As a pre-medical student with a double major, taking courses over summer break is nothing out of the ordinary for me. For the majority of my friends and fellow university students however, summer class means taking precious time away from the pools and beaches, turning off the TV, getting off the couch, and devoting more time to studying and homework. I know, I know. It sounds kind of crazy to want to make that sacrifice. But, what if it didn´t have to be a sacrifice. What if there was a way to have the best of both worlds. Through studying abroad in Costa Rica I have been able to do just that. I am able to study and earn credits toward my degrees, but also enjoy my summer in a beautiful tropical country. What could possibly be better than that?
During my time here so far, I have definitely noticed many differences in the class structure, some which may be very appealing to foreign students, and others, which take some adjusting to. For starters, the courses are much smaller. My Spanish Course, Spanish for Health Care Professionals, has about ten students. Depending on your personal outlook, this can be a benefit or a challenge. I personally like it, because I feel the small atmosphere makes it easier to learn and get direct attention from the professor. Other students might not like this however, because it forces you to talk and be an active participant in the course. I think this is ultimately a benefit, because the more you are forced to participate in class, the more you take away from it in the end. Another difference, at least from my home University in Louisville, KY, is the length of time you are in the classroom. My medical Spanish course is four hours long! My elective course, Costa Rican Health Care and Tropical Medicine, is a two-hour course. I am on campus from 8 am to 5pm. This is a very long day from what I am used to and definitely took some adjusting to. It is the second week, and I am still exhausted at the end of each day. Another big difference, at least in my courses, is how laid back and relaxed my professors are. They are constantly pushing things back, changing the schedules, and adjusting to fit our needs. It is not as high stress and formally structured as an American Classroom. This is nice, because you do not feel as pressured, and being relaxed creates a better learning environment. It is difficult to get used to though, especially for someone like me, who plans everything anally and needs structure. Lastly, the courses take a lot of field trips, which gives students the opportunity to see and apply the things they are learning in the classroom. This is beneficial for increasing knowledge of the topic of focus, and also for experiencing more of the country´s culture.
I have found that if you are willing to adjust to the differences and embrace a new way of learning, the classes really prove to be both informative and fun. Even if the thought of going to school in the summer seems entirely ¨loco¨, studying abroad is a lot different experience, which allows you to study and see the world over your summer. After all, going to the same pool everyday has to get a bit boring, right? Pura Vida!
Written by Heather Stewart, Social Media Journalist