I cannot believe that in four short days this program will be OVER! Seriously, where does the time go? I swear yesterday I just moved in with my host family here in Heredia and classes started! It’s unbelievable how fast time flies which makes it really important to take advantage of your time abroad! Luckily, I feel like I did and really got to know a lot about the culture and country! Here’s some of the places we’ve been and that I recommend all those studying here in the future go!
1. Monteverde Cloud Forest- We had orientation here and it’s probably the prettiest place I’ve seen in Costa Rica!
2. Manuel Antonio- Beach that’s fairly close…maybe a three hour bus ride?
3. Volcán Poas- Easy day trip to peer into an active volcano crater! Last night we could smell the sulfur from our kitchen!
4. Turrialba/Cartago/Valle de Orosí y Guayabo- We went white water rafting in Turrialba, and saw historical sites in the other places during an IFSA trip!
5. Bahía Drake/Osa Peninsula- Another beautiful IFSA excursion. So remote and full of nature!
6. Volcán Arenal- One of my favorite trips!! We went to hot springs, swung off rope swings into a fresh water spring, hiked up to the volcano for an AMAZING view, and stayed at the cutest hostel ever- Gringo Pete’s Too! If you ever go to La Fortuna (the town where the volcano is) stay at Gringo Pete’s Too and ask for Juan Carlos!! He’s the best and will take you anywhere you want to go for “five dolla”!!
7. Panamá- Great way to spend Semana Santa! Tica Bus is a great bus company that has buses to a bunch of countries in Central America
8. Puerto Viejo- Best beach on the Carribbean! Stay at Rocking J’s for $6 a night and sleep in a hammock on the beach! If you like the social scene it’s a great place to get to know a bunch of different people! You can rent bikes and ride them to other beaches close by!
9. Playa Avellanas, Guanacaste- This is a really quiet and non-touristy beach. The waves are HUGE and full of surfers from all over the world! We stayed at Casa Surf that’s run by a Canadian couple. It’s pretty tiny but very fun and cute!
10. Tortuguero- If you have the opportunity, volunteer rescuing sea turtles! It’s a rough weekend with little-to-no personal hygiene but it’s an experience I’ll never forget!
11. Coopedota- This was another IFSA excursion waaaay up in the mountains to go bird watching. We saw 6 quetzales!! It was actually cold up there but gorgeous and worth it!
12. Nicaragua- At the end of the semester, a lot of classes are either finished or canceled so if you have a long weekend a trip to Granada, Nicaragua is definitely worth it! Nicaragua has a bad rep, especially in Costa Rica, but it will surprise you! We had a ton of fun!
Okay, I’ll stop with the travel agency but really, get out there and explore! Heredia is a lot of fun too, it has a good night life and a lot of good coffee places (Delifrance, Trigo Miel) and restaurants (Mandarina, Sushi Home!!). San José isn’t my favorite place in the world but it has a lot of good markets and shops. The feria in Heredia is also a great experience! I went with my host dad a few weekends ago and saw millions of different kinds of fruits and vegetables! It’s a great taste of the Costa Rican culture!
We had our “fiesta despedida” last Friday at our program director Teresita’s house. It was beautiful and huge! The food was amazing and it was a great way to get the whole group together again! It was definitely very sad since it was probably the last time all of us are going to be together, apart from our meeting tomorrow about reverse culture shock.
Looking back at my experience, I’ve definitely grown more than I thought I would, and I’m sure when I go home I’m going to realize ways I’ve changed that I didn’t notice. I’m excited but also pretty nervous! So much has changed at home that I don’t know about. Last week I listend to the song “Call Me Maybe” for the first time…it’s interesting and we had to look up what “YOLO” meant! I’m definitely going to feel out of the loop for a while!
Here’s some advice about the University that I had questions about before leaving:
Books- Most professors will leave anthologies and a certain photocopier around campus. There are a bunch right in campus or next to it! The anthologies are excerpts from other books compiled into one bound book. They cost about AT MOST $5! It’s a great change compared to the amount US text books cost!!
Printing- At these photocopiers they also have computers where you can plug in your flash drive and print there! It’s really, really cheap to print usually about 30 colones which is less than .50cents a page!
Grades- At the end of the semester, IFSA has sheets that you give to your professor. There are places were they fill in test scores, quizes, group work, etc and put your final grade at the top!
Classes- The classes with Ticos might seem intimidating at first, but most professors are extremely helpful with exchange students and the ticos are very patient!
Places to eat- GO TO MANDARINA! It’s right across from campus and they sell sandwiches, salads, and the best smoothies I’ve ever had!
Buses- They’re really easy to get the hang of! I was super nervous about taking public transportation because I’ve never had to before, but it’s super easy and very convenient!
Hair cut- I got 2 hair cuts while in Costa Rica at a place called Rov in Heredia Central. They did an awesome job and it cost less than $12! It was probably the 2 best hair cuts I’ve ever had in my life!
Food- LOTS OF RICE AND BEANS! I’m not kidding, sometimes 3x a day! Gallo pinto is really popular and a mix of rice, beans, salsa lizano, and other spices. It’s really good! Along with a lot of platanos maduros, meat, soups, vegetables, and fruit! And everything is better in a corn tortilla!
Other advice- get to know the program directors! They are actually really cool and fun!
I guess I’ll conclude my last blog in Costa Rica…I still can’t believe it! I’ll have one more talking about reverse culture shock in a few weeks. My family comes on Saturday and we’re spending another week in Costa Rica traveling around! At least I have a little more time in this wonderful country! I don’t want to leave!!!!!!!!!