Last week was Semana Santa, or Holy Week. In Costa Rica, school is cancelled for the week and many families take this opportunity to travel to beaches and other places! Some of my friends stayed with their host families during Semana Santa and traveled with them to the beaches which was probably very good Spanish practice! Others had their real families and friends from the US come visit for the week. As for me, I went to Panama with a few other girls from the program and it was one of the best experiences of my life!
The week before that, we had midterms. They were pretty similar to midterms in the US but in Spanish of course. My family was also visiting that week so it was a little stressful for me. We ended up having a fun time and they got to meet my Tico family! It was actually really fun being the translator and I could actually tell that my Spanish has improved!
Sunday we left for Panama! It was a 15 hour bus ride but it honestly wasn’t too bad! I was nervous for the border crossing between Panama and Costa Rica but it ended up going as smooth as it could have. The only annoying part was standing in line for 2 hours waiting to get my passport stamped. We got to our hostal around 6am the next day and slept all the way till noon! Our sleep schedule was completely messed up but we walked through the beautiful Casco Viejo and ate lunch.
Our home for the next 15 hours!
The rest of the week was a lot of fun. We saw the canal, met some new friends at the hostel, went to an island for a day, and tried to fit everything Panama City had to offer! We left Panama Sunday night and got back Monday afternoon. Somehow everything worked out for us on this trip and there were no problems! We were really lucky and all had a wonderful time and an unforgettable experience!
We are now over halfway done with the semester and I’m FrEaKiNg oUt!!! Time is going by waaaaaaaaay too fast! My classes are now starting to pick up, I’m trying to plan as many trips as I can in these last months to make sure I squeeze every ounce of this experience! Looking back to where I was when I first started this experience, I can tell already how much I have changed as a person. My Spanish is getting better (wahoo!), I’ve been exposed to different cultures and diversity in general (coming from the midwest, diversity can be a little hard to find at times), my views and ideas have been challenged and strengthened, and I’m only halfway done! I’ve made some of the best friends in the world who know me better than some of my friends back home! It’s amazing the friends you make when you’re all thrown into an awkward and uncomfortable situation together. I don’t know what I’m going to do without them! My host family also has been amazing and I couldn’t have asked for a better family to share this experience with. They are always willing to talk with me, just so I can practice my Spanish and get to know me! They seem interested in my life in Costa Rica and back at home. Almost everyone in the program has had a great host family experience. One girl had to switch but she loves her new family!
The most important thing to keep in mind while abroad is that this is your experience and you need to do whatever it takes to make sure you’re getting everything you want out of it. I don’t want to go back to the US with any regrets. In reality, five months of my life is hardly nothing so I need to make sure I get every last minute of it. Counting down the days until the program ends will only depress you, and that’s not how you want to live your life! Embrace the culture while you can because it’s going to be over before you know it! I have an excuse now to eat all the carbohydrates and sugar I want while I’m here since that’s basically the main part of my diet but when am I ever going to have an excuse to do that again?? Bring on the carbs! Studying abroad has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my entire life and being halfway done with it saddens me to no end! I’ll just have to make sure these last 2 months really count!
The video I’ve uploaded are my friends Cole, Sydney, and Jason talking about their experiences! Bahía Drake (Drake Bay) was an IFSA excursion where we went whale watching and hiking in a completely remote section of the Osa Peninsula (Southern Costa Rica, Pacific side). It was really like a post card!