Students in front of

Kinesiology and Recreation students show their Redbird pride in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow.

Ten students and Professors Dave Thomas and Karen Dennis from the School of Kinesiology and Recreation traveled to Russia for a 16-day, short-term study abroad experience in May.

The group flew into St. Petersburg and spent a weekend exploring the sights of the former Russian capital city, including St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the Hermitage (which was the former Winter Palace), and an excursion to Pushkin to see Catherine’s Palace (the Summer Palace). A 12-hour overnight train ride from St. Petersburg to Vladimir was an exciting experience in itself.

Hosts from Vladimir State University’s Institute of Physical Culture and Sport arranged visits to classes, laboratories, hospitals, clinics, schools, and to sites where the Russian students complete internships and gain employment following graduation. The group toured training facilities—gymnastics, Greco-Roman wrestling, and powerlifting—and met many Olympic competitors and coaches who train in these facilities.

The group attended a Russian vocalist’s debut concert, made excursions to nearby villages and towns in the “Golden Ring” of Russia, and toured cathedrals, museums, and a crystal factory. The most memorable part for the students was dinner with their host families in Vladimir. The meals featured freshly harvested vegetables from the families’ dachas.

Next the group traveled to Moscow to enjoy a riverboat cruise, Red Square, the Kremlin, and Lenin’s Tomb, and to see the city’s sights!

At the same time as the trip to Russia, 11 Kinesiology and Recreation students and Professors Barbara Schlatter and Margo Coleman traveled to Costa Rica for a nine-day cultural immersion visit. Students spent the first portion of the trip interacting with the Universidad Veritas in San Jose taking Spanish, participating in a city tour, observing elective classes, and partaking in a tropical dance class. Accenting their time in the capital were homestays with Costa Rican families, many of whom spoke no English!

The group also traveled to Monteverde Cloud Forest where they saw the flora and fauna of Costa Rica during a night hike. The students encountered a tarantula and several vipers dozing in the trees! From an adventure standpoint, the canopy tour and white water rafting trip were highlights for the group. The canopy tour in Monteverde included several cable lines that were nearly one mile long! The rafting trip not only included exciting Class II and III white water, but provided opportunities to see kingfishers, herons, and macaws along the shores of the Rio Sevegre. The group also saw howler monkeys, three-toed sloths, turtles, and lizards at Manuel Antonio National Park located along the Pacific Coast.

Students at La Fortuna Waterfall in Costa Rica.

Students at La Fortuna Waterfall in Costa Rica.

Experiencing the Costa Rican culture also meant sampling culinary delights including black beans and rice combined with meat, fresh ice cream made from the dairies of Monteverde, and different kinds of fruit such as guanabana, mango, and papaya to name a few. Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the Costa Rican culture was the friendly and happy people we met during the stay. From the homestay families and the professors at Universidad Veritas, to the driver William and tour guide Filander, students gained an appreciation of this small Central American nation that will be remembered for a lifetime.

All of the study abroad travelers owe many thanks to the College of Applied Science and Technology, the School of Kinesiology and Recreation, and to the Illinois State University Study Abroad office for their assistance in the planning of these wonderful cultural experiences.