The Way to the Heart of Culture is Through the Stomach – by Carly Johnson

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One of the most exciting opportunities I had while studying in Costa Rica is the cooking class that is offered once a week for foreign students. One pass includes four different classes and each week is a new recipe. Originally, my friend and I were unsure if we should sign up, but we did as a way to fill time in the middle of the day, and I am so glad we did. The weeks alternate between sweet and savory recipes, so with an obvious sweet tooth, I loved the weeks where we made desserts! Although everything tasted amazing!

Over the course of the class I made gallo pinto, banana coconut cupcakes, fried mango rollups, and picadillo de papa con carne. My favorite was probably the cupcakes because I love coconut and banana, but it’s a hard choice. The other nice part about the cooking class is you can pick and choose which ones you attend, so if potatoes aren’t your thing, you can skip it and go the week after, to make another dessert, or empanadas, or something else equally delicious.

During the four weeks, cooking class became time for me to sit back, unwind, talk to other students, cook, and eat really good food. Living in a homestay you get to taste some traditional food, but at least for me meals at home aren’t varied very much, so this class was a way to explore other foods I wasn’t trying at home. The relaxed environment at cooking class also felt more comfortable too, so it wasn’t awkward watching someone cook for an hour, which I don’t think I would have been comfortable with doing at my homestay.

Cooking class opened up new flavors I had never tried and dispelled misconceptions I had about Latin American cooking. Unlike what I thought before I came to Costa Rica, food here isn’t spicy, in fact, it’s a lot of comfort food. I was also surprised at how big a part fruit played in to the recipes and dessert commonly made in Costa Rica.

Each class was full of new smells and tastes that were full of passion and culture that made me feel at home. Not only that, but just like being at home I sometimes got to leave with leftovers! If you have a chance, make sure you take the cooking class with Jeannette because it is worth the time and money for the class, the lunch, and the leftovers. Maybe there is some truth to the old saying that the way to a man’s (or woman’s) heart is through their stomach and maybe, just maybe, it is one of the best ways to explore someone else’s culture, so put on the oven mitts, sit down, and find the heart in the kitchen.

 

Why you should study abroad without your best friends – by Keri Mackey

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This past Sunday marked the halfway point of my 3 months abroad here in Costa Rica. It wasn’t until then that I really felt a little homesick for the first time. This is not the same for everyone; some have felt immediately homesick, and some not at all. I’m a very independent person, so I tend to steer towards the ladder. But, I will admit that I did feel the sniffles coming on a little bit on Sunday. In Costa Rica, Valentine’s Day is not just for couples; it’s for friends too. It’s as much of a friend’s appreciation day as it is a romantic one. Thus, the nostalgia began. I saw pictures of all of my best friends from home having a Valentine’s party together, and I missed them a lot. But, I do not wish they were here studying abroad with me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love them and miss them very much. But I am very thankful that I am able to experience my abroad program without them. If my best friends were here, I would feel too comfortable, and that’s not what studying abroad is about. It’s actually the opposite; it’s all about being uncomfortable. When you are uncomfortable, out of your comfort zone, you learn the most. You learn the most about your surroundings and also yourself. Because my best friends are not here I am able to make new best friends out of strangers. I am able to approach and engage new people by myself. I am able to do what it is that I want; I don’t have to settle because of influence by my friends. Studying abroad is a huge step in your academic career and also one of the biggest steps you can take outside of your comfort zone.  By doing it without your friends, you will get to call all the shots and be able to create the experience you want without any regret. And ultimately, you will become incredibly self-reliant, and you will most likely thank yourself fro gaining that attribute for the rest of your life.

 

Naturalista in Costa Rica – by Symone Russell

The {Weight} of Living (Body positivity in Costa Rica) – by Lillian Williams

First of all, I would like to say that whether you are a size 2 or a size 18+, you are gorgeous. (Hopefully, you already know that.) Second of all, I would like to say that being plus size in a country where the people are all about a “pura vida” lifestyle has been the best body positive/self esteem building experience that I’ve ever had. You are probably now dying to know why; be patient, I’m about to tell you.

1.You are not allowed to ignore the beauty around you.

Have you ever had those days where you just feel like a blob and want to disappear into your safe haven of chocolate and Netflix? Well surprise! That is not magically cured when you come to Costa Rica. If anything, with the combination of culture shock and homesickness, sometimes that’s all I want to do. But before you go off thinking that I just spend all of my free time cooped up in my room, I will tell you that there’s absolutely no way to always feel like this while you’re here. Anytime I step outside, I instantly become more energized and ready to take on whatever the day throws at me. Sunshine + clear skies + beautiful landscapes = an optimistic attitude. It’s amazing how much your environment alters your way of thinking. With all of the beauty that surrounds me here, I find it hard not to believe that I also play a small, beautiful part in this paradise that I get to call home for 3 months.

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Let’s be honest, with a view like this, no one is paying attention to my body mass index

2.There’s too much delicious food to try.

