Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

My Posts

{photos, text, video}

Back to Reality

Time June 25th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

Well I’ve been back in the USA for over a week, and I’ve finally brought myself to write my final blog post. I guess the reason I’ve been putting it off is because I’m in denial about the fact that my Costa Rican experience is actually over. I know it’s cheesy and cliche, but I really did not fully understand how much it meant to me until I got home.

People keep asking me what I miss the most or what my favorite part was, and it is so hard to answer. There’s not just one thing that made my experience what it was. It is really hard to put into words the way the people and culture impacted me. Things like my little cafecitos with my mama tica, daily bus rides, random conversations, exploring new places, and being the only gringa in a class full of ticos are the things that affected me every day and really made me feel immersed in the country. By the end of my time there, although I missed my family and a few other joys of the USA like crazy, Costa Rica felt like home. That’s the reason I miss it so much. Walking down my hill to the bus stop, buying fruit smoothies, eating rice and beans, and being surrounded by the Spanish language became my new normal, so it’s hard adjusting back to what used to be “normal” at home in the US.

Readjusting is definitely a process. There are lots of reasons that I am glad to be home. I am loving spending time with my family and friends and eating some of my favorite foods after so long — my first three meals here were Bojangles, Chick-fil-a, and Cookout — but it’s not easy just going back to life as it was before. If it’s not already clear, the US and Costa Rica don’t share tons of similarities. The general pace of life and the way people interact in Costa Rica is so different, and I grew pretty fond of it, which makes it difficult to switch back to the go, go, go lifestyle of the US. I need my coffee breaks. Also, everyone here speaks English! What’s up with that? Granted, there were several times in CR where I began to resent the Spanish language and would have loved to just speak in English for a minute, but now it is everywhere and to be honest it’s a little overwhelming. Where I used to be scared to speak Spanish outside of class before CR, I now find myself seeking out Spanish speakers when possible. I met a nice Peruvian couple at one of my little sister’s swim meets and absolutely loved talking to them. Costa Rica definitely increased my confidence and ability speaking Spanish by A LOT. I just want to talk to my Ticos.

As much as I would love to hop on the next flight to San Jose for just one more pura vida day, I have to get back to living my real life, and gracias a Dios (thank God) all my experiences stay with me. Now that I’m back, I definitely see myself and the world around me differently. Going out on my own really helped me get to know myself and push myself and see what really means the most to me and ways I need to grow. It also showed me that the world is so much bigger than my little piece of North Carolina, and I still have so much to learn. There is no way to describe how incredibly blessed I feel to have had this experienced and, through good and bad, to have been able to grow in the ways that I did. It was really the adventure of a lifetime and I will absolutely cherish it forever. Wow, sorry for getting so sentimental, I just really love Costa Rica, y’all. Thanks so much for caring about my life and reading my blog this semester! As always,

PURA VIDA!

~Kendal

Share

Last Hurrah in Panama

Time June 9th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

img_1549

Picture 1 of 6

Well friends, I’ve only got a bit over a week left in this beautiful little country I’ve called home for the last five months. I’m so so so sad to leave, but also kind of ready to go at the same time. This has been one of the best experiences of my life, but there are just some comforts of home that I don’t think I could go without for much longer. That doesn’t mean saying goodbye to all of the people I’ve gotten so close to and flying out next weekend isn’t going to be rough, because it will be! I can’t believe that just a few exams, two empty suitcases, and some tearful goodbyes stand between me and the USA.

Despite the overwhelming amount of final projects, papers, and exams that are inevitable with these last couple weeks of classes, some of the girls from my program and I wanted to make the most of our last little bit of time here, or “aprovecharnos” as the Ticos say, so last weekend we took a little trip to Panama! We took a six hour bus, crossed a rickety bridge on foot, hopped in a sketchy shuttle, and cruised in a little boat to get to the island chain of Bocas del Toro and, y’all, was it worth it. It was the most perfect little weekend getaway. Definitely one of my favorite trips of the semester.

