When most people think of studying abroad it conjures up images of travel, exotic places, new foods, new friends and new adventures. People think of the “abroad” part, but rarely is the first thought about studying. But there is a lot of studying to be done, especially during an intensive, 4 to 5-week summer program, like the one offered at Universidad Veritas. I think that the hardest part about studying abroad thus far for me has been finding a balance between studying the language that I came here to learn and enjoying all of the amazing activities that are available to students through the university, each individual study abroad program and the city itself.
There is so much to see and do in Costa Rica and many students seem to have abandoned homework altogether, or more often sleep, in order to experience it all. My first week here I wanted to do everything. I planned to fill my calendar with extras—cooking class, dance class, playing fútbol twice a week, going to clubs, walking downtown to go shopping, the list went on and on.
It quickly became clear that there was no way I could do all of those things even if I didn’t sleep at all. Obviously, every student’s interests and priorities will be unique while studying abroad, but for me, the balance that has worked the best has been to schedule two or three extra activities during the week either during my break between classes or in the evenings after I have dinner with my familia tica, which is a priority to me. That leaves enough time during breaks or at night to study or work on homework and projects although I am constantly doing something. Just the class time alone takes up six hours of each weekday.
That being said, I am still having a lot of fun in Costa Rica! In my weekly cooking class we make traditional dishes and more importantly, we get to eat them. I won $10 when my tico brother bet against me and the U.S. in the most recent fútbol match. And each weekend is filled with excursions to see all the beautiful places and adventures this country has to offer. There are volcanos, beaches, bungee jumping, horseback riding, waterfalls, hot springs, and so much more. It is hard to balance studying and fun, but it is worth it to know that I am learning so much about a new language and a new culture while also having a great time!