Why Did You Come to Kalu Yala? 32 Students Share Their Aspirations

a couple of years ago
By Alice Beth Stankovitch

Have you ever wondered what’s bringing people to the jungle?

What’s driving hundreds of bright, talented students every year to study abroad at Kalu Yala?

Think about it. These are high-performing individuals with a world of options at their fingertips. Many have turned down internships, other study abroad programs, even paid jobs to be here. In the jungle. Sleeping in hammocks, hiking up mountains. Often unable to distinguish between sweat and rain.

No, it’s not the kool-aid (actually, we prefer locally sourced watermelon juice.) Students are drawn to Kalu Yala for a lot of reasons. We asked our Summer 2017 students what brought them to Kalu Yala, and what they hope to get out of the experience. In this article, we explore some of their answers and the broader themes they encompass.


To put their studies into practice.

Many Kalu Yala students are in college or recently graduated. For students studying global issues, the traditional surroundings of their towns and universities can feel stifling. It’s one thing to study solutions to the world’s social, environmental, and economic problems. Coming to Latin America and tackling it is quite another. These students decided to abandon their comfort zones and practice putting their knowledge into action.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


To build something great.

Kalu Yala is all about building great things. The company’s mission is to build a sustainable town, which requires sustainable businesses. We help students launch startups that serve our local community and export great ideas and products to the world. Past students have started businesses they continued after Kalu Yala, sold to Kalu Yala, or expanded through the Kalu Yala business incubator. When our students succeed, we succeed, so we provide the resources and support they need to thrive.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


To be great stewards of this earth. 

This one shouldn’t surprise you. Kalu Yala is founded, funded, and operated by die-hard conservationists. We believe all generations have an inherent responsibility, and a profound capability, to protect and regenerate the planet. Our students tend to agree. And while their academic and career goals range from greenhouses to Wall Street, students at Kalu Yala are deadset on incorporating sustainability into their careers and lives.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


To be part of a remarkable community.

Imagine suddenly having dozens of brainy, passionate friends. Different backgrounds and disciplines, different talents and skill sets. You all have something in common, though. You’re all passionate about solving social, ecological, and economic problems. Maybe that’s through sustainable agriculture, biofuel production, or teaching at the local schools. With 13 academic programs of hand-selected students, you’re guaranteed a community you actually want to be around.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


To further career goals.

Not to dilute the whole “lazy hippie” stereotype, but our students are on their game. Many have their career paths planned out or have already begun to embark. Whether they’re destined for the next big non-profit, a multinational corp, or the emergency room– these students want sustainability to be a pillar in their careers.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


To do something extraordinary.

Life gets a little too formulaic for a lot of students. Go to school, go to work, go out with friends, rinse and repeat. What’s the point of being history’s most liberated generation if we squander it for predictability? These students wanted to shake up their world. To wake up and find themselves somewhere completely different– laughing and learning with friends in an incredible jungle community. To feel like they spent their time doing good in the world. To feel part of something extraordinary. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Apply to study abroad at Kalu Yala. Or…