This week we are bringing you the words of Dr. Irwin Bernstein! Dr. Bernstein is a faculty member on the highly successful Franklin Spring Semester program. Franklin Spring covers a variety of course including classes in biology, psychology and Spanish. And you have the opportunity to be in beautiful Costa Rica for a semester! We hope you enjoy his take on why he enjoys teaching in Costa Rica rather than a traditional classroom setting and keep this program in mind for next year!
Teaching classes at the Monteverde San Luis Costa Rica campus is a whole different kind of teaching experience. Faculty and students do not meet for 50 minutes at a time three times a week, or on any class schedule, but you eat all of your meals together, travel around the country together and see each other every day and for most of the day. There is no segregation of faculty and students and you all get to know each other as people and not just in the formal roles of students and teachers. If someone is absent or having any problem everyone knows of it and everyone pitches in as a community to solve problems. Perhaps you might think that having so little privacy and separate lives would be a bad thing, but we all quickly learned to work together and to share with one another as friends. Friends know a lot about you, but friends also know when to give you your space.
Being interested in non human primates, being in Costa Rica gave us many opportunities to see them in their natural habitat. We had capuchin monkeys coming to campus, and we could sees what attracted them, what other animals they competed with and how they responded to us and to other animals. Traveling around the country gave us access to three other indigenous primates and we could see how they made a living in different habitats. Primates are the Order that includes ourselves and so may be of special interest, but they exemplify the general principles of Animal Behavior and Ecology. Seeing them in this light, the study of Primates is not a narrow interest but just a single example of much broader and fundamental interests and scientific principles. Seeing the animals in their natural habitat makes the animals real and gives you a first hand field for what you can and cannot do in studying animals and what the problems are in such studies.