One thing that I have noticed about being abroad in Costa Rica is the relaxed atmosphere among my classmates and myself. If I were on my home university’s campus right now, I know that I would see a full library with people feverishly drinking their Tim Hortons and struggling to finish an assignment that is probably due at midnight. However, here in San José, it is very “sauve sauve,” as my Mama Tica would say. So, sometimes I have to think to myself, “Have I really learned while being abroad since it’s such a relaxed environment?”
The truth is, I have learned a lot from my study abroad experience in Costa Rica in different ways, and both inside and outside of the classroom.
For example, I’ve learned a lot about myself. Because of this study abroad experience, I have come to realize that I enjoy the more simple things in life: a day at the beach, a book with music, great conversations with friends at the park, enjoying the wonderful Costa Rican cuisine, or dancing my worries away.
I’ve also realized that I am a brave person. It’s not easy to leave all that you know back home to go live with strangers, making a new country your home for four months. Only brave people can do that. On that note, I think about the bravery of my classmates. Some of them have done just what I have, but with an added language barrier. I came to study abroad in Costa Rica as an advanced Spanish language student, which made the transition a bit easier for me — some of my classmates didn’t have that background. Nevertheless, it has sometimes been a challenge for me too, but has also been so rewarding.
In the classroom, I have also learned so much. My Spanish language skills have really improved because I am taking four Spanish courses here in San José. I have learned how to think more analytically, and that there is more than one way to learn a language because there is no one way to proficiency. I have learned that a test doesn’t measure how well I know Spanish. I have learned the true meaning of progress and the value of celebrating mistakes.
Furthermore, I have come to find that my professors can be more than a teacher or mentor, but be my friend — and in some cases they might even hype me up. It is easy to get lost in the academic routine, but being abroad has helped me realize that there are a lot of good people in the world. Those good people want me and my classmates to be successful.
So, as I finish my study abroad in Costa Rica, I am going to stop asking myself if I’m “really learning,” because the truth is that you learn from everything you experience in life. Instead, I’m going to ask myself, “Chris, what can you learn today?”
You can not compare your school abroad to your home university, or the differences between the way the classes are designed. You must seize the day and realize that each day is a blessing, and a new opportunity to learn. You have the unique opportunity to live, breath and discover a new culture — an experience that you can tell your loved ones, your future kids, and employers for the rest of your life.
With that, I am going to enjoy my cafecitos with my friends in Costa Rica instead of thinking about those drinking Tim Hortons in the stressful library. I’m going to enjoy my last weeks in this beautiful country that I love: Costa Rica! Pura vida!