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Back in los Estados Unidos

Time July 9th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

My IFSA-Butler program ended about three weeks ago and I’ve been back in the US for

almost a week and a half. My mom and sister came at the end and we spent another

week in Costa Rica traveling to Monteverde and Manuel Antonio. It was a lot of fun but

really strange to still be in Costa Rica but away from my host family and my friends from

my program! I think I started experiencing my first wave of reverse culture shock then. Being back

in the US is still really different than what I remeber.  Driving for the first time in 5 months was

horrifying, ordering food in English was really weird too! It took me a while to remember

common English courtesies. At the airport in Newark was the first time anyone spoke English

to me, other than my family, and it threw me for a loop! It’s definitely been hard being back

and getting ready for my real university to start. I have to start working again, buy textbooks,

and basically just try to adapt to my life again. I miss the Costa Rican lifestlye a lot. It’s

way more laid back. I’ve started noticing how much people complain about everything!

In Costa Rica everything is “pura vida” and people just go with the flow. I definitely miss

that! Being back at home is nice too. I really missed my friends and family so seeing them has

been a lot of fun! People are always asking “How was Costa Rica?” It’s so hard to respond

to that question because how can I put the last 5 1/2 months of my life into a simple answer?

Or I’ve also got “What’s your best story from Costa Rica?” I have no idea! There are so many

good memories and funny stories there’s no way I can pick just one! Try deciding what the

best story of the past 5 months of your life was, it’s not so easy! Anyway, this program and

experience has been a lot of fun! I really changed as a person, my Spanish definitely got better,

I made so many new friends and so many great memories! I know I’ve been changed forever

and I can’t wait to use this experience as a learning opportunity for the rest of my life!

I wouldn’t change any of it and I still can’t believe it’s already over! It’s true that your study

abroad experience will pass at the blink of an eye. My advice is don’t take any moment

for granted and even though it seems extremely difficult at times, it’s totally worth it.



Coming to a close…

Time June 11th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

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!!!!!!!!!



¡Salvando las tortugas!

Time May 7th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

A few weeks ago, a group of 9 of us IFSA students and IFSA director Tracy embarked on a volunteer opportunity of a lifetime! We dedicated our weekend, sense of personal hygiene, and sleep time to help rescue the leatherback turtles and their eggs! Located in the Limón providence, we all woke up early at met at UNA to catch buses, taxis, and boats to reach our final destination. The ride from San José to Limón was about 4 hours. After that, we all got into 3 separate taxis and drove to the boating dock. Once we got to the dock, we had to wait for the boats to “warm up” (a little concerning, but we survived!). While we were sitting there, all of the sudden we heard this HORRIFYING NOISE. (This youtube video from National Geographic can help you understand what I mean by HORRIFYING especially when you’ve never heard it before). Anyway, we watched the howler monkeys swing from branch to branch and eventually boarded the boat to take us to the reserve we’d be working at. Along the river we saw little turtles (which we joked in saying thats all we needed to see and could turn around now!), baby crocs, herons, and even a little dog going for a swim along the river!


Howler monkeys!


Just keep swimming…

We eventually reached our reserve.

reserve casa

Inside were rows of bunk beds. There is no electricity so flash lights were a must!

After checking out where we’d be staying for the next 2 days, we headed over to the kitchen for lunch and to meet the other volunteers. There were people there from all over the world, many who are working there for months on end! After this weekend, I have so much respect for people who can do that because it was HARD WORK! Angel, the cutest little Costa Rican woman in the world, cooked us lunch, and the rest of our meals for our time there. After we ate, we explored the beach and hammock area, took cat naps in the hammocks, and prepared ourselves for the evening’s adventures.

We got a crash course on what we’d be working with later that night. The volunteers made a sand-replica of a leatherback turtle so we can see the size and the depth of the hole they bury. It was all cool to see, but I was ready to see the real thing!


I almost fell into the turtle hole it was so deep!

The group was split up into 2 shifts. 4 IFSA people, 2 other volunteers, and a guide were in one group, then 5 IFSA people, 2 other volunteers, and a guide were in the other. The first group had “patrol” from 8pm-12am and the other group had it from 12am-4am. During patrol, we took a little row boat across the river to another beach. Once there all we did was walk up and down a certain stretch of beach with our eyes peeled for turtles! Both groups were unsuccessful the first night and returned back to the house hot, sweaty, and sandy.

