“It is so hard to leave — until you leave. And then it is the easiest thing in the world.”
At the beginning of my amazing journey abroad, as I stepped aboard my first international flight and into a brand new, exciting chapter in my life, this quote was my mantra. In truth, I was so very far from being calm, cool, and collected as I embarked on the journey of a lifetime. An entirely new culture awaited me, but I longed for the comfort and security of what I knew best as we took off. As the plane began its ascent, I reached into my purse to double check for my passport, phone, and iPod. I found, instead, a small note addressed to me in my mother’s handwriting. “I can’t wait to hear the amazing stories you’ll have from this experience,” she wrote, among so many other words of encouragement and love. “You’re going to be an entirely different person when you come back, and all for the better! So LIVE IT UP!”
And now, with five weeks of magnificent memories, friendships, experiences, and stories to treasure forever, I truly cannot imagine my life without my Costa Rican adventure.
Since coming home, I feel as though I start ten conversations per day with “When I was in Costa Rica…” I’m becoming more and more homesick for my second home, my homestay family and all of my study abroad friends, too.
I’m even missing speaking Spanish. Pittsburgh has an extremely small Spanish speaking population, so to go from speaking Spanish 24/7 for five weeks to NO SPANISH AT ALL has been a strange adjustment.
However, to fill the void that once was filled with our university’s dance classes, I’ve gone to a restaurant that offers salsa dancing – and yummy plantain chips, guacamole, and salsa, which I’ve also been missing! I’m definitely planning to visit others soon, and often, too.
I often think back to my life before this trip and compare pre-study abroad Megan with the well-traveled young woman I am now. My mother, as always, was absolutely right – since studying abroad, I am an entirely different person. In just five weeks time, I grew in more ways than I ever thought possible. With new experiences came greater wisdom, and with that, a more adventurous spirit and a greater zest for life.
I certainly lived it up while in Costa Rica! Never in my life did I think I would zipline anywhere in the world, let alone along the longest canopy line in all of Latin America! I’ve been fortunate enough to horseback through the forest and waterfalls, visit the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, visit an active volcano, succee in classes that truly captivated all of my interests, see a mother turtle lay over 100 eggs in the warm Pacific coast sand, and eat more delicious, fresh, new foods than I care to admit.
Before going away, I routinely found it difficult to believe in myself. Since going on my adventure abroad, I feel as though I’ve added an entirely new level of empowerment to my life. I’m wiser. I’ve grown into a much more well rounded individual.
Like everyone else, there are times when self-doubt rears its ugly head, muffling and masking the new, expanded sense of empowerment. But in times like that, all I have to do is think back to my five week adventure abroad. I think to myself, “If I can travel through another country, speak an entirely different language, immerse myself in a culture, and really LIVE there as a 20 year old woman, I can do anything.”
More than anything, I’ve proven myself to the one person in the world who doubts me the most – myself. And I might be most proud of that.
In closing, Costa Rica, you were better to me than I ever could have imagined, and probably ever deserved. I cannot thank you enough for being a truly wonderful first leg of so many more global travels to come. We may not see each other for quite some time, but when the time comes, it’ll sure be one beautiful reunion. Pura vida, mi país pequeño de la costa. Le extraño mucho.
On to the next adventure!