you have the opportunity to study tropical ecology or field biology in the tropical forest of Venezuela,” Moss said.

Brad La Nasa, a senior travel adviser at STA Travel, said he has noticed more students going to Latin America during the last several years.

Many of the trips he has arranged include tours of the rainforest and volunteering opportunities.

La Nasa said many students are going to Latin America because it’s cheap and they want something different from Europe.

South America

Nutrition science senior Noel Mueller studied abroad in Merida, Venezuela, last spring.

In Merida, Mueller said the people were “amazingly nice and really accepting.”

He spent much time salsa dancing in clubs and said locals were willing to teach the dances to beginners.

Daily expenses were different, too, Mueller said. A beer costs 33 cents, trips on city buses were less than 25 cents and gasoline was 12 cents per gallon.

“I think South America is a good place to travel when you are young and full of energy,” said Mueller.

Besides enjoying his time in Merida, Mueller also traveled to Colombia and Los Llanos, Venezuela. In Los Llanos, Mueller took a jungle tour of the surrounding rainforests by jeep where he saw red monkeys, exotic birds and crocodiles.

His guide caught an anaconda for his travel group to see up close, and they caught piranhas to eat for dinner.

“The piranhas were a really oily fish, but they were really good,” Mueller said.

Central America

Marketing senior Jacob Marek traveled to Central America last summer.

In the three weeks Marek was there, he traveled to Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

Marek said he had been to Europe but wanted to try Central America because it was something different for him and it was affordable.

“My favorite thing was Panama City (Panama); we met a few guys there, and they showed us the places that tourists don’t get to see,” Marek said.

His new friends took him to market places and some of the lesser-known clubs.

“I think that the people in Central America were much friendlier; someone would invite us back to their house and you would meet 20 more people,” Marek said.

Marek said he danced to a mixture of Latin pop and salsa music and had drinks for a dollar.

He visited the nearby Panama Canal and said the canal was so long he couldn’t see the other side.

“It looked like a man-made river. You could tell where they had sawed through the rock,” Marek said.

While Marek was in the rainforests of Costa Rica, he took a canopy tour, which allowed tourists to swing from tree to tree on cables.

“You’re a hundred feet in the air swinging around looking at monkeys and birds,” Marek said.