Settling into the Day to Day Life of Costa Rica
Now that I have gotten used to my classes and living with my family here in Heredia, it is time to write another post about my life here in Costa Rica.
I love my family here in Heredia. My parents, Alberto and Amalia, are older and retired, so usually, there is always someone here when I come home. There are two daughters as well. The younger one, Mariann, is 23 years old still lives here at home and will start working again this fall. The other one, Sophia, is married and has a one-and-a-half year old son, Isaac. Usually, Isaac is here a couple times a week, so I tend to think of him as a part of my immediate family.
At the University, I am taking five classes: Plant Anatomy and Physiology, Fauna (a class devoted to the animals of Costa Rica and conservation), Advanced Spanish (through the IFSA-Butler Program), Social History of Costa Rica (also through the IFSA-Butler Program), and Culture and Development in Latin America. I am also taking soccer class for fun.
School has its ups and downs; I really enjoy my classes as a whole, but there are things that cause frustration too. For example, most of my classes only meet once a week for two hours or more and often it is often hard to pay attention in class for that long. Additionally, I feel as though my homework takes about three times longer than it should. Reading tends to be really slow going and I use my Spanish dictionary constantly. Another difficulty is the use of copy stores instead of the bookstore on campus. Specific copy places have materials for certain classes and sometimes locating the proper store can be difficult, since there are approximately three to four copy stores per block near the campus.
However, that being said, there are many things that I love about school. Mostly, I enjoy the small classes. I am from a very large state school, so the idea of a being able to get help directly from the professor during a class or a lab is strange to me. My lab in plant anatomy and physiology is only 16 people. And during the lab the first day, all the students were raising their hands and yelling, “Profe! Profe! No entiendo. Explícame.” (Professor, I don’t understand. Explain it to me.) And I kept thinking to myself, what the heck are they doing? You can’t just ask the professor for help. It doesn’t work like that. Unlike labs in the States, these tend to be really relaxed and I feel like I am learning a lot. Often times my labs in the States felt like a to-do list, not a fun hands-on activity.
I have no idea if this is normal, but there have been three “marchas” or strikes—protests in Heredia or San Jose by students and faculty. These could also be termed “holidays”, because there are no classes. It is advised that exchange students avoid these demonstrations. I have walked by one or two of them and felt perfectly safe, but I do try to go around them if possible.
I have continued with the hobbies that I did in the states, such as, reading, running, sketching and so forth, but there are several other things that I enjoy doing the week or the weekend. I have already gone to two professional soccer games at the stadium near my home. I am also playing soccer at the university on the women’s soccer team. I very much enjoy going out with my “sister” and her friends too, as it is a fun way to practice my Spanish, meet new people, and experience the culture.
While I don’t really miss home, I think I am suffering a little bit from homesickness. Little things tend to bother me more. Long waits and lines, confusion during my classes, verbal blunders in Spanish, being stared at, whistles and other calls from men in the streets…all of these things seem to be slightly more aggravating than usual. I was told that it is typical for most students to start feeling homesick between weeks six and eight. We’ll see what the next few weeks are like.