If you’re worried about losing weight and want to go on a diet, you probably should not start said diet in a place with new, exciting, mouth-watering, tasty food. Hands down, the food here is some of the best that I’ve ever had. Here in Costa Rica, there’s no time to be worried about calories. You should be more worried about which delicacy you will try today. From local Costa Rican cuisine, the countless number of batido shops, to the occasional pastry from the many bakeries located near Veritas, the skies are the limit. Don’t let your brain convince you that the calories of that torta chileno will somehow be worse than not trying this delectable dessert.

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This is me, unapologetically enjoying a smoothie without a care in the word. Notice that there’s nothing but satisfaction in that smile

3.The only person that cares about your weight is you.

You know what? Not everyone who goes to the beach has a “beach body”. And guess what else: no one cares. (I’ve seen more grannies rocking bikinis here than I have ever seen before.) The pura vida mindset applies to literally everything here. So, stop worrying about the circumference of your waist, and get out there and enjoy this beautiful place with your beautiful self

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”Love yourself girl or nobody will” -J.Cole

 

The Highs & the Lows Emma Yurkosky

I had successfully hailed a taxi, gotten myself to the bus station by communicating in Spanish with the taxi driver, purchased a bus ticket, and ridden the bus all the way to Puntarenas by myself to meet two of my friends. I was extremely nervous to make this two and a half hour long journey by myself, but since being in Costa Rica I have tried to say yes to almost every opportunity that comes my way, so I figured why not, especially if I get to spend a night with two good friends and a day at the beach.

It was a successful trip until I got to the bus station. My bus arrived a little early, so I had to sit down and wait for my friends to come. I didn’t mind waiting at all until an hour had passed, and they still weren’t there. The bus station was a fine place, people just coming and going, but I was beginning to get nervous. As the hour mark passed, I found myself beginning to cry. How could I be crying at 21 years old in the middle of a bus station with no one I knew around? I couldn’t control it. I knew I could just hop on the next bus and get right back home in San José in just over two hours, I just felt helpless because I couldn’t go looking for them and had no Wi-Fi to communicate.

Luckily, after over an hour of waiting, my friends arrived. Turns out they had ferried across the beach to another part of Puntarenas and gone a little further than they had intended. They basically ran a running race and even hitchhiked all the way back to try to get me. They felt completely awful and bought me a delicious smoothie afterward to make up for it, but I was just so thankful to have such good friends that would do that for me.

Since being in Costa Rica, there have without a doubt been some lows, this being one of them, but there have also been so many highs. Like after making this crazy trip, getting to see the incredible sunset at Puntarenas and spend some time with two wonderful friends I have made since being here.

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When the lows come you just have to deal with them as best you can, even though I know being stuck at a bus station is not all that terrible in the grand scheme of things. But, when the lows are over, more lows may come, but they will make you more appreciative of other things. From a small bed bug scare to homesickness, these things have been difficult to deal with, but afterward I find myself feeling much more appreciative of simple things like having a bug free home and the fact that I have met some wonderful people here even though I may be missing home. These lows can put things into perspective and amplify the high points.

Weekend Trip Packing 101 – by Lois Charm

Whiles living in Costa Rica, it’s more than likely that you will take at least one trip out of the city on a particular weekend whether this trip be by choice, included in your program, or a field trip in one of your classes. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to have an efficient packing method to help you pack efficiently and lightly.

sin-tituloThe first thing to consider is how long your trip will be. Most weekend trips at Veritas usually begin with groups traveling out on Friday and returning on Sunday. If this is the case with your trips, I would consider taking a bag no bigger than the size of a duffel or roller carryon bag, but no smaller than an average sized backpack. This being the case because a lot of trips include more than just the average change of clothes, and you and whoever you are with might do some sort of nature activity, whether it be snorkeling, swimming, or hiking.

Furthermore, consider where it is you’re going. As mentioned before, if you and your group are most likely going to be doing some sort of activity that will require you to have a bathing suit, or special clothes and shoes, make a list of all the items you have been suggested to bring, and make sure you have enough for the duration of the trip.

The next step is to figure out how you´re going to pack up everything depending on the bag you have. I would suggest putting any products and undergarments in a different part of your bag, and make sure to keep products separated from any type of clothes, just in case something spills. To protect from any spilling, place products in a plastic bag. As far as clothing and bathing suits, roll up everything and store it on top of each other in one portion of the bag. This method will leave you with extra room to store other things without complications.

Furthermore, I would pack no more than two extra changes of shoes, with one of them being a pair of flip flops. Put both pairs of shoes in plastic bags as well to prevent them from staining your clothes. After your clothes, shoes, products, and undergarments are securely packed, evaluate how much extra space you may have in your bag, and try to save this space as much as possible for any last minute items you might choose to bring with you.

With all of the tips above, you should be able to maximize space in your bag and be prepared for your weekend adventure!

 

Snorkeling in Panama – by Mariah Singleton