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Don’t Blink

Time July 25th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

When I left Costa Rica, I was very torn. I was leaving behind a culture and people that I had grown to adore over the short 5 months. I longed to see my friends and family, but it really took a lot in me to say goodbye to my “home away from home.”

Since returning to the United States, what a whirlwind it has been.

I’ve had two family week-long vacations at the beach, my brother got engaged, as well as my cousin, and I also took a week trip to New York/New Jersey. Might I say that transitioning has been.. well… crazy. I feel like someone cut out 5 months of my life and set it aside, and now it is worlds away.

It is hard to type my feelings at this moment, but I’ve tried hard to process my special time in Costa Rica and see how I’ve grown from it. One thing that helps is the recent technology that allows me to keep in touch with some friends there. My family and friends have also been so patient and loving as I’ve tried to verbally process my study abroad experience, but little things constantly bring Costa Rica to my mind.

No, not a lot of people understand my experience or have seen the world that I lived in. The culture, the atmosphere, and the daily life are so different and it is hard when you come back to a place where people can’t share that memory with you.

My mind often feels like popcorn popping away in the microwave as different memories pop into my head. I remember and my heart hurts a little bit, but it is a bittersweet feeling.

I miss the laid back culture, the fruit and natural drinks, and the little coffee shops. I miss the beautiful beaches, the bus transportation, and the small pigeon-filled parks. I miss the romantic Spanish language, the loving people, and the vast amount of biodiversity.

I blinked, and next thing I knew, all of the things I enjoyed are now memories.

Time flew by, and time usually does that to you. But time also changes you and molds you into the person that you desire to be. I’ve grown more independent, and I can see that. I’ve learned and experienced another culture, and who knows… maybe one day it will be my real home.

All of it was a success to me. Happiness was at the center and adventure was flowing through it. Costa Rica is dear to my heart and I hope that my memories will help to push you to create your own there too.







Taking Action

Time July 8th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

From my experience so far, I see that one of the most important aspects of studying abroad is being assertive with one’s time.

If a person sits behind a locked door, watching Netflix, and talking to his or her friends from the United States every weekend… Then that person will most likely not have a memorable experience abroad.

Yes of course some movie nights are needed for rest and comfort, but the majority of my weekends are full of life due to volunteering and meeting new people.


My first step was finding something that fit me, Lynda.

I speak English. I’m learning Spanish. I love soccer. I love taking pictures. I’m a Christian. And I love kids.

After searching a couple of different volunteer programs, I came across a Christian volunteer project in Heredia, Costa Rica that uses sports [mostly soccer] and English classes to motivate the youth and to give them a purpose in life. The project is built to love on kids while encouraging them to stay in school and out of drugs and violence.

Because of my recent knee surgery [mentioned in earlier blogs] I was not able to play with the kids, but the director needed someone to take pictures and handle the new Facebook page. Everything about this project fit me. So not only was I impacting the children’s lives, but this project was impacting my life.


I met so many wonderful people by taking a risk and putting myself out there. In the mean time, I was learning to be independent and confident.

Maybe volunteering isn’t for everyone. Maybe it’s taking a dance class or joining a club. With whatever activity, I believe it’s a necessity for growth and improving an experience abroad.


Fieldtrip to Sarchi

Time May 22nd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

You thought field trips were just for elementary school?

Think again!

A couple of weeks ago, my Spanish class took a day field-trip to Sarchi, Costa Rica. Sarchi Norte is the main town of Valverde Vega in the province of Alajuela in Costa Rica, and it’s known as one of the most famous craft centers of the country.

The most popular crafts are the traditional painted carts that were used in the past for carrying coffee from the mountains to the Pacific ports.

My class visited the Fabrica de Carretas founded by Eloy Alfaro to learn about these fascinating carts. In 1920, Don Eloy Alfaro started his oxcart factory in Sarchi. The genius of Don Eloy allowed the installation of an efficient hydraulic energy system that generates horsepower, powered by the nearby Trojan River, which sets in motion all the machinery required in the workshop.

