One dreadful Tuesday it was raining…again. Why in the world did I choose a country where it rained so much?! Yeah, yeah, rain is necessary, but at this particular low in my study abroad experience I simply couldn’t handle getting drenched one more time. I could have waited at the university for it to stop, but let’s be real, the rainy season had started— waiting for the rain to stop was useless. During my walk home, the usual negative thoughts ran through my head:
Why did I ever go abroad?
All my friends were back at school having a great time without me…
Why did I ever choose a county in Central America?
The list went on and on. Then the straw that broke the camel’s back, I fell in the pouring rain. Now don’t get me wrong, this was not little stumble. I literally fell flat on my face, skinned my hands and knees, and all of my notes from that day went flying away. I sat in the gringo trap, aka the gutter, crying and wondering what in the world I was doing with my life. Needless to say, I had hit one of the many lows of the rollercoaster that is studying abroad. It’s okay to hit rock bottom every now again, you just have to get back up. So, I pulled it together. After all, I could only sit crying in the rain for so long. I realized that I was in a negative cycle and negativity only breeds more negativity. Then and there I resolved to accept my experience abroad for what it was. Sure, maybe it was not everything that I had built it up to be in my head, but what in life is? After all, I was in Costa Rica! How many people were going to see the places and do the things that I was doing. The rain started to let up, and then the miraculous happened as I reached my door… the rain stopped. The sky cleared, and I looked up just at the right time to see a rainbow. Apparently a little positive thinking really does go a long way.
However, I would be lying if I told you that those negative thoughts never came back. Here’s the thing about the Study Abroad Emotional Rollercoaster…it’s a rollercoaster. That means there naturally is going to be ups and downs and twists and turns every step of the way. Though I vowed to accept my experience for what it was, doing so was another matter. I didn’t really come to appreciate the opportunity that I had been given until we hiked to a waterfall in Montezuma, a small little beach town. The idea was to swim in the lower falls, and then hike up and see the higher set of falls. It was at the higher set that it was safe to jump. That whole weekend everyone had talked about how they had grown so much over the course of our semester abroad, but I just couldn’t see it in myself. I felt stagnant. Suddenly, I was overcome with the urge to jump off of the waterfall. I didn’t give it a moment’s thought. Sometimes you just need to throw caution to the wind and jump off of that waterfall, both literally and metaphorically. I never thought I would actually go through with the jump, but that gave me a lot to think about on the 30 feet down to the water. During that trip with gravity that never seemed to end, I realized that it is possible to think something to death. At times, all you really need to do is trust your instincts and yourself. That means trusting your choice to go abroad as well. Floating below, glad to be alive, I realized that I love Costa Rica and that I would not trade a minute of it. If I can give my readers one piece of advice it would be to appreciate your host country for all of its uniqueness. This is your chance to make memories and your attitude is ultimately what determines what kind of experience you have.
Brigid Connolly is a student at Villanova University and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler at Universidad Nacional in Costa Rica in 2013.