So what brought me on this two month journey almost 43,000 miles from my home this summer? To be honest, it was mostly a gut feeling. I tend to make big decisions based on these overwhelming feeling I have that I should just do something. It sounds weird and people might think that these big steps I take are a bit naive and based off of very little solid reasoning but, so far, these decisions have been some of the best choices I’ve made. For example, my decision to attend Saint Anselm College, and my decision to switch my major after my freshman year to nursing (which would require an extra year of school) were both decisions I made that were primarily driven by a gut feeling that it was the right thing to do.
Studying in Costa Rica appealed to me because I have always wanted to spend time in a Spanish-speaking country to improve my Spanish fluency and I also wanted to see the natural beauty of Costa Rica, being that I love nature. After spending a month taking classes here, I will service-learn in a clinic for a month which will enable me to use the Spanish I have learned in a medical setting, a skill that I want to develop so that I can communicate with any Spanish-speaking patients I will be sure to have in the future as a nurse.
Anyway, May 23rd… The day I had been counting down to for the past several months finally arrived and I did not feel as excited as I thought I would. I woke up with a pit in my stomach, extremely nervous. I honestly just wanted to stay in bed (and no, not just because I was waking up at 2:30 in the morning) and then stay home for the rest of the summer. I love my town, especially in the summer because it is near the ocean, and I also wanted to spend time with my family since I have been at school all year and was away from home most of last summer also. I kept telling myself that I will not regret the experience and this feeling of not wanting to go would soon go away. So I had my flight from Boston to DC and then had a two hour layover. During the layover I honestly contemplated flying back to Boston and not going to Costa Rica. I knew no one doing this program, I had never flown to a foreign country alone, and I missed my family. I was so surprised that I felt this way because I had been so excited for the trip beforehand.
I got on the plane, despite my second thoughts about this whole experience and slept or read the whole time so that I would not have the time to think about how nervous I was. I got off the plane in Costa Rica and went through the whole song and dance of customs, baggage claim, etc., still so unsure about what I was getting myself into. I walked out of the airport and there were people all over the place trying to get me to take their taxi and then all of a sudden, I saw someone holding an ISA sign and I was so relieved. I walked over to them and they brought me to the bus where many students were waiting outside for me, the last person to arrive that would be taking that bus. Everyone that I talked to was extremely friendly and a Costa Rican woman walked by with a puppy that she let us all pet. This sequence of positive human interactions slowly began to ease my worries about this trip. We got on the bus and dropped off the ISA students who would be staying in Heredia and then headed to the ISA office where our host mothers would be picking us up. I loved looking at the surrounding landscape as we drove through the mountains to our destination.
My host mother, or Mama Tica as I now call her, was the last of the mothers to arrive. While this may be unsettling to most, it was oddly comforting to me because my real mother in the US is late for everything so it brought a smile to my face. She came with her son who is twelve years old and he took charge of my 50 lb (exactly—pretty proud of my packing skills) suitcase. She welcomed me into her home so kindly and I am so content with where I am staying. I have my own bedroom, a comfy bed bigger than my twin at home, a closet bigger than my closet at home, a shower with hot water, a beautiful view of the city and mountains from the back door, and a super kind roommate.
After I unpacked my things, I sat down in the living room to watch some TV with my roommate. Everything is dubbed in Spanish, which is quite entertaining since familiar actors now have completely different voices and are speaking Spanish. They have a lot of similar stations to Food Network, TLC, Animal Planet, and movie channels. Mama Tica’s sister and niece came over for dinner that night and I loved seeing how close they all are as a family. This made me wish that my distant family lived closer to me and could come over to my house for dinner on a whim. They were all so friendly and welcoming to me that I almost feel like a member of the family. Mama tica stressed to me and my roommate that for these two months, this is our home too and she wants us to be as comfortable as we are in our own homes. Her hospitality meant a lot to me and continued to make me feel better about this whole experience. I am looking forward to getting into a routine here, which I hope will make me feel even more at home in this beautiful country!
So what’s my main piece of advice from this post? Whether your nerves/doubts about study abroad come months before, during travel, or a couple weeks into your experience, wait it out and keep telling yourself you will regret it if you were to turn around now and miss out on all of the possibilities this experience provides!