A fantastic way to learn about a study abroad program or location is by connecting with its alumni! Hearing personal experiences straight from someone who has been where you want to go or done the program you’re interested in is priceless. We caught up with AIFS Alumni Ambassador, Ali Mumbach, who spent a semester in Costa Rica with AIFS. Read on as she reflects specifically on her experience.
Why did you choose the AIFS Study Abroad in Costa Rica program? How did you learn about it?
I chose the program location that I did because my niece studied abroad in Costa Rica (with a different provider). After seeing all her pictures and videos on Snapchat, I knew if I studied abroad, that’s where I wanted to go. I learned about AIFS through going to my study abroad office’s website, as well as hearing about my friend’s experiences with AIFS (which were good).
What is or was your major in college and was there a connection to your decision to study abroad in Costa Rica?
My major is sociology. Because Veritas University offered a Gender and Sustainability class, I was able to take that and use it as a sociology elective that I needed. I didn’t choose Costa Rica based on my major, I was able to fit Costa Rica to my major.
What are the strengths and unique features of the AIFS program in San José, Costa Rica?
I think a major strength that was also a unique feature of the program would be the variety of classes available. There’s Spanish, biology, photography, criminal justice, art, sustainability, and probably more. I think that is ideal for students who are studying for a semester — it was for me.
Can you tell us about some of the highlights of your experience?
My favorite weekend in Costa Rica was when my biology class took a weekend field trip to El Jobo. We stayed with families in the community and helped our professor and his team of researchers catch and tag sea turtles. We also got to help a nest of sea turtles make their way to the ocean. That weekend was amazing and beautiful.
Another highlight was my last weekend in Costa Rica. I went with some friends to this beautiful beach community. We spent all day on the beach, eating fresh fruit and enjoying the waves, the sun, the wind, the company – all of it.
Also, being able to practice my Catholic faith even though I was away from home.
Was there anything you did not expect?
I did not expect my Mama Tica to not speak English. I was completely unaware of that, prior to pulling up to her house. I was glad that she didn’t though, because it definitely forced me to practice my Spanish more. I did not expect to be so interested in the local politics and social issues. Or rather, I didn’t expect them to be in such a different place politically and socially in comparison to the US. But I became very involved and wanted to learn more.
How did you learn, grow or change by studying abroad?
Studying abroad provided me the opportunity to be authentically myself. No one had preconceived notions of who Ali was, so I did not feel pressured to be who people wanted me to be. It was very liberating and inspired me to try to bring that home to the states with me. I also learned to appreciate the present moment more. When you’re always thinking ahead or worrying about all the things that need to get done, you can miss so much. I learned that I definitely want to spend long periods of time in foreign countries to really get to know the place. I learned that I can be away from home for that long.
Do you have any advice for future students who also study abroad in Costa Rica?
Explore San José, don’t just go away every weekend. There are some gems in the city. Get to know some students at Veritas who can show you what the city has to offer. Try not to speak English to the other study abroad students, you’re missing the point. Don’t feel obligated to go only where everyone else is going. Try to plan ahead for the trips that you want to take. Otherwise, you might not get to hit up all the spots you wanted.
Would you recommend the AIFS Study Abroad semester in Costa Rica program to other students?