The Right Way to Survive Costa Rica! – by Denyse Martinez

The next day from my arrival in Costa Rica, I had to attend an orientation from the program where I am studying abroad from. CEA had a whole day planed out for all of us. We went over the basic rules of Costa Rica. For example managing our money and how much things cost here. How to use the taxi here in Costa Rica and to always say “ponga la Maria” in order to know how much we will have to pay for the taxi. Instead of the taxi person telling us a false amount.

Later, during our orientation we has schedule a city tour of Downtown San Jose. Little did I know that it was going to be a walking tour? I didn’t mind because I love walking and it’s actually better to know the places in a country where you will be living for 5-weeks.

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But there was something very interesting about Costa Rica’s addresses. They like their landmarks and guide themselves to go to places by them. While in the City Tour we passes a mango tree. Funny thing is that mango trees in Costa Rica are the most dangerous trees there can be. Specially the mango tree located in Alajuela, Costa Rica. Because mangos like to fall form tress and if you are not paying attention it will hurt you. And having a bump or bruise’s in your body is not nice. Also, when people ask you “uh how did you get that” and you telling them it was a mango must be very embarrassing or funny if you embrace it.

Another thing about mango trees is that if by any chance they get cut down or removed. Ticos and Ticas still use the mango tree as a landmark references. Which means it will be hard for people that didn’t know about the mango tree to find it. And again there is a lot of mango trees in Costa Rica. A survival tip that I have is that before you go to any place in the world that you haven’t been to. TO PLEASE do your research about where you are staying, how the culture is, traditions they have, and laws. Because you may never know if something form that place can be really interesting and you might want to share it to the world.

Going back to the mango trees. Costa Rica is well known for their delicious mangos. And how dangerous a mango can be. A fun fact about mangos is that all around the world they are known as the “King of Fruit” and in India a mango tree is a symbol of love and can grant wishes. If you want to life and adventurous time with a mango trees only in Costa Rica you will experience the bittersweet of a mango.

Excursions

The Insights on Veritas from Mi Profesora – by Caroline Miller

For my cultural immersion experience, I choose to interview my Spanish professor about her experiences here at Veritas. My teacher, Roxana Arias Jiménez has been working here at the university for fourteen years. She is one of the few teachers who is bilingual and has known how to speak English for twenty-five years because her husband is from the United States. Her favorite thing about Veritas is her coworkers and all of the fun activities and “fiestas” that take place.

One thing I found interesting that she noted was an organization on campus for teachers known as “Associacíon Solidarista” which provides teachers with an opportunity to save money through investment. Roxana said she was able to take out a loan for her house with this organization with very low interest and, by the end of the year, she was able to almost double her investment. I thought that this was quite amazing! She said that she also likes the schedule she has here because she only teaches classes from one set class and does not have to spend her entire day at the university. Of course, another plus is the good salary offered for teaching here.

When I asked her what other activities are offered at Veritas that may not be offered in the United States, Roxana gave me two possibilities. She said that during Christmas time, the students and faculty participate in something known as “Sonrisas” (smiles) where they go out into the community and give gifs to those children that cannot afford them. Also, Veritas has many Bible study groups.

Roxana has taught many classes in her fourteen years here and among her favorite to teach are: intermediate Spanish conversation (the class I am currently in), cultural heritage, and Latin-American literature in the movies. Because two of her sons attend school in the United States, I was interested to see her opinions in comparing Veritas with Oklahoma State. She said that she believes, although education is cheaper here, there are a lot more opportunities for students in the states to have experiences such as study abroad, mission trips, or other travel options. She believes the academics in the states are much stronger and also the larger schools allow students to meet many more people.

Finally, I asked Roxana what she hopes to teacher her international students other than those things learned in the classroom. She said that she wants her students to gain a respect for the Latin-American culture and accept and love its differences. She also hopes that her students have a yearning to learn more Spanish in the future through other experiences and opportunities.