The typical oxcart of Costa Rica is now declared as a national symbol, and the decoration of each wagon is considered the ultimate expression of popular art for the Costa Rican people.

My class walked through the factory, learned the history, and saw the painters at work as they spent hours upon hours painting the famous carts. The owners even set up a painting session for our class so we were able to paint our own “wheels!”

We also got the chance to see the biggest Oxcart in the world that was built in the Eloy Alfaro Oxcart Factory. About 10 people worked on its construction and decoration for 3 straight months. It is now registered in the Guinness World Record book!


“Keeping alive the tradition of oxcart manufacturing, since 1923 through a system that protects our environment.”



Feeling a Little Comfortable

Time May 6th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Costa Rica is so small that you will constantly run into classmates, friends, or coworkers. That is one of the interesting things that I love about this place. Everyone knows everyone.

When I first arrived, I observed how all Ticos (the name of Costa Ricans) would constantly be running into someone they knew. On the bus, in the street, in the grocery store; everywhere Ticos were greeting one another.

But it all makes sense– the country is small and has a relational culture.

One of my favorite things is how Costa Ricans greet. It’s not a wave or a simple handshake. Even if it’s for the first time,  Ticos greet one another with a touch of the cheek to the other person’s cheek while making a “kiss” sound. This breaks the barrier of our personal bubble and starts a friendship the way it should be: friendly and real. When I greet a person the Tico way, I automatically feel closer to the stranger.

I have begun to feel more comfortable here. Since I’ve been here for about 3 months, I have established amazing friendships, a routine, and I understand the culture a little better. The Ticos have helped me accomplish this…

For example, yesterday we had a rain storm in the late afternoon, and it started raining buckets the moment I stepped out of class. I was standing at the bus stop– with no umbrella– like a pitiful puppy without a doghouse.  This one kind guy standing next to me, took one step closer to me so his umbrella would cover my head. I couldn’t get over it. He stayed with me until my bus came. Through the barrier of the language, the age, and the culture, this man took one little step of kindness; an act that I will never forget. This helpful man missed his bus to keep me out of the rain. I told him how I was worried that he missed his bus, and he responded with “It’s ok, tranquila!” Basically meaning, don’t worry, relax! Unlike the ways of the American culture, it’s not about time. It about the people.

Costa Rica has taught me a lot of new things, and one thing that I have learned is that this relational culture isn’t just a place for a study abroad program or a vacation spot for me; it’s becoming a second home.



A Little Taste of Heaven

Time April 8th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

In Costa Rica there are two seasons. December through April is considered summer and for the rest of the year is the season of rain. Since I arrived here in February, I wanted to travel as much as I could around Costa Rica before the rainy season drowns me! And where do you think I went?

I hope you guessed it– the beach!

Sometimes I struggle with remembering that I am here to study, because my weekends are pure paradise. We asked some Ticos [Costa Ricans] where the best beaches were, and from there we took buses each weekend to the beautiful playas.

For saving money, we stayed in cheap hostels along the coasts and would make PB&J’s for lunches. A lot of people on the coast speak English, so it wasn’t too hard or confusing to travel.

One beach I traveled to was Manuel Antonio National Park; it was the first beach destination to become popular in Costa Rica, and its beaches are idyllic.

I also went to Punta Uva & Puerto Viejo– these beaches serve up true Caribbean splendor, with turquoise waters, coral reefs, and palm-lined stretches of nearly deserted white-sand beaches.

Honestly, is this my life??? I spend my weekends meeting random people all around the world, cracking open coconuts, and swinging in my hammock on the most beautiful beach I have ever seen.

Yes, don’t get me wrong, I have to write papers and learn Spanish– but I am sure living the “Pura Vida.”

Ok I will now let the photos do the talking…


Coming for the Comida!