The next day was a lot of fun! We ended up having a lot of free time which was great because after patrolling for turtles until 4am, we were exhausted! We ate breakfast, hung out in the hammocks, played with the cutest puppies I’ve ever seen and ate lunch. After lunch we had a little more free time but later that afternoon we all boarded the little row boat to the beach we patrol and helped pick up trash. It was so polluted and disgusting! We found endless amounts of shoes, bottles, dirty diapers, EVERYTHING! After 2 hours of that, we enjoyed some watermelon, and went back to the reserve.


So much garbage!


1 of 6 adorable puppies!!

Later that afternoon the schedule said, “Crazy games on the beach” curious and slightly concerned as to what these “crazy games” entailed we all waited for our instructions. What ended up happening was a group starting playing soccer, another group played Manzanas con manzanas (the Spanish version of Apples to Apples) so these “crazy games” never really got too crazy! My friend Cole did end up spraining his ankle pretty bad which was  kind of a problem for that nights patrol.

After our crazy games, we got ready for dinner and for another night of patrol. This time it was my turn for the earlier shift. We got to the beach and started walking and immediately noticed a problem. Poachers were EVERYWHERE! Poachers steal the turtle eggs either to sell them or eat them. It’s an illegal activity and little has been done to stop it. As volunteers and conservationists there’s little we can do other than hope we get to the turtle before the poacher does. There’s an understanding between the 2 groups that whoever gets there first, gets to do whatever they want with the turtle. For us, it was helping protect the eggs. For the poachers, it could be stealing the eggs, or killing the turtle for it’s shell. It’s an awful thing and we witnessed first hand how harmful it is. We passed group after group of poachers. We even saw turtle tracks and a dug up turtle nest, completely eggless. It was starting to get really depressing and by the time midnight rolled around we went back to the boat feeling completely defeated. Walking back to the reserve we were all quiet and sad when all of the sudden our guide Chino saw a flashing red light coming from the beach that we’ve been hanging out at! We quickly walked over to the signal and saw the biggest creature I’ve ever seen. A leatherback turtle had just made it’s way up from the ocean and was laying it’s eggs! It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen! We touched it and helped rebury it’s eggs so poachers can’t find it and watched it slowly make its way back to the ocean. It was quite a sight and I hope I never forget it!

The next day we had a lesson on how to make coconut oil, the threats against sea turtles, and how to protect them. One thing I learned that we can do in our regular lives to save these magnificent turtles is to stop buying fish from overseas. They don’t have the turtle regulations that US boats do so they can be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of turtles. Also, when buying tuna make sure it has a turtle sticker on it, not just the dolphin sticker. This means that the fishing boat has taken the proper precautions to protect the turtles. 1 in 1000 turtles will survive to reproduce. This scary statistic is proof that maybe by the time our children are our age, sea turtles will be exinct. It’s up to us to educate the people about protecting turtles so our children can see these magnificent creatures!


Making the coconut oil!

This trip was definitely something I’ll never forget! I’m so happy I had the opportunity to take part in something so beautiful. I recommend this trip to everyone who has the opportunity!


Everyone! Including IFSA directos Tracy and Sarah, Luis y Chino (2 guides), 9 IFSA student volunteers, and of course a puppy!


Semana Santa and Other Adventures

Time April 11th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Last week was Semana Santa, or Holy Week. In Costa Rica, school is cancelled for the week and many families take this opportunity to travel to beaches and other places! Some of my friends stayed with their host families during Semana Santa and traveled with them to the beaches which was probably very good Spanish practice! Others had their real families and friends from the US come visit for the week. As for me, I went to Panama with a few other girls from the program and it was one of the best experiences of my life!

The week before that, we had midterms. They were pretty similar to midterms in the US but in Spanish of course. My family was also visiting that week so it was a little stressful for me. We ended up having a fun time and they got to meet my Tico family! It was actually really fun being the translator and I could actually tell that my Spanish has improved!

