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Accepting that Plans Will Change in Costa Rica

Posted on December 02, 2019


Why did you decide to study abroad?

I've always had an interest in traveling, so I took advantage of the fact that Duke offered study abroad programs all over the world in which I could also gain credit towards graduation. I decided to do a summer program because I wanted to remain active in the organizations I had a position in.

Tell us about the program you went on

I went on the Duke in Costa Rica program through Duke's Global Education office. Each person in the program stayed with a different host family, and would meet for class at a center that taught second languages, such as Spanish to tourists visiting the area. Our professor was a Duke professor and she taught a course on the impact of culture on health. We would have class in the morning for 3 hours, and then in the afternoons and weekends, we would go on trips to reinforce what we had discussed in class or just for pleasure. Trips included visits to local medical centers and sightseeing.

How did you pay for your study abroad experience?

Because I am on need-based financial aid, the cost of the program was completely covered by my financial aid package. I was also given a small loan to use for personal expenses such as flight tickets, vaccinations, etc.

What is one thing you wish you would have known about studying abroad before you left?

You can never be fully prepared for a study abroad experience. No matter how much preliminary research you do or listen to other people's stories, your experience will be unique to you. Sometimes plans will change, but you just have to go with it because this may be your only opportunity to fully immerse yourself in another culture with the least amount of worries.

Did you experience any discrimination abroad because of your race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or a physical disability? If so, what did you learn from the experience?

Not directly. However, as a Dominican I am fluent in Spanish, and many people in Costa Rica were surprised at my ability to speak Spanish because they were unaware of the fact that Spanish is the national language of Dominican Republic, despite their appropriation of bachata and merengue, music genres that originated in the Dominican Republic.

How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?

Academically, I was able to take a course in which most of the information and knowledge I gained was through observation and experience, making the class a lot more enjoyable and interactive. Personally, I have acquired skills that have helped me to interact with people of other cultures, being respectful of their beliefs and customs.

What was the most memorable moment of studying abroad?

Being in Costa Rica during the FIFA World Cup was definitely the most memorable moment of studying abroad. Watching the games with other citizens of the country and celebrating the wins with them was an experience like none other.

In what way do you feel your experience abroad has prepared you for your future career? (Think both tangible things like language acquisition and intangible like learning to work with people who are very different from you)

In the future, I hope to work with the Latino population in the health field, so going abroad to a Latino country different from my own helped me to understand that even within the Latino community, there are differences that I will need to be aware of to better cater to the needs of the individual Latinos.

Would you recommend the program you went on, if so why??

Yes! Costa Rica is a beautiful country, and having the opportunity to be there is one you should not give up. The program was only a month long, which was the perfect amount of time to enjoy the country, and the professor was great! There was a good balance between academics and pleasure, and you soon feel that Costa Rica is like a second home with the amount of bonding that happens with your host family and peers.

What advice do you have for students thinking about study abroad?

Do it! You don't want to regret not studying abroad in the future. Yes, you can travel when you are older, but it is a much different experience to go abroad as a young adult with a group of students of the same age, going through a similar experience as you. It changes your perspective about life, and helps you grow as a person. And you have a lot of fun!

Author: Marleen Jones-Pool

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