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Diabetes Research in Costa Rica

Last Updated on October 18, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Originally published October 18, 2017

By Karla Vidrio, senior nursing major

UTEP Communications

This summer I had the opportunity to be part of the Minority Health International Research Training (MHIRT) program in San Jose, Costa Rica. My research was focused on glycemic control among men and women diagnosed with diabetes, according to their level of education. This experience made me realize the importance of health research because it helps develop evidence-based practices and leads to better health. It also gave me a new perspective about my chosen field. Now my goal is to earn a Ph.D. in nursing and continue doing research to improve the delivery of care.

A prerequisite for the program is to be fluent in English and Spanish since the official language of Costa Rica is Spanish. At first, I did not think the language would be a problem since Spanish is my native language. However, I quickly learned that I was wrong. During my first week, the doctors I worked with asked me to make a cartel to describe the differences in nursing careers between the United States and Costa Rica. I did all my basic education in Juárez, Mexico, where I learned that a cartel is a pamphlet meant for advertising. I brainstormed an entire day for this task, but my mentors rejected my ideas. It was almost the end of the day and I had not finished my task. I took a deep breath and asked them what they meant by a cartel. To my surprise, they wanted a scientific poster. That experience made me realize that there could be language barriers even if we speak the same language.

One of the things we did during our downtime was to go water rafting. I had never done that before and let me tell you, it needs to be on your bucket list. Costa Rica contains 5 percent of the world's variety of living organisms, and around 25 percent of the country is protected (the largest percentage in the world) and has managed to diminish deforestation. Now, imagine being on a boat for 7-1/2 miles on a river surrounded by the tallest trees you have ever seen with sloths and raccoons in them. It was hard to admire nature while trying to stay in the boat, but I succeeded.

The food over there was amazing. They have delicious, exotic fruits like maracuya (passion fruit) and mamón chino (rambutan). The country’s traditional foods like casado and gallo pinto were fine, but nothing was as spicy as I would have liked it to be. I hope every UTEP student applies for these study abroad opportunities. My experience was incredible.