Where to look for our stories

To see stories from our field-reporting groups in Costa Rica, we recommend that you jump down a page or two to where the 2017 entries start.

Right below the current post you’ll see only “expectations” essays posted by the 2019 group, which did their subsequent work offline. (We didn’t muster a group in 2018.)

The first available 2017 post (scrolling downward) is a highlights video from that year’s trip by then Documentary Journalism senior Liza Anderson. You can jump to that post by clicking on its title here: “Costa Rica Field Reporting 2017: Muddy Boots, Mettle and the Missouri Method.”

We will have more posts above in the coming months as our 2020 group fires up.

—Bill Allen, instructor, allenwi@missouri.edu


Costa Rica Expectations: I Have None

By Victoria Zeyen

When my parents went to college they never had the chance to study abroad and my mom always says it was her biggest regret. When it was my turn to begin college tours it seemed that study abroad became a topic I continued to ask questions about. When I chose Mizzou, Study Abroad wasn’t even on my radar until this year as a Sophomore student. And in roughly 6 hours I will be boarding a plane in Minneapolis heading to study abroad in Costa Rica.

All of my family members say this trip will be amazing and I can’t disagree. I know it will be an incredibly new start to 2019. I have been to Canada once, but otherwise I have rarely left the Midwest. With that being said, Costa Rica will definitely be a new atmosphere unlike any I have seen before. My goal for this trip is to have no expectations. Professor Allen can attest that this trip will be amazing and my parents know it will be, too. As for my classmates and I, we are excited to say the least. With no expectations, I hope Costa Rica will completely surprise me.

A few months ago I met Bill then multiple weeks later, the rest of the class. All students are fellow Mizzou Journalism students, but still felt like strangers to me. There were class periods together and lunch at Bill’s house and now we are already going on this trip together. It seems as if this trip came extremely fast, and whether we are ready or not, there are a few things I know for sure. I will continue to get to know more about my classmates, Costa Rica and myself. I will continue to be hopeful and excited, and all sorts of emotions as I await my travels to the airport and beyond. I will head into the next two weeks with no expectations and a GoPro in hand to capture every new experience Costa Rica has to offer.

Costa Rica Expectations- Courtney Edwards

By Courtney Edwards

One of my goals since high school was to study abroad. I’ve waited for the opportunity to do this and it’s finally becoming a reality. It seems surreal that in just five weeks I’ll be flying away from all the snow in Columbia and field reporting in the Costa Rican sun. I’m excited to bond with everyone on the trip and work hard to create amazing content collectively and individually.

I truly don’t know what to expect. It will be my first time outside of the United States. I’m not scared, but I am a little nervous and very excited. I have had a few classes to prepare me before I embark on this trip. I’ve learned about the people I’ll meet, the places I’ll visit, what to bring and some of the story topics I’ll get to cover. I don’t think anything can really prepare me until I step foot off the plane though.

One thing I am slightly worried about is the language barrier. I have studied Spanish for years and know enough to get by, but I know I need to brush up before I head off to Costa Rica. I’d like to challenge myself by attempting to interview in Spanish if possible. Fortunately, Professor Bill Allen has comforted me in knowing that English will be used too.

I want to broaden my cultural and reporting horizons, and I hope during this trip I’ll accomplish that. I hope to come back with amazing work I can show family, friends and future employers.  I’m so excited for all that Costa Rica will teach me!

Costa Rica Expectations- Manuela Kalamboukas

By Manuela Kalamboukas

I remember the first time I toured the University of Missouri Journalism School. I was a senior in high school and I fell in love with the program and all the opportunities I would have for there for my education. To this day, I remember my tour guide saying that if there was anything she would recommend for us to do during our short four years at Mizzou was to study abroad at some point. I remember making a mental note to myself that I would definitely not miss out on that opportunity, and that I would make it one of my goals to study abroad during my undergrad years.   

In the beginning of January, I will be marking off this goal from my checklist. I will be embarking in an exciting journey with a group of strangers in a country that I have never been before.

I have so many expectations for this trip, but my main goal is to learn as much as I can during our short two weeks there. I am looking forward to be exposed to a new environment and culture, and the best part about that is that I will have this experience in Costa Rica. I have always been a geek when it comes to environmental topics, so I could not be more excited to be doing field reporting there.

It won’t be easy. I am certain that I will encounter numerous obstacles along the way, but I am excited to be put out of my comfort zone.

Costa Rica Expectations: Adedayo Akala

What do I expect on this trip? Honestly, I am not really sure. This is a really big thing for me. Going on a trip with people that I do not know and doing it on my own. Usually, I have a piece of comfort with me at all times, but this time it is just me, myself and I. I know that I have the people who are also going on this trip and I will get to know them, but this is something that is really out of my comfort zone.

With all of this being said, though. I expect to learn so much about myself and my work ethic. I feel like this is the next step for me to learn about myself. I’ve done college and college teaches you so much about yourself, but I feel like this is the next thing I have to do for myself. Something that I decided to do alone. I didn’t ask my friends if they wanted to apply. I just did it. So, I think this is an experience that will push me and help me discover new things about myself.

I expect to experience a new place that is extremely beautiful. To see beautiful animals, even the scary ones. I am expecting memories. Memories that I will hold on to forever. I am expecting to create a bond with all of the women embarking on this journey with me. And I expect to be a part of an amazing book.

Costa Rica Expectations: Jordyn Miller

Growing up, I always believed in the saying “the first day of the year will represent how the rest of your year will go.” Although we arrive in Costa Rica on the third day of the year, I’m holding that phrase to be true. This trip is going to set the tone for the rest of my year. I can’t wait to conquer this new journey in Costa Rica.