Sunday we left for Panama! It was a 15 hour bus ride but it honestly wasn’t too bad! I was nervous for the border crossing between Panama and Costa Rica but it ended up going as smooth as it could have. The only annoying part was standing in line for 2 hours waiting to get my passport stamped. We got to our hostal around 6am the next day and slept all the way till noon! Our sleep schedule was completely messed up but we walked through the beautiful Casco Viejo and ate lunch.


Our home for the next 15 hours!


Casco Viejo!

The rest of the week was a lot of fun. We saw the canal, met some new friends at the hostel, went to an island for a day, and tried to fit everything Panama City had to offer! We left Panama Sunday night and got back Monday afternoon. Somehow everything worked out for us on this trip and there were no problems! We were really lucky and all had a wonderful time and an unforgettable experience!


Panama City!



We are now over halfway done with the semester and I’m FrEaKiNg oUt!!! Time is going by waaaaaaaaay too fast! My classes are now starting to pick up, I’m trying to plan as many trips as I can in these last months to make sure I squeeze every ounce of this experience! Looking back to where I was when I first started this experience, I can tell already how much I have changed as a person. My Spanish is getting better (wahoo!), I’ve been exposed to different cultures and diversity in general (coming from the midwest, diversity can be a little hard to find at times), my views and ideas have been challenged and strengthened, and I’m only halfway done! I’ve made some of the best friends in the world who know me better than some of my friends back home! It’s amazing the friends you make when you’re all thrown into an awkward and uncomfortable situation together. I don’t know what I’m going to do without them! My host family also has been amazing and I couldn’t have asked for a better family to share this experience with. They are always willing to talk with me, just so I can practice my Spanish and get to know me! They seem interested in my life in Costa Rica and back at home. Almost everyone in the program has had a great host family experience. One girl had to switch but she loves her new family!

The most important thing to keep in mind while abroad is that this is your experience and you need to do whatever it takes to make sure you’re getting everything you want out of it. I don’t want to go back to the US with any regrets. In reality, five months of my life is hardly nothing so I need to make sure I get every last minute of it. Counting down the days until the program ends will only depress you, and that’s not how you want to live your life! Embrace the culture while you can because it’s going to be over before you know it! I have an excuse now to eat all the carbohydrates and sugar I want while I’m here since that’s basically the main part of my diet but when am I ever going to have an excuse to do that again?? Bring on the carbs! Studying abroad has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my entire life and being halfway done with it saddens me to no end! I’ll just have to make sure these last 2 months really count!

¡Pura vida!

The video I’ve uploaded are my friends Cole, Sydney, and Jason talking about their experiences! Bahía Drake (Drake Bay) was an IFSA excursion where we went whale watching and hiking in a completely remote section of the Osa Peninsula (Southern Costa Rica, Pacific side). It was really like a post card!

Find more videos like this on Institute for Study Abroad – Butler University


Livin’ la vida tica

Time March 19th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello again! Today marks week EIGHT! It’s seriously insane how fast time passes here! We are approaching the halfway point in two weeks and it’s freaking me out! I wish there was a pause button in life at times because Costa Rica is extremely beautiful and I want to make sure I have enough time to fully appreciate everything this tiny country has to offer!

Over the past few weeks, life has been passing normally. I’ve settled into a routine and really feel accustomed to the culture. I experienced a brief moment of culture shock a few weeks ago. We are still in the process of receiving our student visas, which is a long process, and I made a lot of mistakes trying to get it done. I went by myself to do it which was a mistake to begin with since the language barrier definitely played a role. I recommend going with someone who speaks Spanish pretty well or a Tico. That was really the only moment where I really felt out of place and confused. I don’t want to jinx myself because we are only just about halfway but so far culture shock hasn’t really affected me too much. There are definitely times when I miss home, but living here is so awesome and I’ve seen so much that it’s hard to miss the blistery cold of the midwest.

