Studying abroad has opened so many doors in my life in the past year and a half. Beginning with Spain, continuing with Mexico, and following with my study to Costa Rica, I have seen many things as a 23-year-old female student. From the Prado Museum in Madrid to the beautiful beaches in Mexico and Costa Rica, these travels have broadened my horizons. Costa Rica is my most recent excursion beginning on May 24th and ending on June 26th. 2009. For five weeks, I lived with a family who made my stay extraordinary. They allowed me to live my life as a traveler but showed amazing concern for me as if I was their own flesh and blood. They have a daughter studying English in California and her family had recently relocated to Washington D.C. due to a job change. When I heard this news, we joked about the weather change from Costa Rica to California to Washington D.C.
The weather was absolutely beautiful in Heredia, Costa Rica. It lies right outside of the capital city, San Jose, Costa Rica. Heredia allowed the nine students to experience the life of a smaller town but be close enough to a big city to enjoy both cultures. Every day, for five weeks, I walked a mile and a half to Universidad Nacional to take two classes in the morning from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., followed by an hour and a half for lunch. We had plenty of options from the four cafeterias on campus and the bakeries and restaurants in the surrounding area to enjoy a meal that was incredibly cheap. Five hundred and sixty eight colones are equivalent to one American dollar and in order to eat lunch in our cafeteria, it cost us around 1,000 colones, or two American dollars. After lunch, we had an hour of tutoring, which we spent with Costa Ricans speaking in Spanish and simply practicing our speech or going over homework. At night, we decided as a group to take a kickboxing class for some additional exercise at a local kickboxing gym. The instructor was a man from California, whose parents are Costa Ricans who moved to California when they were younger. After serving in the U.S Marines, he moved to Costa Rica and opened a gym for kickboxing, and helped the sport grow throughout the country. After an hour of class, we all returned home.
I walked a mile and a half home to a delicious meal made by my host family and continued studying Spanish for the rest of the evening while watching television in Spanish or with Spanish subtitles.
For the group of students from West Chester, Professor Andrea Varrichio was the coordinator of the trip. She helped us plan two-day trips to see volcanoes in Costa Rica, which inspired us to see the most active one, Arenal. We stayed in a hotel where we sat on our deck and enjoyed the site of melting lava rolling down the side of the volcano. The following morning we enjoyed an amazing view of the rainforest while zip lining from top to bottom. The very first weekend there, three of the students as well as myself enjoyed a long and beautiful hike outside of Heredia.
The university gave us a great education as well as introduced us the many great students within the university. The people in Costa Rica could not have been more welcoming, nor any nicer than they were in the five weeks I studied there. I am grateful for the hospitality and would recommend anyone to take a trip to this wonderful country. I highly recommend taking advantage of the study abroad programs that West Chester University offers in all semesters as well as the five-week programs offered in the summer. These trips are offered to any majors as well as any year. Take advantage of them while you can.
Suzanne Brady is a fourth-year student majoring in Spanish education. She can be reached at SB619873@wcupa.edu.