When family visits its abroad student
My head started to spin. I lost my appetite. I was confused.
I was going through reverse culture shock, three months early.
It’s an odd reaction to have when parents come to visit, but in this case, it makes perfect sense.
My parents, my brother, my sister and my grandmother visited me in my adopted home of Costa Rica, and it was an incredible experience.
They flew in a week and two days ago to Juan Santamaría International Airport near San José, where I picked them up.
I departed from the trip temporarily to go finish a couple of assignments for class. Meanwhile, they visited Manuel Antonio, a national park close to my home here that I still have not seen.
We all met up next in La Fortuna at Tabacón resort and springs, with amazing views of the jungle and Volcán Arenal.
Finally, we drove south to San José to experience the country’s capital (as much as we could on a sleepy Sunday) and visit my host family in Heredia (pictures to come later).
And as I type this post, they’re on their flight back to the States, having just experienced in a few short days what I have the opportunity to enjoy for the next three months (my girlfriend has reminded me that I return in less than 90 days).
It was quite the whirlwind. It was such a thrill to get to show them around a place I have now called home, in a language that I have come to embrace. Nobody in my gringo family speaks Spanish beyond a couple of pleasantries, though my sister has had a few years of training in school. I was able to act as a tour guide and translator, especially in more difficult times, like traveling, when our drivers spoke less English than resort staff. I was able to even use Spanish around my parents to clandestinely plan birthday celebrations with wait staff at restaurants for my mother.
Being with my family is always a blast, and I have come to embrace their sassy insanity. And the spas and jungle tours and pools gave me the opportunity to experience Costa Rican resort living, and that’s nothing to complain about in that regard.
But the whole trip felt kind of strange. It was like living in two words simultaneously, first in Costa Rica with my Spanish and pending homework deadlines. (I had to complete the “study” part of “study abroad.” I continued to do homework throughout the trip whey they lounged by the pool or slept.) Yet at the same time, I spoke more English that I have been, and spending time with my family essentially put me back in the U.S.
Plus, I realized just how different resort life in Costa Rica is from real life. And I feel very lucky that I am living what I would consider “real life” outside of hot springs and guided tours.
My family’s visit made me realize everything I still wanted to do this country, all of the sites I want to see, all the experiences I want to have. The next three months are going to fly by.