Change. It’s heavy in my wallet and necessary to deal with, but eventually enough change can grow to be valuable, like the jar of spare pennies, nickels, and dimes on my desk. Life is that jar of change and, eventually, enough of it adds up and you can buy something of value with it.. My life has been full of changes this year, some good and some heartbreaking, and I have decided the best way to cope with change is to add more until the change results in something wonderful. And voila, here I am in San Jose, Costa Rica, studying abroad for the first time in my life. And what a wonderful experience of change it has been! I have been given the opportunity to be the tourist, the other. It is an opportunity to try new and rewarding things, like ziplining through the forests of Monteverde. A chance to practice a new language with the friendly locals, to fully embrace “tico time,” to enjoy every form of exotic fruit this country has to offer, and take in as many of the breathtaking sights that is Costa Rica.
While most people who have come to study Spanish in Costa Rica are looking to advance their already somewhat progressed experience with the language, I am coming as a novice – or at least, as someone who hasn’t taken a Spanish class in about seven years and spent most of high school struggling to learn Russian. I was the kind of student who was hard-working, but who always let the language class take the backburner. I never enjoyed it, and claimed that foreign languages “weren’t my strong suit”. Fast-forward a couple years and I am sitting in the office of my university’s study abroad coordinator, and he says to me, “Why not Costa Rica? The Spanish program has a group going to VERITAS this summer”. I thought about it, sought the advice of some good friends who had been on the trip before, and suddenly I was signed up. Sometimes, the simplest solution that falls into my lap is there for a reason. And thus, I said yes to Costa Rica and yes to the most valuable change I could find.
I have been here for two weeks and am already speaking more Spanish than I ever thought I could. Sometimes, my host sisters and I are chatting with our Mama Tica at dinner and these Spanish sentences fly out of my mouth and I think to myself in amazement, “did I really just say that in Spanish?”. This language is as delicious on my lips as the savory dishes my Mama Tica makes us every night. I have never enjoyed learning so much. I now realize that with the right mentality and environment, learning a language can be an incredibly fulfilling, enriching and rewarding experience. I needed this change to discover a new passion for the Spanish language, as well as the culture and beauty of those who speak it. Sometimes, all the change adds up to something wonderful. So save your pennies, amigos!