I decided to study abroad to fully immerse myself in Spanish culture and advance my Spanish speaking skills. I've also never been outside of the U.S. and through studying abroad, I had the perfect opportunity to do so.
The program I went on was through the University of South Carolina Spanish program, and it was sponsored by CEA Global Education.
My mother helped fund most of my study abroad experience. I also worked a part-time job the first half of the summer and I was awarded a Summer study abroad scholarship through the Diversity abroad program.
One thing I wish I would have known about studying abroad before I left, is that the cost of living outside of the U.S. isn't necessarily less expensive, and it's almost more expensive depending on where you travel. Before going to Costa Rica, I was under the impression that everything was going to be so much cheaper than in the U.S. To my surprise, a lot of things were not so cheap and I guess I should have considered that Costa Rica is a tourist hot-spot.
I did experience some discrimination because of my nationality. I observed that several food and retail establishments in Costa Rica overcharge for their products if they know you are from the U.S. I think this discrimination mainly stems from the stereotype that all Americans are either rich or have a lot of money.
Studying abroad has helped me gain a global perspective on several issues and topics that we face every day. For instance, I learned a lot about the issue of illegal immigration in Costa Rica, and how it's quite similar to that of the U.S. I also learned a lot about myself and other people. I feel more confident in continuing my Spanish education and completing my Spanish minor. After studying abroad, I know that my talents won't only be used within my community and my country, but they'll also reach other people from around the world.
The most memorable moment of studying abroad was when we went to the province of Cartago, and visited La Fortuna waterfall. It was absolutely beautiful. We hiked in the rainforest before we reached the water and we went swimming. It was an amazing feeling to be so in-tune with nature. I have never felt so free in my life.
The nightlife was great! I had a lot of fun out on the town in San Jose and in other provinces. It was interesting to hear American Pop music in most of the discos.
My experience abroad has definitely prepared me to work well with others, especially those who are different from me. I learned that wherever you go, it's very important to respect other people's cultures and beliefs even if you don't necessarily agree with them. I also learned how to be patient with others and I learned how to tolerate those who I don't necessarily get along with. As far as language skills, this trip has greatly enhanced my Spanish speaking skills. It has also taught me how to better communicate with other people. I can take what I learned in the classroom and on my excursions to help me better communicate effectively in Spanish.
I would absolutely recommend study abroad to other students. I would also recommend the program I went on, because it was hassle-free and I was more comfortable traveling with students from my University, a few of which I knew prior to the trip.
Students thinking about study abroad, should definitely plan ahead and be sure to have all the necessary materials ready before traveling out of the country. I made my decision and began to prepare to study abroad in January of 2012, but my trip wasn't until the end of June. They should be sure to save their money and decide on a budget to not exceed while they are away. Safety is also very important. It's always best to walk or travel with someone else.
I'm so very thankful that I had the opportunity to study abroad in Costa Rica. I fell in love with the culture, the people and they lifestyle. I will never forget my experience and I will never forget the friends I made while I was away there.