I think that Señora Jiménez was an interesting person to interview about her views on the university as she knows a lot about the United States and their culture. Thank you, Roxana for sharing your experiences at Veritas and offering your insights!

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Roxana poses with her beautiful smile 🙂

 

Excursions

The Adjustment of “La Pura Vida” – by Caroline Miller

As we all know, “pura vida” means “pure life”. It’s the common saying for the Costa Rican people here. I knew that the pure life would be an adjustment and a time for much change. I knew that I would experience culture shock, but I was unsure how. The second I stepped out of my taxi, I had a dose of culture shock. A complete stranger was helping me with my bags, hugging me, and “kissing” me on the right cheek. From there, the noise of the nearby families, the joy of the people, the grandchildren who walk into your bedroom and bathroom to talk to you, and the nickname of “Caro” you suddenly have been all new changes. Rice and beans for every breakfast, fresh fruits, fast talking, and thousands of ants crowding your sink and toilet–yep, I’m definitely in the tropics of Costa Rica.

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These changes have caused feelings of interest, stress, excitement, and confusion. Here, Costa Ricans don’t like the word “no” so one must say something in a politer way. Telling my mama tica (host mom) I don’t like fried chicken or don’t want a certain food has been difficult, especially with such a different diet. For five weeks, I have decided to take it all in and eat by the way of these people, regardless of how different it may be.

Adjustment is a difficult thing, but just like anything else, I must adapt and will do so well as I always have. The first few days of anything is never easy. For instance, I had six hours of classes (four of which are all talking in Spanish) followed by five hours of homework… all on the first day. I have had to remind myself not to worry or fret but take it all in. In times of difference, nobody expects me to know everything but to breathe and enjoy the experience. After, living with my host family, I am sure I will adapt to the change of a slower, more tranquil life. I am excited to sit back, enjoy the food, travel to other parts of the country, and heighten my level of Spanish. ¡Pura vida!

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Excursions

NUTRITION TICA – by Constance Ebienfa

Whether you’re spending a month, a semester or a year; a key part of the experience is “comida tica”. Comida tica refers to all food associated with Costa Rica; any food cooked with a twist specific to Costa Rica can also be referred to as comida tica. Comida tica is typically healthy and nutritious. It usually has carbohydrates, protein, vegetables, spices, fruits (often times) all in one meal and water is always within reach. A typical example of comida tica is gallo pinto.

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Gallo pinto is the national dish for Costarricense. Just like food from other parts of Latin America, it is made of basically rice and beans but just rice and beans will not be gallo pinto. As you will come to learn, just rice and beans will be called “rice n beans” or simply “arroz y frijoles”. The pinto is set apart with its burst of flavors achieved by including different kinds of vegetables in the meal including cilantro.

Other aspects of nutrition tica to take note of include breakfast and dinner with host families. They are usually meals with at least three or more (situation dependent) components. This means, you get a meal, salad, fruit, homemade fresh juice and so on in personalized menus.

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While you’re not home enjoying breakfast and dinner, the endless possibilities for lunch makes things even more exciting. During lunch, you could be having a sandwich from the panaderia, a full on meal at a soda or a hamburgesa from Don Ro. Even with lunch, comida tica remains healthy. You know this because an empanada goes from having just pineapple in it to a full on meat and vegetables ensemble in a few steps right outside the doors of our dear Veritas. Not to mention the readily available juice squeezed at request or your very own coconut before that elective class (very relatable).

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While fruits are very important to nutrition tica, coming to a tropical country, fruits should already be on your bucket list. Depending on your detecting skills while buying, every fruit tastes great. Do not however ignore the fact that certain ones are better when juiced (you will realize this right after you try cas for the first time.)

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Whether you are left with a watery mouth or heavy anticipation, remember to bring your open mind with you as depending on where you’re from, the food could be a huge culture shock {or not}. If you need a break from being shocked or learning the tica approach to nutrition, you can always indulge in some cheesy goodness at the pizzerias next to Universidad Veritas or down the street or at any of the other international chains across the city. But right after you get through it, enjoy Costa Rica and all the gallo pinto it brings.

