siempre hay una primera vez
Siempre hay una primera vez. There is a first time for everything. This semester has marked a lot of firsts for me:
– Flying alone (actually, traveling alone in general)
– Seeing the ocean
– Immediately following, stepping on a sea urchin
– White-water rafting
– Bungee jumping
– Seeing mountains (and living in a place that is not totally flat)
– Waterfall rappelling
– First earthquake (and second…and third…)
– Saving baby turtles
– Seeing a volcano (three, actually)
– Taking classes entirely in Spanish
– Living in a culture different than the US (2 cultures, actually, if you count Italy earlier this year)
– Experiencing major events, like the Olympics and the US elections, outside of the US
– Experiencing a tropical winter, aka the rainy season
I don’t think people give study abroad enough credit – it is really difficult. I spent months at my University planning and fighting to be able to make the semester feasible. I lived for 5 months with a family that has been wonderful in every possible way, and I love them dearly, but at the end of the day they are not my family. I met a lot of great friends here, but take 18 random people from around the United States and the odds are not good that many people will find their new BFFs. I spent a lot of my hard-earned money this semester without being able to work and be earning money (basically, I had to learn how to take a vacation). I worked my butt off in all of my classes to overcome the language barrier and at the same time maintain my GPA. I say all this NOT to say that it was a bad experience, because it was amazing, NOR to say that study abroad is not worth it, because it absolutely is! I say this because I wanted to try to express to you the complexity of the semester. When I get back, and people ask me how it was, we will talk about the positive parts, the highlights, which are the most exciting parts and what we should talk about. But I wanted to try to shed a little light on the “behind the scenes” of study abroad – what you don’t see in the photos, or read in the blog, or hear in the stories. The real part.
I really do not want to leave Costa Rica, but I do so knowing I had the time of my life. I had the opportunity to intimately know another culture, and I fell in love with it. Sincerely I have felt very welcomed by all of the Costa Ricans I met here, and I have truly loved the experience.
At the same time, it is time to come home. I am looking forward to seeing my friends and family again, and to coming home to a Minnesota winter with snow, but more than anything I will appreciate being in a culture where I fit in and know exactly how to act without having to be constantly observant of the situation. To me, the United States is like a crazy uncle – it is not perfect, it has its faults, it might drive me crazy at times, but at the end of the day it is family and it is home and it is my country and I love it.
I feel I have grown in so many ways this semester. Most obviously, my Spanish has improved immensely. I am more independent and confident in my decisions. I think I found out more who I am as a person and am more confident in that person. I am more patient and less easily stressed out. This blog title is “Pura Vida Way of Life” (in the URL) and now I think I am more able to explain to you what “Pura Vida” means, or, at least, what it means to me. It means “Qué será, será” (what will be, will be). It serves as a constant reminder to keep perspective on what is important in life and what I cannot control. It reminds me that my life is so incredibly good, and I have been so incredibly blessed; it would be selfish and ungrateful to not choose to be happy!