the “settling in” period
The week before last we had orientation activities in Heredia, the city in which we will be living and going to school. One of the things IFSA does is bring in some University students to accompany us on our outings, so we can ask them questions and get to know some students before classes even start. During the week we walked around Heredia, San José (the capital of Costa Rica, less than 30 minutes away by bus or train), and the U. I was very excited to discover that I live close enough to the U that I can walk! My host mom assures me the walk is safe during the day, and this way I don’t have to pay bus fare every day, which can really add up. One of my favorite things to do in Heredia so far is go to the movies – less than $4! Here are some pictures of a day trip we took to a mountain/ranch hike:
One of the language nuances we have noticed between English and Spanish is words that start with “s+consonant” in English always start with “es-” in Spanish. For example, school –> escuela, space –> espacio, Spot –> Espot (the name of one of my host family’s dogs), and, most directly applicable to me, Stephanie –> Estephanie. We tried to get the Ticos to say it without the E in front, but it is very difficult for them. So Estephanie it is!
This past week we started classes (finally!). Most classes only meet once a week, which means more free time to do homework/readings, but also longer classes – a 3 or 4 hour class is pretty standard. I have trouble focusing in English for that long, let alone having to be extra-alert to understand the class in Spanish. Afterwards my brain hurts a little bit, but hopefully it gets easier as the semester progresses! Another thing that is taking a little adjustment is doing long readings in Spanish. It just takes me forever, because I have to understand not only the words but also the meaning of the article, the point it is trying to make, etc. I don’t want to come to class unprepared, so I have been trudging through it.
- The UNA (Universidad Nacional) is really pretty! Most of the buildings have an open-air courtyard in the center, so even when you are indoors it feels like you are outdoors. This seems to be pretty standard for Costa Rica – instead of running air conditioning, they maintain access to fresh air and the plentiful breezes that come from the ocean.
So far I am really enjoying my time here in Costa Rica. IFSA explained to us what we can expect in terms of the inevitable culture shock – homesickness, rejection of host culture, craving foods/environments that remind us of home. I haven’t really experienced this yet, but things are beginning to feel more permanent. Not everything is brand new and exciting anymore; I feel like I am in a “settling in” period now. However, although I am sure culture shock will hit me eventually, for now I am content to be blissfully at peace in this paradise!