Emma, Jaime, Meredith and I stayed in our very own adorable yellow cabin for four right ON the water. We had the most beautiful view of the bay right from our porch! On the morning of our first full day, a Panamanian captain came and picked us up right next to our cabin in his little boat to take us on a tour through the islands. First, we stopped in the middle of the water to watch for dolphins. We saw a bunch and they were not shy at all! They were going up and down and flipping their flippers and it was beautiful. Then we made our way to a tiny protected island called Isla Zapatilla. It was the most gorgeous beach I have ever been to. The sand was totally white and the water was totally blue and clear! We got to snorkel around at the tip of the island in a little reef. I saw some incredible fish and touched a sea anemone — it was sticky! After snorkeling, we walked around the island a little bit and ran into a sea turtle being released into the ocean. A SEA TURTLE! After that, our captain took us to an island FILLED with sloths and we saw about ten of them just chillin in the trees. Then we headed back to the cabin for a nice college student budget homemade dinner. WHAT A GREAT DAY.

We spent our second day relaxing on the nearby beach and exploring the little town of Bocas. At sunset, we kayaked around the little bay, which was amazing! The sky was so pretty and the water was like glass and it was so peaceful and it was just the best. The next day we got up at the crack of dawn and did the taxi, boat, shuttle, bridge, bus combo all over again. It was a long trip back, but I would do it again! I am so so glad that we got the chance to Panama before time to go home. It was so great to spend some quality time with my girls in such a GORGEOUS place. It was definitely an experience I will never forget!

Guess I better get back to my paper writing and studying… The next time I post I’ll probably be back in North Carolina! :'(

Until then, thanks for reading, pura vida! :)

Share

La Vida Finca

Time May 12th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | 2 Comments by

This past weekend our group got the chance to travel up to a place in the mountains of Costa Rica called San Gerardo de Dota. We stayed in a cabin on a little farm (finca in Spanish) run by a native family. The farm is 100% sustainable, and they grow and make nearly everything they consume there. It was so cool to see their way of life, never letting anything go to waste. They even grow and roast their own coffee — which was the best I’ve ever had in my life! I made a little video to help share this incredible cultural experience — enjoy!

 

Share

Officially a Tica

Time April 20th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

Oh my gosh, y’all, where has the time gone? I don’t even have two months left in here in Costa Rica. It feels like just yesterday I struggled to find a taxi from the airport and started the scariest, craziest, best adventure. I finally got my Costa Rican visa today so that I can stay for the next two months, and it has got me thinking about how I don’t want to go. Since I’m a little more than half way through my time here, I thought now might be a good time to share some of the things I’ve been learning along the way (in no particular order).

College is hard no matter where you go. Yep, sad but true. Class is class. Papers are papers. Sometimes I get caught up in all the wonderfulness that is Costa Rica and forget that I’m here to go to school too. It takes a lot of work to be a Costa Rican student, but vale la pena! (it’s worth it!)

Costa Rican Netflix is better. It’s the best! Not that I spend a ton of time watching Netflix because, well, I’m in Costa Rica. But when I do have a chill night in with no homework and my host mom goes to bed at eight o’clock, I’ve got so many great options right at my fingertips.

Say yes to the cafecito. Ticos like coffee. A lot. And at any given time of the day, they might offer you a “cafecito” which means a little cup of coffee. It’s delicious, so why not?

Traveling on your own teaches you so much about yourself. Before I got to Costa Rica, I didn’t know a single person that I was going to be spending the semester with here. I had a very basic knowledge of the country, and an intermediate knowledge of the language. From day one, I had no choice but to make new friends, learn new things, and try my best to understand and speak Spanish. This situation has forced me to learn more than I could have imagined. I became really close with most of the people in my program pretty quickly because we spent so much time together and were dealing with the same things. Sometimes it’s hard having such a small group and sharing so much, but it’s taught me how to be a better friend. The culture shock has shown me the things in the US that I am really attached to, and it’s taught me how to live without them and become stronger because of it. This experience has been showing me the things about myself that make me successful and the things that weigh me down that I need to change, and I think that I’ll be a better person in the future because of it.

Thanks for reading! ¡Pura vida!

Share

Semana Santa!

