Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Andrew in Costa Rica!

My first day in Costa Rica was one that I will never forget. When I got off the plane, I felt like I was hit with almost immediate culture shock. Almost everything was in Spanish. The airport employees were speaking Spanish, the signs were in Spanish, and the crowds of taxi drivers searching for new customers were yelling in Spanish. Of course, I knew that this would be the case but I did not know it would cause this “new-country” anxiety that I had never experienced. I knew basic Spanish, but I did not believe that I was near the level that was needed to be living in a Spanish-speaking country for a month. My group facilitator could see the worry on my face as we traveled to our first destination. I prayed about it, and I realized that this new feeling was a good thing. It was the start of me stepping out of my comfort zone. One thing that my study abroad experience taught me was that, in order to grow as a human being and educationally was to experience uncomfortable situations such as this. This realization was the starting thought that fueled my educational experience.

Enjoying the waterfalls at Llanos de Cortez.

My name is Andrew Council and I am a junior, studying Media & Communication Studies. I had the opportunity to study abroad in Costa Rica for approximately 4 weeks. We lived in three different cities which included Monteverde, Flamingo and Heredia. Our first city was Monteverde, where we began our trip with fun excursions such as zip-lining and horse-back riding. One of my favorite parts about this experience was getting to meet my amazing host-families. They welcomed me into their homes with open arms, and I had the pleasure of being a member of their families. Some had pets, which I truly enjoyed, and the families treated me as if I had been their son for years. At the beginning of my stay with their families, the mother of the home, or my “Mama-Tica” would walk me to the bus stop, and send her good wishes for the day. From there, the students and I would be off to class.

A little hideaway spot our guide, Leslie, found for us!

I took Spanish-immersion classes with Centro Panamericano de Idiomas (CPI). Our classes were four hours a day, which frightened me before I actually stepped foot inside of my first class session. The instructors within the classroom knew little to no English, so they strongly encouraged us to only speak Spanish while in class. This is where I was able to practice my Spanish the most. We listened to music and did activities centered around Costa-Rican culture. We also learned the meaning behind “Pura Vida” and what it meant to the people of the country. Learning a new language was something that had been a wish of mine for a long time. There was an ease that came with being immersed in the foreign language. Learning the language here in Costa Rica came easier than it did with my classes back on campus. I enjoyed meeting and learning about the various professors that I encountered. They were always willing to listen and had a true dedication to teaching their beautiful language.

My dragon JoaquƬn enjoying the beach!

We had the opportunity to participate in various service projects while abroad as well. We worked with many organizations and foundations that were created to serve communities and the youth in various areas. Serving these communities was something that will stick with me for the rest of my life. I was able to meet so many people who were filled with so much joy. This experience helped me realize that I do not have to be the richest, or “most able” man in the world to be happy or content. As U.S citizens, we have such as ethnocentric view of the world and an “Americanized” view of what defines happiness. This study abroad experience helped me to find peace within myself, and it was definitely an enriching and humbling experience. I am so glad that I have the opportunity to share this experience with other current and future honor students.

My group serving a young man of the community.