My great aunt served in the Peace Corps in Africa during its first years of operation. One day, her friend invited her to come chase wildebeests. She was tired that day and although she had never even seen a wildebeest, let alone chase one, she decided to stay home that day. When her friend returned, the friend was overjoyed about the whole experience, saying it was incredible. My great aunt told this story to my sister before my sister departed to serve in the Peace Corps in hopes that my sister would take her advice to “chase wildebeests,” meaning embrace every single opportunity available to you. As I left for Costa Rica, my sister told me the same thing and I have been trying to do just that.
I really enjoy time to relax, read, and do things on my own but I know that if I were to do this in Costa Rica, I would be missing so many unbelievable opportunities. At Universidad Veritas, there are several extracurricular activities open to students such as dance class, yoga, cooking class, self-defense class, etc. Last night, I decided to go to the dance class because when else will I have the chance to get free lessons in salsa, meringue, etc? And no, I am not a dancer in any way shape or form but this is such a unique opportunity that I could not pass up. I went and it was so much fun. I’m not saying I was good by any means but that is not what matters. I got to meet new people and learn a little bit about dance while having a fun time. It is yet another way to better embrace Costa Rican culture. I am also taking a cooking class which takes place once a week. This week we made picadillo de papa de carne, a traditional Costa Rican dish consisting of potatoes and beef in a delicious sauce served with tortillas. It is so wonderful to be able to learn how to cook Costa Rican dishes from a tica and we even get a copy of each recipe to bring home! This first class that I went to was the last class for three students that are leaving Costa Rica on Saturday and we spent the time talking and they shared so much valuable information about the area with us. I never would have thought that going to a cooking class would have helped me learn so many tips about living in Costa Rica but this is the perfect example of how when we “chase wildebeests” we get much more out of an experience than we anticipate and would have missed had we just stayed at home.
There are other ways to “chase wildebeests” while abroad. For example, I am a relatively introverted person and am very quiet around people I do not know but now that I came to a country with literally no one I know, I have made the effort to go out of my comfort zone and interact with everyone I can. It has been really wonderful meeting so many new people and I have been delighted at how kind everyone has been. I have also tried every single food that my mama tica has offered me. When else will I have the chance to try such a variety of home-prepared Costa Rican foods? ISA, my study abroad program, offers tours during the weekend and one of the options is to go canyoning which includes rappelling down a waterfall, ziplining, etc which honestly sounds pretty scary to me but I know I will regret it if I do not go so here I go again, chasing wildebeests.
So my advice to you is to chase wildebeests in whatever way/s you see fit to your experience! You never know what you will get out of it and you don’t want to be the one who hears about how wonderful an experience was and then regret turning down the opportunity.