Time April 20th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

We just had the Costa Rican version of spring break called “Semana Santa” which means “Holy Week,” and I got some very special visitors! My mom and sister came all the way from North Carolina to see me and we had a bast! I can now say that I’ve visited all seven provinces in Costa Rica because we spent the week in Guanacaste, the only one I hadn’t seen yet. And I think I saved the best for last. It was absolutely gorgeous!

Every time you ask Ticos where the good beaches are, almost everyone will tell you they’re in Guanacaste. We went to three of them: Playa Flamingo, Playa Conchal, and Playa Tamarindo. They were all different and beautiful in their own way, but I have to say that my favorite was Playa Conchal. “Conchal” is the Spanish word for seashells, and the beach got its name because instead of sand, a lot of the beach is covered with tiny shells that make the water look so clear. There were a lot of Ticos on the beach because they were vacationing for Semana Santa too, which made the experience even cooler. Some men set up little grills and were cooking up some cheap, fresh red snapper right on the beach. My mom and I got a fish to share and it was delicious!

My sister didn’t feel so well most of the time we were in Tamarindo, which was a bit of a bummer, but it was still a really fun place! The sunsets every night were absolutely gorgeous, and there are lots of restaurants and cool shops. Lots of people like to surf there too, but if you ever do, beware of the random sharp rocks in the ocean. I kinda dove into one and cut up my fingers, oops.

It was so cool having my mom and sister here and getting to show them this amazing place I get to live in. My mom said that her favorite part of the trip was getting to hear me speak in Spanish to the people we interacted with. It was fun showing off what I’ve learned here and acting like a Tica instead of a tourist (even if my family couldn’t understand what I was saying). I already miss them so much, but I am so so glad they got to be a part of my adventure!

Share

Manuel Antonio

Time April 13th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Costa Rica | 1 Comment by

Hola! So a few weeks ago I went to the most visited national park in Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio. We snorkeled, hiked, saw some incredible animals, banana-boated and went to the gorgeous beach, and I want to share some pics with y’all!

Share

Learning How to Fail

Time March 30th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Costa Rica | 2 Comments by

Hey everybody! I’m so sorry it’s been so long! I’ve actually had this post written and saved for quite a while now, but I realized I never posted it. I promise I’ll start posting more consistently again; CR life has just been crazy busy! Anyway, enjoy… Read More »

Share

We’re Not in Carolina Anymore

Time February 20th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Costa Rica | 3 Comments by

So this post is coming a little later than I had planned but that is because the start of classes has been absolutely craaaaaazy. These past two weeks at Universidad Nacional have been filled with frustration, new friends, tears, laughter, going to way too many classes that I can’t get credit for, becoming BFFs with the drop/add man, and lots lots more. Read More »

Share

DUCHA CALIENTE

Time February 11th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Costa Rica | 2 Comments by

I know it hasn’t been that long since my last post, but I have to share the good news! This a total gringa moment: I just took a HOT SHOWER. Not cold. Not lukewarm. HOT.

A little background, Costa Rican showers are a bit different from those in the US. Homes here don’t have hot water heating tanks, just an electric shower head connected to lots of wires that heat up the water, but not for long. Ticos don’t really take super warm showers in general, and they’re totally accustomed to this system. For me, it’s been a bit of a struggle.

IMG_0212

In my house in Monteverde, there were some technical difficulties with the shower the last few nights, so my host mom had to heat water up on the stove for me to bathe with.

IMG_0201

For the past few days here in Heredia, I’ve been having difficulty finding the sweet spot on the faucet where the water is warm, but I think I’ve finally got it. Praise.

Share

Learning How to be a Tica

Time February 9th, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Costa Rica | 3 Comments by

I don’t even know where to begin! I can’t believe it’s only been about a week since I arrived in Costa Rica! I’ve already learned so much and seen and done SO many great things. Our first week of orientation in Monteverde (a mountain town up north) ended yesterday and we moved in with our host families in Heredia. I am already starting to feel like a Tica (Costa Rican)!