My friends and I have traveled a BUNCH during our time here, almost every weekend we have gone somewhere new! We went white water rafting in Turrialba at the Pacuare and Reventazón Rivers which are two of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, went on an IFSA led excursion to archeological sites of Guayabo and Valle de Orosí and saw the oldest church in Costa Rica! IFSA also hosted another excursion to Bahía Drake. This experience was probably my favorite thing to have done thus far. The trip up there alone we had to take a 4 hour bus ride and then almost a 2 hour boat ride to a remote, desolate, but BREATHTAKING part of the peninsula where we stayed at a biocurso reserve. The reserve didn’t have electricity and was completely away from anything touristy! We went whale watching, hiked, saw bats, snorkeled, and hung out at the beach! It was an exhausting weekend but worth every woe. The weekend after that we went to Volcán Arenal. We were really lucky and stayed at and amazing hostel called Gringo Pete’s. The owner, Juan Carlos, was great! He took us to free hotsprings, took us on a tour of the volcano, and took us to a swimming hole where we swung off of a rope into the water. The hostel super cute and we grilled burgers one night for dinner and cooked breakfast in the morning. (check out the hostels you want to stay at to see if they have a kitchen because cooking your own food is a great way to save money if on a budget like us!) This weekend we stayed back in Heredia and went to an art festival in San José. It was really cool and there were many stations of people selling beautiful hand-crafted treasures. There was a Calle 13 concert that was fun too, until someone was pick-pocketed and lost their entire wallet!

Classes at UNA thus far haven’t been too terrible either. Most professors are willing to help us gringos but they can definitely be challenging. My class on the history of Costa Rica is very difficult. There is a lot of reading and it’s really hard to pay attention during the lectures because tuning out Spanish is really easy. I also found out that most of my classes aren’t going to transfer back to my home university which stinks, but takes off some pressure. My host family here is super amazing as well. They are always willing to help me with homework and figure things out. They understand that sometimes I need my own time so I don’t feel pressured to always be around them but when I am we always have great conversations and I learn a lot!

So far, Costa Rica continues to surprise me every day. It’s beauty never ceases to amaze me and the adventures I have are unforgettable. I’ve become such great friends with the other students in the program and see them all the time! I was really worried that in Heredia I wasn’t going to see them as much, but I definitely do!


View from our hike up Arenal!


Everyone cooking in the hostel!


The girls, including the AMAZING IFSA directors Tracy and Teresita!!


Those of us who went to Arenal enjoying the view!


Classes at UNA and other fun adventures

Time February 13th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello! So I think I’m about three or four blog posts in and I have yet to introduce myself! I feel like that’s kind of important so better late than never right?

My name is Nicolette and I’m a sophomore at Drake University but I’m from the Chicago suburbs. I’m 19 years old and I’m studying elementary education and Spanish. Studying abroad in Costa Rica is the farthest and longest amount of time I’ve been away from home.

Back to Costa Rica stuff, this week was our first week of classes. Through IFSA you’re required to take advanced Spanish which is usually divided into two different groups. For instance, one class meets at 1 on Tuesdays and Thursdays and my class meets at 8. The class is only offered to IFSA students. There’s also the option to take the Social History of Costa Rica or a literature class through IFSA which is also only offered to IFSA students. I’m in the literature class and can already tell that it’s going to be really interesting! Each student is required to take 15 credits while studying at la UNA (that’s short for Universidad Nacional). I’m taking an art class, a writing/communications techniques class, and a history course. Those last three classes are real university classes with other Costa Rican students. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t extremely intimidating/nerve-racking walking into those classes the first time. Luckily I’ve had at least one other IFSA student in each class with me so that helped calm some nerves. Classes here also work a little differently than most US classes that I’ve taken. They usually only meet once a week but they can range from 3-4 hours long. That has its ups and downs. On the up side, I don’t have Friday classes and the most classes I have in a day is 2. The down side is that it’s extremely difficult to pay attention for that long, especially since it’s really easy to tune out Spanish. After class, I went up to the professor and introduced myself. They can obviously tell that Spanish is not my first language and they all seem really understanding and willing to help. Homework hasn’t been too bad either, but it was only the first week. In all of my classes there are 2 tests, midterms and finals. Participation is also a high percentage of the grade as well. There is usually a group project and other little assignments that factor into the grade as well.

On a more fun note, this weekend a few friends and I explored the volcano Poas which is only about an hour bus ride from Heredia. It was gorgeous and worth the trip! That night we explored Heredia night life and got pizza but were so tired from our long day of hiking up a volcano that we ended pretty early. This morning was gorgeous so I took advantage of the community pool down the street from my house and swam laps. It only cost roughly $2 to get in. Afterwards, we explored San José and went shopping! There’s nothing like a little retail therapy to help with a stressful week of classes! Tonight, a few people from the group went out but I decided to save some money and watch a movie with my host family instead.


