First thing’s first.
If you’ve ever considered studying abroad, do it. It will change your life.
Living in a different country fills you in places that you never knew were empty. You get to experience the beauty of some foreign land not with a textbook, nor through pictures online, but with your own eyes, mind and heart through the culture and the language. You will meet locals and thrive in there way of life. You get the pleasure of witnessing your own personal growth as your horizons broaden but also indulge in all of the simple things in life like food, family and fun. You will be challenged in many ways, some as simple as getting lost trying to find the bus stop, and other ways like reconsidering everything you’ve ever thought about the world.
It can be scary, but the excitement far outweighs the doubts. And, what’s life without a few risks? You may be surprised how a little adventure can arouse your soul.
So, how do I know all of this? Well, let me tell you.
I spent the Summer of 2017 in an extraordinary little country in Central America called Costa Rica studying Spanish at an institute called ICLC. The country’s motto is “Pura Vida” which translates to English as “Pure Life.” But, from my perspective, it was the general mindset of the Costa Rican culture and people. If someone asked how you are doing, the response is Pura Vida, which basically means life if good and that way of thinking flourishes throughout the country and around every corner, ever town square, and every home. The phrase doesn’t mean that the people of Costa Rica do not have hardships, but it means they face everything with a positive attitude and a gratitude for simply being alive.
What’s not to love about that?
Speaking of love, if I could describe the people of Costa Rica with one word, it would be loving, especially my host mom who has the heart of an angel. Coming from the United States, I wasn’t accustomed to a warm, multi-generational household, but in Central America it is very common to have three generations in one home. So, not only do you have new and beloved parents and siblings, but you may also be blessed with an abuelita (dearest grandma). Either way, the family and people accept you into their homes, treat you as their own and feed you until you can’t possibly take another bite.
So, what about their food?
Considering that most things in Costa Rica are grown and harvested domestically, and sometimes even in the front yard, the food is always fresh and delicious. It is very normal for families to eat dinner together every night at the dinner table, and that’s what we did. At the dinner table is where I tasted some of the most appetizing food, usually hand-made by my lovely host mom, while enjoying the company of my newly adopted family (no, not literally). I think that this aspect of their culture is what maintains their close relationships between both family members and friends alike, and keeps their hearts warm. I always went to bed with a full belly and and happy heart.
We’ve covered the food and family, but what about the fun?
Costa Rica literally has an endless amount of activities to do, whether it is flying through the canopies of the rain forest, relaxing on the beach, white water rafting, or strolling through the city, there is something for everyone. I did all of the above and then some. Sometimes it was just fun to take a bus around the country and see all of the different landscapes and people, other times I would catch a movie at the mall. No matter where I was, who I was with or what I was doing, it was Pura Vida.
Notice how I’ve barely mentioned the school part? It’s not because I didn’t enjoy sitting outside, in hammocks, under a gazebo, surrounded by nature and learning their beautiful language, it’s because when I reflect on my Studying Abroad experience at ICLC, the tests, homework, and hours of intensive language learning are not what comes to mind. But, what does come to mind is everything that school, that country, and those people gave to me that I will carry for the rest of my life – a second family, a second language, a second home, and too many memories to count.
P.s. Interested in Studying Abroad or want to know more?