'Symbiosis' is a biological relationship in which two species live in close proximity to each other and interact regularly in such a way as to benefit one or both of the organisms. When both partners benefit, this variety of symbiosis is known as mutualism.
With this concept in mind, my wife and I decided to apply it to our real life. That was how the Symbiotic Cultural Exchange Program was born. We put together important elements such as her connection to Spanish and her passion for teaching to create this unique project. She also knew that when trying to learn another language it is essential to share with families who speak the targeted language. Therefore, we decided to devote some of our time, knowledge, connections in Costa Rica and positive energy to create an opportunity for young people in McLean County.
From my personal point of view, the program has created a connection between the community that opened its arms to welcome me (I moved from Costa Rica to Central Illinois 4 years ago) and evolved into a wonderful opportunity for young people of both latitudes.
The Symbiotic Cultural Exchange Program consists of taking a group of students between the ages of 14 and 18 to Costa Rica to live with a student of his/her age and gender. While in Costa Rica; the student will attend school with his/her Costa Rican host, becoming not only the host’s shadow but also experiencing the opportunity of blending into a group of teenagers from a different culture.
The selection of students and families in Costa Rica is conducted by the local school and approved by the representative of the program in the U.S. In a real concept of mutualism, the student from the United States will become a host as the Costa Rican student also travels to the U.S. to experience the reciprocal concept of the program.
The community in Costa Rica selected to accomplish this project is in a rural area. This place, located away from the a metropolis, allows the local coordinator to have easy control over the daily activities during the exchange program. It also makes it easy to monitor the students to see how they are doing. A small town also allows for a high level of communication amongst the hosting families, giving them the opportunity to coordinate several activities together. This gives the participants the possibility to really experience the Costa Rican culture from both a community and family point of view.
The experiences accumulated with past Symbiotic Cultural Exchange Programs has been totally rewarding. The growth and learning experienced by both sides of the equation have been amazing.
Opening the eyes of young people as they travel is part of our goal, but the most important part is the personal accomplishment that each student acquires as the project comes to an end.
- Jose and Kim Rojas, Owners