This summer, I spent five weeks studying abroad in Heredia, Costa Rica, through ISA’s Spanish Literature and Language program. I lived in a homestay and completed six credit hours, taking a Spanish literature course along with a Spanish phonetics course. We also spent the weekends going on two planned excursions to Volcán Arenal and Manuel Antonio national parks.
This opportunity brought about various changes in my perspective on our world. Firstly, I quickly realized that the world is much bigger than I thought. As a Spanish dual degree student, I had wrongly assumed that I would have a good idea of what life in Costa Rica would be like, but quickly realized I didn’t know much about Latin American culture at all. There were so many new words, traditions, foods, and mannerisms that I was not aware of. I learned so much about the richness of Costa Rican culture, and my appreciation for the Hispanic people, culture, and language has grown exponentially through this experience.
The first event that triggered this personal change was my interactions and relationships with my host family. Living in a Costa Rican household was the highlight of my experience, as well as the place where I learned the most Spanish, as well as spoke the most Spanish. It was there where I increased my fluency the most and was exposed to the most culturally specific vocabulary and phrases—which, many of the times, did not translate directly. Needless to say, my list of words expanded quite a bit! I also had the chance to meet and talk with a few nurses—which was a very valuable experience given that one my courses of study is nursing.
The second event that brought about a change in me were my specific courses at la Universidad Latina along with the professors and fellow students in the program. Since the program directors were from a third party, the students enrolled in the program were from all over the country—and my roommate herself was from Iowa. For me, the diversity of the students was incredibly interesting. I learned a lot about the geographical differences within my own country as well as those of Costa Rica, through interactions with my professors and course leads at la Universidad Latina.
The third experience that engendered a change in my perspectives was experiencing the richness of the wildlife in Costa Rica. The natural beauty of Costa Rica was breathtaking. Waking up every morning and seeing the sunlight climb over the mountain peaks was the perfect start to every day. I never got tired of it—even when the unexpected volcanic ash made my flight cancel. Every weekend was spent exploring the vast countryside—including Manuel Antonio national park, Volcán Arenal, and Cahuita, along the Caribbean coast. Each of these experiences not only demonstrated the vast beauty of the country, but also instilled in me a profound appreciation
These aforementioned changes are extremely crucial to my ongoing personal and academic development; especially given that they play a central role in achieving my goals. Being in Costa Rica for over a month, I can happily say that my Spanish improved incredibly. Given that this was my first experience in a Spanish-speaking country—it was extremely successful. I loved every second of it and cannot wait to return!