Alright, couldn’t resist the fitting yet cheesy lyric-based title for this one.
The days have been racing by. Summer classes are usually intensive enough on their own, but combining that with studying abroad and all the activities we’ve been doing has been like starring in my own action movie, jumping from one thing to the next. We just finished our midterms this week, and now there’re only two weeks until I go back to the US. Part of me is glad to get back to see my family, friends and pets, and to not have to deal with rain straight up every single day, but at the same time, there are things I’ll miss about being here, particularly how sweet my host family is. Costa Rica’s been good to me, and I can see why other classmates recommended it for studying abroad.
When it comes to the actual studying part, the classes have been challenging, since they’re taught completely in Spanish and they require me to really use what I’ve learned in grammar classes. Now that a few weeks have gone by, I can see that they’re really starting to help my knowledge of the language. It’s a great feeling to be reading a classic story from Latin American literature in my short story and essay class and being able to understand way more than I figured I’d be able to.
I’m still having problems understanding most fast, native-level speech, but I’m starting to be able to pick up the words better. My vocabulary is still pretty much trash, so I won’t always know what people are saying a lot of the time, but now it doesn’t always sound like nonsense like the parents talking in Charlie Brown. Progress! The struggle is definitely real, but that journey of a thousand miles (or in this case, words), really does start with a single step, and even though it’s been difficult at times, I’m excited to see where I’ll be when this is all over.
It’s become a lot easier to think in Spanish, too. Though at times that makes me forget how to speak in English properly, which can lead to some . . . interesting exchanges where I can’t remember words or grammar.
For instance, my host mom put together some coleslaw at lunch the other day and she said it was her first time making it. So then we talked in Spanish for a bit about my day and such, and later, she asked me what the name of it was in English, since she had described it as ensalada de col. In my head, I thought I’d put together the perfect sentence to describe it to her, and then I started talking and realized I forgot the word “coleslaw”. I was racking my brain so hard for it too, and then about five minutes later I finally remembered it. Language interference is great. Hopefully it’s another sign I’m improving. Hopefully.
On the more negative side. I’m still having some issues when it comes to conversing with people. I think I’m still thinking too hard and fearing making mistakes at times. Especially when I’m having a not-as-good language day and I can’t remember how to say a lot of things, I’ll start freezing up and get caught in the cycle of feeling nervous, then freaking out more because I realize I’m nervous. It’s definitely not as bad as it was when I first came here, at least. I think I just need to remember to take deep breaths and chill. I do love that the ticos, or at least the friendly ones I’ve spoken to, always seem happy that I make the effort to talk with them in Spanish, no matter how broken it ends up sometimes. Makes it all feel worth it.
Moving away from the educational side of things, on to the pictures! The extra trips and activities we’ve been involved in have really enriched my experience here. Through the school, we’ve gone to:
- La Paz Waterfall Gardens, a beautiful, gigantic park and animal sanctuary with trails and, as the name suggests, waterfalls.
- San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, for a tour of the downtown area of the shops, markets, and historic buildings. We also watched a play adaptation of Frankenstein in the beautiful National Theater.
- Punta Leona, a beach resort with some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.
- The Costa Rica vs. Panama qualifier game at the National Stadium of Costa Rica. My first soccer game I’ve been to, which was definitely an experience to say the least. The fans of both teams, especially Panama’s, were hilarious to watch. Probably more fun than the game itself, since it ended up as a 0-0 tie.
With some other classmates, I also went on a guided tour of Cafe Brit, which is a very popular coffee manufacturer here. They gave us lots of free samples (always great) of their various flavors and gave us some tips on how to brew coffee properly, and how to check if the coffee you order is good quality. That was definitely a good day.
Also, Amy, one of my classmates who goes to the same university as me, introduced me to a school that teaches English to adult ticos. She volunteers there on Thursday afternoons and helps the students with speaking activities, and invited me to come with her. One of the best decisions of my time here, without a doubt. The students and teacher are all really chill, and they genuinely enjoy having us there to help them learn. We get to practice our Spanish with them, too, so win-win!
Not too long ago I was feeling a little out of place, and possibly out of my league when it came to handling myself while abroad. Now, although things aren’t perfect, giving everything an honest try, from talking to new people, to new foods, to studying, has really been making me feel confident about my decision to come here. I’m definitely not going to become a master of the language in five weeks, but my foundation is getting stronger and I think I’ll be on a better path for myself once I do return home. Most importantly, I can tell that I’ve grown here, and I’m ready to keep moving forward. Well, after enjoying a bit of relaxation time after dealing with midterms, that is.
Until next time! Pura vida, everyone.