Experience of Studying Abroad
Want to get out of your comfort zone while fully immerging yourself in the unknown of another culture? Studying abroad is the perfect match for you! (And I promise you won’t want to come back after you do so).
For years I’ve felt a longing for a place I’ve never been. Maybe you can relate? This past summer I spent four weeks in Costa Rica. I minor in Spanish but I’m not fluent and I didn’t know anyone else going. Talk about culture shock!
This experience was the best thing I could have ever done for myself. My Spanish grew, my awareness increased and my love for culture deepened. If you’re thinking about studying abroad, let this be your sign that yes! Yes, you should go!
I’m going to offer some tips on the best way to navigate foreign territory, while also giving you the inside scoop to my time in Costa Rica.
First and foremost, do your own personal research on the language and cultural differences of the country. Things we do hear can be interpreted differently in another country. For example, in Latin America they are a very intimate culture but at the same time they enjoy their space. Going up and talking to strangers isn’t that strange, but expect a kiss on the cheek.
Another very important tip that I wish I would’ve done before, is learninghe slang. You’ll be able to better understand what the people are saying once you do this. My teacher held a class strictly to explaining what all the slang words they used meant and instantly I was able to better understand what the people were saying and give better responses.
Learn the climate! Going into this I expected every day to be hot and sunny. Little did I know, I was visiting during the rainy season. Of course, there were beautiful days, but you could expect it to rain at least once or twice a day. I only brought one very thin rain jacket. By the end of the trip it no longer was water repellant.
Research what a typical meal will look like. If you’re like me, you loooove spicy food. I was expecting lots of spice in Latin America, but most meals consisted of rice, beans and protein. I’m not huge on beans, but by the end of my time there I was starting to enjoy them. I took it upon myself to buy myself a little bottle of hot sauce, though, just to spice things up.
I cannot stress this enough - see other places! I lived in the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose, with a host family. I loved the city life but I wanted something a little slower paced. Every weekend, my friends and I would travel to various parts of Costa Rica and explore. We went to the Cloud Forest, Puntarenas, Tortuguero Island, Jaco and my personal favorite – Puerto Viejo. I can’t put into words how life changing those experiences were. Each place we went to offered a different vibe of the Costa Rica culture. Going out and exploring is what really made me fall in love with the country.
Do not stay at home. You will never get this opportunity ever again. Every single day I made sure to go out and find something new. I roamed the streets, talked to locals and found so many cool spots I would have otherwise not found. Before traveling, set your mind that every day will be a new adventure.
If it’s uncomfortable, do it. The times I felt most out of my comfort zone were the most rewarding. And take time to sit back and observe the country’s way of life. The Costa Ricans always would say, “Tranquilo,” or “Pura Vida.” It was a good reminder to just relax, and go along with the ride. I took that principle back to America and now things that would normally stress me out, don’t as much.
All in all, I wouldn’t trade my time in Costa Rica for anything. I was so sad coming back to the states because I missed the beautiful culture and people of the country. I grew as a person and know now more than ever my calling is another place outside of the United States. This summer I plan to spend eight weeks in Spain and I can’t wait to do it all over again.
I hope this inspired you to try something new. Believe in yourself that you can handle uncomfortable situations and that this is good for the person you’re becoming. Now go and fly my little bird, the world awaits you!
Hey y'all, my name is Sienna Rodriguez. I'm a May 2020 Communications Studies graduate of Fort Hays State University. Growing up, I always found myself drawn to my writing classes. I participated in UIL creative writing and spelling, as well as being a part of my high school's yearbook and newspaper staff. My love for writing continued to grow as I began college. Luckily, I found a job posting for a position with University Relations and Marketing during my freshman year, and I leaped for it. This position, along with writing for Tiger Media Network, has helped grow my writing skills in all facets. When I'm not working or writing, I enjoy many hobbies. A few include reading, cooking, playing with my dog, and the occasional mini golf outing. As I enter the professional world, I hope to find a career where I can continue writing.