The following post was contributed by Katya Agamy, a Diversity Abroad scholarship winner from Loyola University of New Orleans who is spending her spring semester studying abroad with AIFS in San José, Costa Rica.
Study abroad is unlike any other travel experience anyone can possibly have. I am currently in San José, Costa Rica studying at Universidad Veritas for my second semester of my junior year. Not only do I have the opportunity to live and experience an amazing place like Costa Rica for three months, I am able to learn right alongside the local and other international students. I was given the opportunity to learn a language completely foreign to me, live with and build relationships with a lovely host family who have lived in San José their entire lives, taste foods I have never even heard of, and see monuments, buildings, and natural formations I never dreamed of. Studying abroad with AIFS has been life-changing, and I am only one month in.
Perhaps the greatest takeaway so far has been the language learning opportunities Universidad Veritas has presented me with. Learning a language is incredibly important and is thoroughly beneficial to everyone who is able to tackle the challenge. Being on the pre-med track, Spanish is helpful in that it opens you up to be able to communicate with an entirely new world of people. One can access more research and more importantly, interact with more individuals seeking medical attention. As women of color in the STEM field, I know I am going to need every advantage I can get, and the ability to speak fluently a language like Spanish will continue to prove its use throughout my career and throughout my life.
In addition to the wonderful academic opportunities I am able to take advantage of, I, along with my fellow international students, have gone on numerous excursions that have absolutely been the highlights of my time here so far. Some trips were very close to my homestay and the university campus. Early on, I started traveling to various parts of the city, visiting markets and shops that I happened to stumble upon and looking for any opportunity to practice my developing Spanish language skills. Other destinations were traveled with a large group of AIFS students and were located on opposite sides of the country. Already I have swam in hot springs, visited volcanoes, played on the most beautiful beaches I have ever been to, and seen sloths, spiders, monkeys, and so much more of the wildlife here in Costa Rica.
I entirely plan on keeping a busy schedule. Filling my time not only with the demanding academic work and Spanish practice, but also continuing to travel around the country, seeing parts of this world I have yet to even imagine. I want to stay active physically and mentally, continuing to learn, see, and do as much as I possibly can in my limited time here. It is also important for me to have a beneficial impact on the area that has taken me in and given me a home. For this reason, I am beginning to look for volunteer opportunities in and around San Jose. Even if my help is minimal, I hope to give back to what has given me so much. I am beyond excited to see what these next few months turn out to be.