When picturing an ideal semester of study abroad, the majority of us picture ourselves included into a group of Ticos. Tico friendships are important when it comes to immersing yourself in the language and understanding the culture through people other than your familia tica or your professors, but you have to work to create these friendships. With a little bit of effort, you’ll find wonderful amigos Ticos and you’ll be so happy that you put yourself out there.
- Be intentional about expanding your friend group from just study abroad students to Tico students as well. You are going to love some of the study abroad students you meet. Between your roommates, classmates, and people in your program, you are bound to find a few people that you click with amazingly well. This is a beautiful thing, but if you spend all of your time with these people and never try to expand your friend group, you will find yourself leaving Costa Rica after four months with no close friends from here.
- Use your family. If you have Tico siblings, this is a perfect place to start. Ask them if you can go out with them and meet friends through their friends.
- When walking through Veritas, be open to conversation. Yes, Veritas will be one of the few public places you have wifi, but I guarantee if you spend all your free time in the building with your head down, staring at your phone, absolutely no one will approach you. The school is small, so if you move about it with your head up, smiling, people will recognize you as a friendly person. I made my first friend here just by smiling at her and complimenting her outfit.
- Sit by yourself in the library and strike up a conversation (in your best attempt at Spanish) with the Veritas student who sits next to you. There is a good chance he or she will speak great English, but start off by showing that you are trying to understand his or her culture and language as well.
- Use apps or social media. You can continue to use whatever apps you already use in the States here to find friends, just change your profile to express that you are looking for Tico friendship. When you arrive, “like” anything in San José that you think you would want to participate in. On Facebook I “like” Teatro Nacional, as well as a Hula Hoop club that meets in Parque Nacional, and a few coffee shops or restaurants. Through “liking” them, I stay updated on events and gatherings I would not otherwise know about.
- Find something that you love to do, outside of Veritas. I go to a yoga studio called Downtown Yoga. It is only a 15-minute walk from Veritas, but there I have made friends who attend other universities.
- Explore UCR as well. The University of Costa Rica is not too far from Veritas. It has a large campus, similar to many campuses in the states, so many study abroad students feel at home there. Bring your homework to this other campus, sit outside and be approachable. This way, you are giving yourself even more opportunities to make friends with folk you would never encounter at Veritas.
- Follow through after meeting someone. When new friends you their contact information, don’t avoid contacting them just because it feels difficult or awkward. Yes, it is easier to just chat with your friends in English than it is to word a text message in Spanish, but you aren’t here to do what is easiest. Get out of your comfort zone and I promise you will be grateful for the friendships that you make.