The Power of Taking a Risk and Leaving Your Comfort Zone
By Evangelia Ventouris, Spanish Major
Throughout life, everything you thought you knew was going to stay the same, may change. Decisions you thought you were going to make end up not happening. Friends you thought would be there forever, end up fading through the cracks. You knowing yourself may change to you losing yourself. Losing yourself will lead to tears and struggle, but just know that it’s okay to feel that way. It’s okay to change your mind, to meet new people, to lose others, and to lose yourself. This is all a part of life that is worth experiencing. It will lead you to new beautiful people and even places.
I can safely say that college has brought so many changes into my life that I can’t even begin to fathom. I lost so many friends and I gained even more. I majored in Spanish and learned more in two semesters than I had in four years of high school. The experience that changed my life the most was making the decision to study abroad in Costa Rica in the summer of 2012. The scenery was breathtaking, the people were warm-hearted, the culture was not like any other, the food was mouth-watering, and the language was and still is beautiful. Little did I know, this decision to study abroad would change my life in such a way that I would never return to the United States as the same person.
Attending school at the Universidad de Latina in Costa Rica I learned so much. The first week was a headache because there was just so much thinking involved since I wasn’t used to hearing the Spanish language all the time without any breaks. I believe I used the phrase “me duele la cabeza” [“my head hurts”] more than I imagined I would to the point when my host mother couldn’t help but laugh at me. It’s crazy to realize that when we speak English, we do it without even thinking. It’s natural and it flows. However, leaning another language is difficult because we literally start off like we are babies again; making sounds that later form into words. Then we use words that eventually become sentences. Studying abroad only made this process quicker for me, and I came back to Salem State University taking advanced Spanish courses.
Learning a new language and most importantly studying it abroad will open up so many doors in the world. Costa Rica opened my eyes to a new way of life. A life that is not as fast-paced as it is in Massachusetts. The people of Costa Rica, better known as “Ticos”, live every day with smiles, laughter, and no rush. I began to realize how fast I picked up this way of life, how much I began to smile setting aside the migraines I had from learning the language. I began to experience and feel the Costa Rican famous saying “Pura Vida” which translates to “pure life”.
In the process of all of this, I met two beautiful people that changed my life. Their names were Guillermo and Rosaly. I made the closest friendship with them when I was there and I am so grateful for everything they taught me. Guillermo taught me always to be happy, and have faith in people. We spoke Spanish to one another, and I remember the smile he had on his face every time he saw me. He has such a pure soul, filled with so much love to offer the world. Before I knew it, Guille’s smile began to reflect off of me. I began to open up my heart and take in the true beauty of Costa Rica. I found a part of myself there, with him. Rosaly also taught me to be happy but at the same time to accept myself for who I am. She accepted me for who I was, and did not treat me like a foreigner. They both had patience with me, with my Spanish. They corrected me when I was wrong, but most importantly gave me reassurance that I was learning when I was frustrated the most.
It wasn’t until my last day in Costa Rica that I realized how much these two beautiful people had changed me. They opened my eyes to a new world and a new me. They showed me that I was stronger than I thought I was. It truly takes a lot of courage to leave your comfort zone and study abroad. I will never forget everything they did for me. How welcoming and loving they were. The fun times we had going out and laughing the night away. Hugging one another every five minutes for no reason at all. We enjoyed one another and experienced happiness together. We lived “pura vida” together and we were sharing a part of our lives with one another. In between all the frustration, migraines, complaining and tears I met two of the most beautiful people that showed me how to open my heart to the world. They will forever have a part of my heart.
Studying abroad is a very scary thing, but it’s one of the best decisions I have made in my college career. It allows you to appreciate the people and things you have in your life and it allows for you to expand your knowledge in ways that I can’t even begin to explain.
When I left Costa Rica, I left a part of my heart there as well, a part that is waiting for me to return and continue my life there. Like Gandhi once said, “Our fingerprints don’t fade from the lives that we touch”. This decision forever changed me. I am so thankful for it all and I just can’t wait to do it again!