Meet Social Science Scholar Chelsea Casabona

As a 2021 Social Science Scholar (SSS), I received funding to complete an 8-week Social Justice & Development program in San José, Costa Rica through the Institute for Central American Development Studies (ICADS). Majoring in international affairs and political science and minoring in film, I eagerly searched for summer opportunities that encompassed both my passion for current events and activism and my newfound interest in documentary filmmaking. ICADS allowed me to learn about international sustainable development, increase my Spanish-speaking skills, and practice documentary-styled videography.

            I began my cultural and language immersion immediately when I was driven from the airport to my host family’s house located in the small town of Curridabat in the San José province. While the first night of practicing my Spanish skills resulted in me accidentally telling my host family about my non-existent grandson (I meant to talk about my nephew), I left with enough skills to converse with my Uber driver the entire 45-mintute ride to the airport (without accidentally fabricating family members). I am especially grateful to my host mother, Lorena, and my host sisters, Ali and Amanda, for welcoming me into their home and providing me meals for two months – my experience in Costa Rica would not have been nearly as valuable without them.

            Because ICADS was recently re-opening their study abroad program, I had both the privilege and challenge of being their only student; they called me “la estudiante de esperanza” or “the student of hope” because I was the first student they received since before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The first two weeks of my program, I studied at the institute with my professors Javier and Rosa. In the mornings, I had intensive Spanish classes with Rosa, which were ultimately preparing me to communicate with my future colleagues for my eventual internship with a local non-profit. In the afternoons, Javier taught classes about the history of Costa Rica, imperialism, colonization, and global social injustices.

            After two weeks of classes, I was paired with a local non-profit called Fundación Mujer where I interned for the remaining six weeks. Fundación Mujer’s mission is to empower local women with resources such as business courses and funding and is also partnered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). As their intern, I helped set up ceremonies for women graduating business courses and visited the local UNHCR every week to distribute employability resource information to refugees. I was also able to practice my videography skills that started with creating a video about their fundraising event. My most rewarding project was my final work of videography entitled, “Storytelling”. I spent a day traveling to the houses of three resettled refugees who used Fundación Mujer to start businesses in Costa Rica. I conducted interviews with all of them about their experiences as refugees from Venezuela and Nicaragua and was even able to record the cooking process for one of their businesses. Currently, I am continuing my internship with Fundación Mujer virtually and am working on editing the footage I was able to record during my time there to create a mini docu-series on each of the three women I interviewed, their businesses, and their refugee stories.

            I am incredibly grateful to the donors of the Social Science Scholars program whose funding allowed me to develop my Spanish fluency and videography skills, to which I will be applying in my career aspirations of international documentary film making. I am also grateful to my Social Science Scholars colloquium professors, Dr. Tom Taylor and Dr. John Mayo, whose skills of adaptive leadership allowed me to succeed while interning alone internationally.

Chelsea is a junior from Marco Island pursuing a dual degree in international affairs and political science, with a minor in film. During her sophomore year she conducted research on the reasons for political motivation through the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). Chelsea holds leadership roles as a Pre-Law Freshman Interest Group Leader, a freshman peer-mentor, a student coordinator for the Women’s Leadership Institute and an FSU community ambassador for 4H, a community organization. In her free time, Chelsea volunteers with Food Not Bombs, a mutual aid group that distributes free hot meals every Sunday. As a Social Science Scholar, Chelsea hopes to work with a summer program that focuses on mutual aid, human rights and community-based activism. In the future, she hopes to serve in the Peace Corps, pursue a Ph.D. and eventually become an investigative documentarian. 

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