This winter, we've seen snow, sleet, hail and ice in the Midwest. It's enough to make a person want to travel somewhere warm, which is exactly what Brandon Gassei did.

“I decided to go to Costa Rica this semester,” he explained. “I wanted to go to a country filled with beautiful nature.”

The Marthasville-native is staying with a host family and studying at the Latin-American University of Science and Technology.

“My host family is amazing,” he said. “Their knowledge of the local culture is so helpful. They know what places are best and which are not recommended. Additionally, they are more than willing to help me with my Spanish skills.”

East Central College Spanish Instructor Ellen Aramburu is not surprised Gassei decided to immerse himself in Latin American culture.

“Brandon always demonstrated a genuine interest in the Spanish language and travel for as long as I have known him,” she said. “I am very happy that he is taking this opportunity.”

Gassai attended East Central College from 2015-2017, transferring to Southeast Missouri State University shortly after to pursue a degree in international business.

“My experience at ECC was really amazing,” he said. “The professors were always willing to help students who were struggling. They do not take their curriculum work lightly and loved to challenge students.”

“Brandon was a very responsible and conscientious person,” Aramburu said. “He was a hardworking and dedicated student who always stayed on task and asked good questions. He shows a genuine concern for other people and his generosity of spirit makes him a pleasure to be around.”

For now, Brandon is enjoying his time in the tropics, but the future is still very much on his mind.

“I am still deciding on the next step to take,” he said, “but I do know that many companies and employers need individuals who are bilingual. Continuing with this skill that I started at East Central College opens up more opportunities for me.”