One day before my flight to another country for almost half a year, and my suitcase was still empty in the corner. The only reason I decided to finally start packing was because the other students were posting on our Facebook group about taking excess items out of their luggage to lighten their load and avoid over packing. I could no longer deny it, I was moving to another country the next day. Although I was fortunate enough to be traveling to not only a new place, but Costa Rica, I was in denial, and with each passing day the I wanted to go less and less. Every time someone asked me about the trip I always replied saying how excited I was, but somewhere along the way I stopped believing the words. Initially when I applied to this Costa Rica program my school did not have the dates available, so I just assumed it was similar to all the other study abroad programs that start in August and end in December, like a normal semester. It wasn’t until after I had already committed that I found out the Costa Rican semesters were different, and I would start in July and be back in November. You would think that one month earlier was not a big change, but for me it made all the difference. I normally go to school on the complete opposite side of the country from where my family lives, so this time I only had a month and a half of summer instead of the usual three.
After finishing packing a couple hours before my flight, I had some time to spare, psshh I had time to kill! I had decided not to take the group flight, which for me was more expensive and less convenient, so instead I had arranged to arrive at the Costa Rican airport around the same time as another student. We met up in the baggage claim area, finding each other easily since the airport was small with only two luggage carousels for all the incoming flights. There we spoke our first words of Spanish to take a taxi to the hotel, beginning our switch over to another language.
At the hotel we got our first dose of Costa Rican culture since we arrived at the same time as the start of the World Cup quarter-final game of Costa Rica vs. Netherlands. We knocked on the hotel (more of a bed and breakfast) door and waited for about ten minutes for them to respond, all the while listening to the game playing and them shouting. They were not about to miss the world cup kickoff for a couple of gringos. When they finally answered the door they immediately ushered us to a couple of seats next to the TV and handed us some drinks so they could get back to game. So there we sat amidst the ticos who were cheering and cursing at each player’s every move. After 2 or 3 hours, we were just as devastated as they were to lose by one penalty shot, and everyone held a moment of silence out of respect for the players. Throughout the whole game the city had been quiet, and the streets empty, since everyone was inside huddled around TVs. Now all the previously planned victory parties were beginning, because going this far in the World Cup was a win for Costa Rica.
In just 10 hours I had gone from calm cool California to intense humid Liberia, Costa Rica, and unbelievably there is only a one-hour time difference between the two.