The Monteverde orientation definitely gave us a good taste of Costa Rican life. All of the students in my group stayed with host families in their little mountain homes. My family was wonderful! They helped me with my Spanish, taught me about their culture, and fed me some AMAZING food. My host mom got up around 5 am every morning to make fresh tortillas, and she made me lots of plantains, my FAVE. I also got to spend a lot of time with the other students in the IFSA-Butler program, which was great! Even though we’ve only known each other for a week, the seven of us feel like a family. We attended intensive Spanish classes and cultural demonstrations at the Monteverde Institute, and we also went on a few really cool excursions! In the institute, we learned about many of the delicious fruits found in Costa Rica and learned a traditional Costa Rican dance. We also got to visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, take a canopy tour up in the clouds over the mountains, and take a Costa Rican coffee tour. Fun fact: coffee has SO many health benefits, but when you add milk/creamer it basically cancels them out, oops. Adios, Starbucks. Monteverde was a little colder and a little wetter than I expected, but it was still so gorgeous. I saw a HUGE rainbow over the mountains during my walk to the institute almost every day! I’m going to miss Monteverde a lot, but I’m excited to be here in Heredia!

So I finally got to meet my host mom for the semester yesterday after we got back from Monteverde, and she is THE BEST. Her kids are all grown up and married, so it’s just me and Mamá Tica in this cute little house. She immediately made me feel right at home with her sweet, caring attitude, and told me all she cares about is that I am happy and I feel at home. Awkward moment: In response, I meant to say, “I don’t think that is going to be a problem at all!” but she thought I said the opposite. BUT I cleared it up right away and then we shared a nice long hug, so it’s all good! I am so grateful to have such a wonderful mama to take care of me while I’m here! Now all I have to worry about are classes. They start tomorrow, they’re all in Spanish, and I don’t even know where some of the buildings are, but it will be fine! I’ve heard that the professors are really accommodating, and I’ve got some great Tico amigos to show me around. I’ll keep ya posted.

¡Pura Vida!

Some pics from the week:

Share

Today’s the Day!

Time February 2nd, 2015 in 2015 Spring, College Study Abroad, Costa Rica | 2 Comments by

So, this is supposed to be my pre-departure post, but I’m technically in the air on the way to San Jose. Close enough, right? WOW. I can’t believe I’m actually on the way to Costa Rica right now. This day has seemed so far away for so long, and now it’s finally here. It’s been a crazy past couple of weeks, but somehow I made it!

I’m not exactly sure why, but some people tell me that I’m a bit of a procrastinator. I guess it would have been a good idea to figure out all the best packing tips before I started packing, but I think it worked out fine… hopefully. Let me just say that vacuum packing bags are a LIFE SAVER. I really don’t know how I would have done it without them. Luckily my mom is the world’s best packer, so she somehow managed to arrange all my stuff so it fit just right. We’ll see how well it goes when I have to pack everything up by myself when I go home. My biggest bag weighed in at a whopping 50.5 pounds (the limit is 50), but the nice US Air man didn’t say anything. Thank goodness.

It’s so weird to think that I won’t be back on in the United States for almost 5 months. There are definitely some things that I am going to miss a lot. Of course I’ll miss the big things like my family, friends, and church, but there are a few random things that I’m not quite sure how to live without. Sweet Tea. I don’t know if I’ve ever been more than a week or two in my life without at least a sip of that heavenly drink. Nanny, please have a pitcher ready when I get back. Jamz. If you know me, you know this is a term I use to refer to songs that I can, well, ‘jam’ to combined with the act of enjoying said songs, whether it be blasting the radio in my car and singing at the top of my lungs or impromptu dorm dance parties. I’m gonna miss those annoying American pop hits. My bed. Man, I’ve been spoiled with this almost two month break I’ve had at home getting to sleep in my comfy queen-size every night. Nothing beats a good night’s sleep at home.

I probably used the “this is my last week in America” excuse waaaaay too many times in the past week, but hey, it got me almost all my favorites one more time. Despite all the things I’ll miss about good ole North Carolina and all my fears going into this, I am beyond grateful to have this incredible opportunity before me and to have all the prayers and support of so many friends and family members. I know that this experience is going to be life-changing, and I absolutely cannot wait to see what’s in store!

Next up: Orientation in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve!

Share