Poas! This volcano is technically still active but hasn’t erupted since 1953. Costa Rica has many volcanos to tour. Volcán Arenal leaks lava/molten rock (I’m not a science person, it leaks cool looking red stuff) and on a clear night you can see it in the sky!


Find more videos like this on Institute for Study Abroad – Butler University


Understanding Heredia

Time February 3rd, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It’s been a few days since I’ve arrived in Heredia and I absolutely love it! It’s definitely a little intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not so bad! The past couple of days have been chocked full of IFSA programs. It’s been a great way to get to know the other students and even some ticos! On Monday we registered for classes and got phones! It’s so nice to have access to a phone again, even if it is a flashback to 2004. It’s really nice because I can text or call my friends from IFSA for really cheap. Its made making travel plans really easy. Tuesday was an extremely long day. We had a bunch of powerpoint presentations about living safely in Costa Rica. All of it was really important information but we were all exhausted and had a lot of issues staying awake. At the end of the day, we helped make corn tortillas! That was fun! Wednesday we went on a tour of Heredia and UNA. It was a little intimidating at first, but really useful. We split up in groups and we each had a guide who’s a student at UNA. My tour guide was named Luis and he was extremely helpful! We bought us a bunch of food to try, all which was amazing! Costa Rica has so many different types of fruit that we don’t have in the US, all of them are amazing. If you like exotic fruits and delicious coffee, Costa Rica is the place to go! Today we went on a tour of San Jose and practiced taking the bus and train. I’m really glad we did this because we have to take the bus when we want to travel so it was really helpful that my first time figuring out the system was with a group of 15 equally confused gringos. San Jose is a really cool city with a lot to see, but it is dangerous, as is any big city. I definitely kept an eye on my purse for pick-pocketing and everything went smoothly!

I’ve only been in Costa Rica for 12 days and I’m in love with this country! It might be the first stage of culture shock talking but it’s so interesting and there’s never a dull moment. Our classes still haven’t started yet and I’m a little nervous for that but once a routine sets in I’m sure everything will be fine. I had another moment of insecurity about being here for so long but my tico family always makes me feel better because they are willing to include me in everything which makes me feel less of an exchange student and more of a real tica. I also cannot stress enough how great the IFSA staff is. Our program leader is the sweetest woman on the face of the Earth, and so are the other people who work for IFSA. They try to have more of a friendship relationship rather than professional with us which is fantastic! I feel like I can go up to them with any problem and they’d be more than happy to help me. It’s nice knowing that there is so  much support here and I’m never alone. Everyone in my group is amazing as well. (shout out to you all if you’re reading this!) I can’t wait to travel around with them once things get going!


The girls in Monteverde!


Our tour guide Luis is in the middle! He’s awesome!

Tomorrow completes our two week orientation. It’ll definitely be weird not having a consistent plan all day long. I’m excited but nervous as well. It’ll definitely be different being on our own but I feel pretty prepared. I know how to call a cab so I don’t have to walk alone at night and I have a pretty good idea where most things are. My Spanish has already improved immensely and I’m learning so many new words! Like I said before, those moments of panic and homesickness still occur but they pass quickly and I’m ready for our next adventure!


Last few days in Monteverde/First day in Heredia!

Time January 31st, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

My time in the beautiful world of Monteverde has come to an end. We left yesterday morning and drove three hours down into Heredia. It was definitely a little sad to leave but I was really excited to see how different Monteverde is from Heredia. My family gave me a bunch of little gifts on my last day, which was really sweet, especially since I didn’t think they liked me very much! They have me a necklace with matching earrings, a bracelet, and hairpin!

