“Let your faith be bigger than your fears.” This has been something that I have thought about a lot during the last four months I’ve been studying abroad in Costa Rica.
It may be not be the same for every student but, to me, faith is a crucial part of my life. I remember being a little kid and standing in front of Refreshing Springs Church of God in Christ with my mom as she sung in the choir. All my life, my faith has been a source of strength and hope. So, when I left for Costa Rica one of my big questions was, how will I maintain my faith being so far away from my church community? I was extremely nervous, but I just said a prayer and let life happen.
When I got to Costa Rica, I went to a few churches. I liked them all for different reasons, but the one that made me feel like I was at home was a local non-denominational church about a eight minutes from my host family’s house. When I walked into the church, all the members were so welcoming and understood that Spanish wasn’t my first language. They explained things to me in English and just had open arms. I truly knew that this would be church home while I was in Costa Rica.
Throughout my semester, they became my second family. We played soccer together, I went over to their houses for dinner, they showed me their favorite restaurants in San José, but most importantly they showed me what true hospitality and friendship looked like. Looking back on the experience now that I am home, I don’t think my study abroad experience would have been as much fun without these specific people in my life.
My favorite memory was when my friends Gabby and Esteban took me to a local restaurant and said, “We are going to try chifrijo!” I said “ Okay, I am here for a good time, not a long time, so I am ready to try anything.” Chifrijo is a local Costa Rican dish with rice, matured beans, pinto de gallo, chicharon, avocado and tortilla chips. After this dinner, this would become one of my favorite meals that I would then ask my host mother to make.
Also, on my last night in Costa Rica, this couple had organized some friends from church to come to their house and throw me a surprise party. I was almost moved to tears because I knew these people for all of three months and they were willing to go all out for me on my last night. They served a lot different foods that night, and guess what they made as my last meal — chifrijo! Words could not describe how happy I was and grateful I was for these people who I feel God had brought into my life.
So, as I reflect and return to my church home back in New York, I just want to share with everybody who wants to go abroad but is afraid because of leaving everything they know and love, you can do it! You are strong enough! What may be your biggest fear will become your biggest blessing and that is one of the many lessons that Costa Rica has taught me. I will never forget these priceless memories.
Disclaimer: AIFS Study Abroad is unaffiliated with and does not endorse any particular religion or faith. This post reflects a student’s personal experience.