Alumni Spotlight: Seamus McLaughlin

Seamus McLaughlin participated in the School for Field Studies’ (SFS) Sustainable Development Program in Costa Rica in spring of 2014. Seamus lives in Bethlehem, CT but attends Bucknell University in central Pennsylvania. He is now a 21 year-old senior majoring in Environmental Science with a concentration in Geology and a minor in Spanish.

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Why did you decide to go abroad with your provider?

Seamus: Even before I graduated from high school I was determined to study abroad during my undergraduate career; however, as my sophomore year at Bucknell neared an end, my advisor informed me that I would not be able to both study abroad and complete my degree on time without taking summer classes.

I had no intention of forfeiting the chance to study abroad, nor did I want to give up the summer time I had set aside for work or research experiences. After numerous searches, I discovered this program from which I would not only receive course credits, but also from which I could fulfill several science requirements, keeping me on track to achieve my bachelor’s degree on time.

This program is a good option for students majoring in science or engineering that need to fulfill science course requirements while abroad, especially relating to environmental studies or biology.

What is one piece of advice you'd give future students traveling with your program?

Seamus: It is often nice to spend your free time relaxing on a beach, but because this is an intensive program with limited free time the best way to get to know the culture and to maximize your experience is to hang out with the locals.

I made some Costa Rican friends early on in the semester by going into town and participating in soccer games. From then on I spent the majority of my free weekends going on hikes with my local friends, playing soccer or basketball, and sharing meals with their families.


From them I got a much better sense about what it is like for a person my age to live in Costa Rica and I was able to experience life in the town that I would never have seen through the academics of my program or by simply going to a beach on my free weekends.

Tell us about an experience you had that you could not have had at home.

Seamus: The greatest experience I had through my program that I could not have had at home was the overall lifestyle of the program. Because this program focuses on studying sustainability it is structured so that participants experience living sustainably as much as studying how to do so.

By minimizing our use of electricity, washing dishes by hand, harvesting fruit from the farm, having a limited water supply, working with Integrated Pest Management and green-housing we lived very primitive lifestyles compared to the average U.S. citizen.

This did not only increase my appreciation for my luxurious U.S. lifestyle, but also gave me a great sense of admiration for the nation of Costa Rica and it’s citizens, for maintaining such an environmentally healthy and aware country, despite their limited technologies. You will be hard-pressed to find a more valuable and enlightening study abroad experience elsewhere.

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What made this experience unique and special?

Seamus: What made this experience so special for me was the company. Not only was my program run by very intelligent and personable faculty and staff, but also the quality of the other students attending the program with me was top-notch.

SFS programs attract individuals who are concerned about the environment and desire to make a positive difference in this world. These individuals also realize that change occurs best through collaboration, which is accomplished by those who are willing to respect the views and ideas of others.

My program was attended by students from may areas of the U.S, but because of everyone’s enthusiasm to care for our planet and nonjudgmental attitudes the experience I had was that much better.

I thank SFS for maintaining the reputation that it has and for attracting such well-rounded individuals to its program, which gave me the best educational experience I have had in college.