Reflections on a Summer in Costa Rica
We asked alumni of last summer’s Spanish study abroad program in Costa Rica to reflect on their experiences. This program was organized by Fátima Serra who also accompanied the students on the trip to the town of Heredia, Costa Rica. Fourteen students spent four weeks at the Universidad Latina in a language and Culture Immersion Course.
They lived with a host family and explored the country, participated in cultural activities and cooperated in Service Learning Projects. Here are some of their reflections:
Jazmine Mateo writes: The most significant part of the four weeks I spent in Costa Rica was the culture. Everyone was super friendly and welcoming. You hear or see the phrase pura vida almost everywhere you go which translates to “pure life” and resonates with the culture over there. The food was so good! You eat their signature gallo pinto so many times that it becomes one of the things that you miss when you go back home. While over there we also had the opportunity to volunteer at a school and the kids were a delight to be around. They helped us practice some Spanish and we helped them learn some English. I speak the Spanish language, but my grammar hasn’t been that great in the past. As a result of the four weeks I think my grammar has definitely improved, and my conversations in Spanish have started to flow a lot smoother. I highly recommend a program like this.
Letticia Garcia writes: I am a double major is psychology and criminal justice. The most significant part of this trip was not only learning the culture and language of Costa Rica but also being able to share this experience with the people travelling with me. We have all gotten so close that I am comfortable calling them my family. I think that being able to share this experience with others is important because you get to learn and grow with one another. Another significant part of this trip for me was living with a host family. This really showed me what it was like to live in Costa Rica and the lifestyle that they live. I did enjoy the community-service activities because they showed me that even just giving back a little bit could go a long way. I believe that my knowledge and fluency of Spanish has improved more than it would have if I spent the same amount of time in the classroom. This trip allowed me to speak Spanish inside and outside the classroom, and using it all the time outside the classroom is what helped me improve my fluency. The reason that I chose to do this program was to finish my language requirement for one of my majors. This has helped me reach my goals of fulfilling my requirement, and it has also helped me reach my goal of holding conversations in Spanish with my father. I would tell others, that if they had this opportunity to study abroad, to take it! This is a once in a lifetime experience. You can always learn a language in the classroom, but actually, immersing yourself into the culture and speaking the language to locals will help you so much more.
Nolan King, a History major with a minor in Communications Studies, writes: Requiring intermediate Spanish (201 and 202) to graduate, I made the decision to take the classes for credit by traveling as part of the World Languages and Cultures study abroad program to Heredia, Costa Rica. Little did I know that upon arrival it would be one of the best decisions I have ever made. I was extremely nervous as I hadn’t taken Spanish in over a year and my language skills were basic and rusty at best. However, upon reflection, one of the most satisfying aspects of the trip personally was being able to truly see how much my Spanish improved and the confidence of language learning that came with it. Throughout the trip, community service activities and immersion trips throughout Costa Rica allowed students to see the natural beauty of the country while providing opportunities to practice Spanish with the locals. These activities ranged from elementary school volunteering to learning about and viewing native wildlife at a rehabilitation facility. I personally believe that my Spanish knowledge, fluency, and overall ability has increased in a way I never thought it could. The study abroad program to Heredia absolutely created a new love of the Spanish language for me and pushed me to learn more, to the point where I would take additional Spanish classes and perhaps even explore a minor in the subject if possible. Prior to this trip, I would have never dreamed of this. The study abroad program to Heredia, Costa Rica truly helped me build skills in speaking Spanish and furthermore, skills as a student. I would recommend the program to anyone in the future. It is a truly remarkable and life-changing program.
Spanish major Kenneth Powers writes: As I sit and attempt to write about my experiences in Costa Rica, I am struck by the realization that I still haven’t come close to fully processing my time there yet. I have been back for about a week now and while it feels like I never left, I find myself reliving my time there every single day. I’m a man who likes to spin a good yarn, and I returned from Costa Rica with many more stories in my repertoire. To try to pare those down into one “Most Memorable Experience” would be an exercise in futility. I don’t think I had one bad experience the whole time I was there. Hiking around waterfalls and active volcanoes, salsa dancing, cooking classes, gorgeous beaches, nice people, excellent faculty… I could go on but I don’t have the space. The point is that there was literally no end of fun to be had. Exhausting levels of fun. The kind of fun that you can’t wait to tell people about, only to be disappointed when you realize that it’s impossible to truly convey the incredulity and euphoria you felt in the moment. I joined the program because I am an English Major and a Spanish major, and working toward a degree in translation; so it was a very easy decision for me to make. My Spanish speaking ability has improved dramatically as a result of the month in Costa Rica, but more importantly than that, my confidence in my ability to get my point across has never been higher. I don’t speak perfectly, and I still have a long road ahead of me, but now I know I can communicate and, at the very least, get my point across in Spanish. I have never been more confident in the path I have chosen than I am now. Knowing what I do now, not going to Heredia would have been one of the great mistakes of my life (of which there are many, so to be counted among them is quite the feat). I miss Heredia already—the people, the dancing, the landscape—and have decided to explore employment opportunities in South America after graduation directly as a result of this trip.