Saturday was probably one of the busiest days of my life! Well, the night before was another girls 21st birthday so of course we went to Santa Elena again to celebrate! It was really fun but we stayed out pretty late, which was probably a bad decision since Saturday was so busy! Saturday morning we all met at a pizzeria to take a bus to go zip lining! It was AMAZING! I cannot explain how much fun it was! It’s something that I’ll definitely remember forever! We could see a volcano and the ocean all at the same time! I was really nervous to zip line at first but after a couple, it wasn’t so bad! After we did that, we ate lunch (which was delicious) and toured a coffee plantation! It was beautiful and really interesting to learn how the coffee here is made. The coffee here is so good and I can drink it black which is strange because in the States I need a ton of sugar and cream. When we got back to our houses we were supposed to make a Costa Rican dessert with our families. My mom made mine without me because we got back late from the coffee plantation, which was fine with me. She made platanos del horno. It’s basically baked plantains (they look like giant bananas) with cinnamon, cream cheese, and sugar baked on top. It was so good! The other students all made wonderful desserts too! That night we had a party with the other students and families and presented our desserts and performed the Merengue for everyone. I was so nervous but I had a lot of fun. I was a little sad to leave Monteverde the next morning, but I knew that I had to get on with my trip and start new things.


Monkeys in Monteverde!

I’ve been in Heredia so far for one full day. We arrived yesterday afternoon and we didn’t do much but rest. I cannot explain how much I LOVE my family here! I was so nervous that they were going to be like my family in Monteverde and not want to talk to me but they are the complete opposite! They have Internet access, hot water, a beautiful house, and they are so so SO NICE!! I actually have the same family has previous blogger Tara from Fall 2011! Today we had to register for classes at UNA. It was a little complicated but there were other students around to help us and recommend classes. Classes don’t start until next week and that week is sort of like a trial period. You go to each class and decide whether or not you like the professor. If not, you can drop the class and join a new one! It’s really cool! As of right now I’m taking 16 credits, which isn’t too bad and there are a lot of other IFSA students in my classes, which is super cool! We are all such good friends after our week together in Monteverde and I love everyone in the program! This weekend we want to go to the beach since we don’t have any IFSA programs planned. I hope we do! In general, I love Heredia way more than I liked Monteverde. Heredia is much more lively and there’s so much to do! My house is really close to the university so I can walk to school, which is nice as well.

Here’s some interesting cultural differences I’ve noticed over the past week:

  1. No matter how much you say you’re full, families will always give you more food
  2. Rice and beans has become my diet
  3. The fruit here is so fresh and amazing!
  4. Life here starts really early in the morning, I’m talking like 6am!
  5. Ticos conserve everything and are very environmentally friendly! Whenever they leave a room, they make sure to shut off the lights. They turn off the water when showering to wash their hair or shave to conserve water!
  6. They don’t flush toilet paper. That was hard to get used to at first but now it’s totally normal.
  7. Other members of the family are always around! Every time I come home it seems like there’s someone there who I don’t recognize and it’s usually an uncle or cousin
  8. Classes here are usually once a week but can last up to 4 hours long
  9. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day and dinner is the smallest

10. Cell phones are super cheap and easy to obtain. I got mine today! It looks like its from 2001, but it’s only for 4 months and it has everything I need!

11. People here drive like maniacs! There aren’t many traffic laws and pedestrians do not have the right of way so you have to be really careful when crossing the street!

12. Life is much slower here. People walk slower, things never start on time, and everyone seems pretty relaxed for the most part. It’s all part of the pura vida lifestyle!


Orientation in Monteverde!

Time January 26th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello! I’ve been in Costa Rica for about four days and it is definitely one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen! It is so green and there are beautiful flowers everywhere!! When we were flying over the country, we could see volcanoes and the beautiful beaches. The water is also very, very blue! ¡Que hermosa!

The first night, we stayed at the Hotel Bougainvillea. It is known for its amazing gardens and plant life. Each student was assigned a room with 2-3 other students. It was a great way to meet everyone! Most of the students arrived in the morning or afternoon so by dinner time, almost every one was there. We ate dinner in true pura vida style because it lasted over three hours! We were served three courses and each were very delicious. I think the hotel was trying to provide us with food that we would typically eat in America because I had ravioli for my first Costa Rican meal! It was still better than any ravioli I had in the US. The next morning we met up with the rest of the students who arrived late in the night and began our first day of orientation. We ate breakfast at the hotel which consisted of gallo pinto (rice and beans) which is a very common breakfast here. It was delicious! Afterwards, we met our resident directors who will be with us for the rest of orientation and spent some time going over the in’s and out’s of Costa Rica. Around 2, we left for Monteverde which was a four hour bus ride up into the mountains.

