My first night in Costa Rica was an overwhelming experience. Everything moved so fast and my Tico family spoke even faster. When my host mom was explaining the household operations, all I could do was smile and say “si, si, si.” My ears and mind couldn’t fully comprehend what was being said. I just wanted to go to sleep and try again tomorrow.
¡Pura Vida! My name is Miracle Johnson and I am a senior biology major on a pre-medicine track. My study abroad experience was in Costa Rica with The School of Health and Human Sciences (HSS). The program was three weeks of Spanish classes and service-learning opportunities. While in Costa Rica, I attended CPI Spanish Immersion School in three different areas: Heredia, Monteverde, and Flamingo. Each site provided me the opportunity to improve my Spanish speaking skills and learn more about Tico culture. I would like to note some key experiences from my time in Costa Rica.
|Baby Pablo y yo at Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Rich land is an understatement when describing the biodiversity of Costa Rica.|
Spanish language in Costa Rica was taught differently from my experiences in the US. The “tu” form wasn’t taught in the Spanish language classes at CPI. Instead we addressed everyone, young or old, in the formal “usted” form. This was different because throughout all my years of Spanish learning much emphasis was placed upon the different conjugation forms. Nonetheless, learning only four conjugation forms made it easier for me to conjugate verbs. I didn’t have to overthink if I was conjugating a verb correctly to fit who I was referring to.
It did take me a while to get comfortable with my first host family; however, I felt more a part of the family as the days went by. I consider living with a host family a plus to studying abroad in Costa Rica. Living with three different Tico families taught me various connotations of Pura Vida. Pura Vida isn’t just a greeting Ticos use; it is a way of living! My time with my host families lead me to experience the simplicity behind “Pura Vida”. I would volunteer, go to classes, and return to enjoy downtime with my host families. The common activities included playing with the kids and watching fútbol or movies.
|Pura Vida can have different meanings. My bungee jumping experience taught me, Pura Vida, means combating fears, taking risks, and just living.|
Service in La Carpio
La Carpio is one of the “slums” in Costa Rica. It is a rural area with a large Nicaraguan population. My study abroad group volunteered with the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation to renovate a mother’s bathroom. My service-learning experience in La Carpio showed me the unpleasant realities of living in Costa Rica. Nevertheless, the people of La Carpio make the best of their living situations. There was a presentation by a group of mothers which expressed their love for their children. There were handcrafts and shops along the street which expressed their creativity, drive, and love for their community. Serving in La Carpio gave me a profound understanding of living in Costa Rica that I would not have grasped from readings.
|My study abroad group smiling after a day's work in the sun.|
Serving at Life Monteverde
Volunteering at Life Monteverde was another experience I enjoyed. The people of Life Monteverde were so passionate about protecting and utilizing the land. I always just been one to appreciate those at Farmer’s Markets who take the time to provide communities with natural produce and meats. Volunteering to plant at the farm provided a peaceful feeling. I enjoyed tending to the land for the moment because I felt a part of nature’s process of food production. I love the point the owner made as well. We are not educated on sustainability and it is a challenge to reverse habits of simply going to grocery stores to obtain goods.
|Wooden mottos made by students from GLC, NMSU, and MSU on sustainability.|
Although three weeks seems like a short period of time abroad, we experienced a lot throughout Costa Rica. Here is a video made by my tour guide, Marta Rodriguez. The video perfectly encapsulates the study abroad experience with HSS Costa Rica Study Abroad Program.