Time February 27th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Coming to Costa Rica, I did not know what to expect about food. I heard mostly that I would be eating a lot of rice and beans. Yes, this is true, but people failed to mention the rest of the choices!

Every morning, my host mom has a plate of fresh pieces of fruit ready for me to devour [And when I say fresh, I mean fresh!] My mornings are brightened by the vivid colors of banana, mango, papaya, watermelon, pineapple, and more. I also top it off with a famous cup of Costa Rican coffee.

For lunch and dinner I fill my tummy with many different dishes each day: Salads, fish, chicken, vegetables, and of course my favorite, desserts.

Costa Rica isn’t known for their food, but I do have a good cook in my new house– which is a major plus. I am enjoying the fresh fruits and healthier meals. It is refreshing since I am coming from the South of the United States… aka: fried food.

So far I have slowly transitioned into the Costa Rican culture. Everyone is so nice and relaxed most of the time! The dilemma with my knee, like I talked about in my last blog, has been difficult and limiting in many different ways, but I am glad that I made the choice to come.

Beaches, sunshine, coffee, adventure, & fresh food trumps staying at home any day!

Here are some pictures of the food that I’ve had in different parts of Costa Rica…


Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Time January 31st, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Most students preparing to study abroad fill their minds with what books to bring or how many socks to pack. But for me, my mind was filled with something a little different. My question that I asked myself was whether or not I should stay… or go.

I finished exams and came home for Christmas break knowing that I had two good months to prepare for my upcoming adventure abroad to Costa Rica. Excitement hadn’t hit me yet, because I knew it wouldn’t be real until I stepped off the plane into the tropic land.

The reason why I questioned if I should even go is due to a change in my plan that was completely unexpected…. Let’s just call it a BIG bump in the road.

The Friday before Christmas, I was invited to play some soccer by a couple of friends. Soccer is one of my favorite sports and I was thrilled at the opportunity to play in a pick-up game. Halfway through, I stepped wrong and felt 4 pops in my right knee. Two pops out. Two pops back in. I immediately fell to the ground, hurt and in pain… but mostly mad. I knew right away the consequences of what had just happened, because the exact thing happened to me before– 5 years ago on the other knee.

I found out later after getting an MRI scan that I tore many ligaments in my knee and needed to get surgery right away. My surgery date was set for January 15th. My flight to Costa Rica was set for January 26th (my 21st birthday I might add).

Let’s just say that I might’ve panicked… a lot.

[My dog, Parker, showing me some sympathy after the surgery.]

Through many phone calls and discussions Butler agreed to let me come as late as February 2nd. It gave me one more week to try and recover from my surgery.

Happily the surgery went very well and the damage wasn’t as bad as the doctors expected it to be. But I knew that I had a very long, hard road ahead of me. I also knew that I had a big decision to make—Costa Rica or stay home?

Many fears creeped in. I was scared that I would be limited in Costa Rica. I was scared I wouldn’t be able to play soccer, hike, learn to surf—all the things that I desired to do while I was abroad. I was also majorly afraid of the unknown.

I knew everything that would happen if I stayed at home. I would stay home, go to physical therapy, and hopefully be able to take a semester off of school. These comforts of knowing home and the fears of the unknown in Costa Rica trumped my excitement for going abroad.

So a week before February 2nd, I called Butler and told them that I wasn’t going to Costa Rica.

After I hung up the phone with my devoted advisor, I sat around my house for two hours thinking heavily about my decision. And then… it hit me. Who the heck would give up this amazing opportunity? This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go on an adventure like this. Was I really going to throw it all away just because I was afraid of the unknown? Just because I wanted to be safe?

So as you can see, I immediately called Butler back and told them that I was a GO!

A little late, but my mind is now filled with the questions of what books to bring and how many socks I should pack. I am excited to see what these next 5 months have in store. Yes, I am afraid. But I know that in the end, it is going to be ALL worth it.

Pura Vida!