There are no words that can appropriately describe Monteverde because it is absolutely beautiful! There is a view of the gulf in some parts and many different plant species. We are taking an intensive Spanish course at the Insituto de Monteverde and other orientation classes. We also have latin dance classes which are very fun but very tiring! It’s like a zumba class but a million times harder! Also at the institute there are so many dogs running around. They are pets of the workers here and they are always coming in and out of our classroom to visit. They are probably one of my favorite parts of orientation so far! Tomorrow we have a night tour of Monteverde where we can see the animals that come out at night. I’m excited but also a little nervous so I’m definitely bringing bug spray! On Friday we have a tour through another forest in the morning. It’s also one of the girls 21st birthdays so we are going to Santa Elena to celebrate. We went there last night and it was a lot of fun! There are many places to dance so we all practiced our Merengue and Salsa!

While in Monteverde, we stay with families. It was hard at first to get used to living in another family’s  home but they are very welcoming for the most part. It’s definitely awkward at times when I can’t understand everything my host mom is saying because she talks very fast. In my family there is a girl who’s about my age and can speak a little English so when I can’t understand what’s going on she can explain it to me much slower. She also has a newborn baby and he is adorable! The grandmother lives with us at well and she is very sweet. On Saturday, we get to make a typical Costa Rican dessert with our host mothers and then present them to the rest of the program. I’m very excited to see what we make and what the other students make as well.

As for the food here, it’s very, very good but very rich. They also eat all the time! Luckily we do a lot of walking so I’m hungry often but I feel bad when I can’t finish my dinner because there is enough food on my plate to feed an army! All of my meals so far in Monteverde have consisted of rice and beans, and sometimes with meat or vegetables mixed in. Like I said, it’s very good but very rich!

Getting accustomed to life in Costa Rica is definitely a challenge and I know that I have a long semester ahead of me. The people here are very nice and willing to help anyone who needs it. I’m excited to get to Heredia because I hear the lifestyle there is very different than the lifestyle in Monteverde. Right now I’m taking it day by day and looking forward to the adventures that lie ahead!


T-12 days!!

Time January 11th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I cannot believe I have less than three weeks left before I leave for Heredia! I have many mixed emotions. I cannot wait for the new experiences and memories that are inevitable but I am dreading the goodbyes to my family and friends. I have already said goodbye to many of my friends who are going back to school. Leaving my family and friends has definitely been the hardest part so far.

I know I am very lucky to have the opportunity to embark on this new adventure and I don’t want to take a single moment for granted! These are some of the things that I want to do abroad before I come back to the United States:

  1. Visit a coffee plantation (I have a huge addiction to coffee!!)
  2. Visit a butterfly garden
  3. Rescue sea turtles
  4. Zip-line!
  5. Visit a rainforest

There are so many things that I want to experience while abroad and hopefully I’ll be able to! The IFSA-Butler staff has been extremely helpful in sending out pre-departure information that has answered all of my questions. It’s a stressful time getting ready to study abroad and I feel like my to-do list never shortens. I know that this is just the monotonous part that is necessary to have a successful experience abroad. I’m reading a lot about the Costa Rican culture and getting more and more excited and anxious. Here are some things that I’m a little nervous about:

  1. The bugs. I HATE bugs more than anything in the world and I’ve seen some pretty sick pictures of some creepy crawlers common in Costa Rica
  2. The food. I’m not that picky of an eater but I’m a little apprehensive of eating anything with a face.
  3. My host family. I don’t know who they are yet and they are going to be a major part of my experience.
  4. Speaking Spanish 24/7. This will be the biggest adjustment. I’ve taken Spanish all throughout high school and college but I still don’t feel prepared. The intensive Spanish courses during orientation are supposed to be extremely beneficial so hopefully that will ease my nerves! (and orientation is in Monteverde…how sweet is that??)
  5. Staying healthy. I don’t get sick too often but hopefully I’ll be able to find time to exercise.
  6. Classes at UNA. They’re in Spanish and I haven’t registered yet. However, there is a tutoring program available to IFSA-Butler students so I know that if I do struggle, there is a support group available.

All of the anxiety I feel is common. Later I’ll let you know how these things work out. In the mean time, I’m going to keep shopping for my new Costa Rican wardrobe (not complaining about that!), and reading up on all Costa Rica has to offer! T- 12 days till departure!!