On this trip, I expect to come across many different people. I hope to listen to their stories and tell some of my own. I expect that we will be able to relate, even though we come from different countries.

I expect to see some of the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen. I’m expecting glorious sunsets and rolling green hills. I’m expecting trees that poke at the sky and plants that snake around our feet like pythons.

I’m expecting to see animals I’ve never encountered before. I’m hoping to be lucky enough to see turtles hatching on the beach and monkeys playing in the trees.

I’m expecting to create an amazing book and work with a bunch of other intelligent women along the way!

Mostly, I’m expecting to grow as a person. I’m expecting to push my limits both mentally and physically. I can’t wait to see what kind of adventures are in Costa Rica!

Nervous, Excited, Ready to Go

By Katherine Herrick

I’ve been lucky in my journalism career; I’ve gotten to travel quite a bit, but I think going to Costa Rica will be my most immersive field-reporting experience. I’ll admit, I’m nervous for this trip. But I think a lot of those nerves come from excitement, and I expect to learn a heck of a lot about international reporting and planning impromptu stories. I’ve never been to Costa Rica, so I’m excited to learn more about the area, talk to the people and find what I want to write about.

My biggest concern will be making sure I’m getting my work done. I’m sure every day, while it will be incredible, will also be exhausting. I think this trip will be physically difficult from the time we’ll spend outdoors and writing our chapters after long days of exploring and gathering information. But I think once we’re there, we’ll be ready to work, and I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say once I sit down and start writing.

I’m trying not to worry about environmental risks, like dangerous animals, because I’m sure the environment won’t feel intimidating once we’re there. I enjoy being outdoors and hiking, so I’m sure I’ve been around dangerous creatures before, I’ve just never really thought about them. I’m trying to get back to that – ignorance is bliss, right?

I know it’s going to be an amazing and life changing experience. I feel like whatever expectations I have right now will be exceeded within the first day of our arrival. I cannot wait to get into the field with a positive attitude and get something written that I’m proud to publish.

Costa Rica Expectations: Making Uncomfortable Situations, Comfortable

By: Mekenzie Looney

At the start of 2019, I will be off on my first international trip. From what is sounds like field reporting is going to be no joke. I’m expecting to spend the two weeks sweaty, tired, and covered in foreign bugs. All situations that Midwest natives, like myself, rarely find themselves in. I know that a huge part of studying abroad is forcing yourself to learn in uncomfortable situations, but I’m counting on a few things to make these uncomfortable situations more comfortable.



When I decided I wanted to study journalism, I initially liked the idea of capturing and sharing stories that mattered to people. I took pride in my role of being on the yearbook staff. I knew then that my role wasn’t to turn assignments in but record the history of my class. The Bellbird is no exception to this. This species is counting on us to bring awareness to it. This story needs to be told and I’m looking forward to telling it.  



I spent a session interning in the Missouri House of Representatives and a summer on the campaign trail. Nothing makes me more excited than seeing how our elected officials plan to make change through policies. I’m hoping that I will be able to channel this same passion in Costa Rica. Ecological issues are important to Ticos, but I want to learn how their government are involved in the restoration process.


My Class

I’m counting on this group of strangers to inspire me to work hard. I know that they are bringing their A-game, so I’ll have to as well. I may not know everyone in this group yet, but we all share one common goal; to explore Costa Rica while reporting on issues that, hopefully, make a difference.

Costa Rica Expectations: Janelle Finch

I think everyone has expectations for their first study abroad experience. When I imagined going abroad, I always hoped I would get a chance to really immerse myself wherever I was. I wanted to eat the food, embrace the culture, learn the language, I wanted to do it all. I wanted it to be more than just a “tourist-y” perspective of the country. I want the beauty, but I also want the story behind the beauty. What more is there to the country beyond the travel brochures? I want to see it all and be able to share my experiences with others.

I won’t lie, I am not a huge get-down-and-dirty kind of girl. However, once I get dirty, I’m all in. I expect to be venturing out into the forest on serious hikes for great stories. I hope to get dirty and I hope I won’t complain too much about said dirt. I think one of the reasons study abroad programs are so special is because the stories we gather, the narratives we tell, cannot be found “right in our own backyard.” We’re real journalists, going out to get the real stories other people might not have the opportunity or drive to. This is why I’m willing to get muddy boots while in Costa Rica. When will I get the chance to do this again?

I hope that when I get to Costa Rica, I will be able to try out what little Spanish I know. I want to pursue a minor in the language and would love the opportunity to try it out in a real-life setting. Even if it isn’t perfect, I would love to try and get a more personalized interview by incorporating Spanish in some way.


Costa Rica Expectations: Meredith Clevenger

Never leaving the country before, and only a few excursions outside the state of Missouri, I expect I will be filled with fear and excitement to travel to Costa Rica.  I have never traveled on a plane and that will be the beginning of this great adventure for me. I am expecting to gain a whole new perspective of a different portion of the world during this experience.

My main goal during the two weeks is to learn about agriculture in Costa Rica, as well as the culture, and to document what I learn. The excitement for this adventure has already overtaken me and I have started planning out questions and thoughts in my head. I can’t wait to learn from people that have the same interests as I do, but live 4,000 miles from my home. I am eager to learn about their landscape, crops, climate and environment, as well.

I am also hopeful that we will get to see the female turtles come on shore and lay their eggs. Sea turtles have been something that have fascinated me since my roommate went to Costa Rica last year and worked with baby sea turtles. I have also never seen the ocean and walked barefoot on the sand, so I am elated for the chance to do that.

Me being excited for this trip is an understatement. I am eager for the trip and am thankful for this opportunity to interview people in a different country, as well as experience some of the world.