Excursions

11 Ways studying abroad in Costa Rica made me healthier – by Melissa King

1. Early to Rise Early to Fall

I never thought I would say this but waking up before 7am everyday is actually a great way to start off my day, as long as I get to bed before 11pm. Class is at 8am everyday so I wake up around 6:45 or 7am get ready for school and then eat breakfast while I enjoy it without having to scarf down my food in a rush. I even have time to read some of my book, play a phone game, or finish my homework.

2. Portion Control

I never realized what a perfect portion size was until coming to Costa Rica when that is all that was given to me. Breakfast and dinner is cooked and provided by the host family and is enough to fill me up but not stuff me, usually. I typically only get one serving.

3. Money Management

Since lunch is not included and provided by the host families, students will have to pay for their lunch themselves. Saving money is important to me because I am not working while I am here. I usually eat what’s convenient and cheap. I have less money to spend and therefore little to waste on snacking.

4. Eating fresh foods

The meals my host family cooks are homemade, fresh, and minimally processed. In general, Costa Rica has many options for fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and seafood.

5. Water water water

Contrary to what many believe, water in San Jose is typically okay to drink. At the university and the International Studies Abroad (ISA) office, water jugs are there for students to use to fill up their water bottles.

6. Walk to class every day

Campus is only about a 10-15 minute walk and the shuttle often is not consistent at actually showing up, so many students walk to campus every day and back. That’s an extra 30 minutes of exercise a day just for going to class.

7. Fun Exercise

The university holds yoga classes twice a week, free Latin American dance class twice a week, and there is a gym nearby where memberships cost only $40 a month and include yoga, spin classes, and other fitness programs. I have been able to fit a quick workout in almost everyday because I have time to do so.

8. Natural you

I have not worn a stitch of makeup since coming to Costa Rica. I also did not bring a blow dryer or any tools to style my hair. I just let my hair air dry.

9. It means no worries

While studying abroad in Costa Rica I have experienced very little stress. My most stressful situations include having to study for tests, decide what to eat for lunch, or where to go for the weekend.

10.Friends

I am in Costa Rica studying abroad with people from all over the world and creating memories with people I may never see again. I get to share these little journeys and experiences with many other students my age.

11.Personal Growth and Discovery

I have had a lot of free time to think and be alone without the distractions I would have in America. I have been able to fine tune in on my personal self, hopes, goals, struggles, and desires. I have the free time to work on projects such as drawing, photography, writing, and even planning for the future.

Excursions

10 Warnings for studying abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica – by Melissa King

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  1. If you are here anytime between May and November, you should know that it very heavily rains almost everyday
  2. You will have to go to class everyday but you are allowed a single absence. More than that and you will fail.
  3. Classes are not just 45 minutes a few times a week, classes are typically 4 hours long and everyday Monday through Friday.
  4. You shouldn’t walk around the city alone, always go with a buddy.king2
  5. Never walk around at night always take a cab or Uber. You can score free rides if you send your code to your new friends who haven’t used Uber before.
  6. Jaco is the closest beach and it is actually over an hour and a half away. Unless you were to fly, rent a car, or miss class, or only go for a very short time you can’t go to the beach during the week. This is because if you take the public bus after class you wouldn’t get to the beach until around 2 or later and the last bus comes to San Jose at between 4-5pm.
  7. The public bus is not as scary as you would think and it is very cheap to use for traveling to other cities. The bus takes a much longer time than the shuttles or flights but these will cost a little bit more.king3
  8. Hostels are abundant and can cost as low as $8 a night. Cheap hotels are also available for as low as $30 a night and often times they include free breakfast.
  9. Costa Rica is a Spanish speaking country, but English is frequently understood in the more touristy spots such as Tamarindo.
  10. You probably won’t be able to do everything you want in your short time in Costa Rica, but you will nevertheless have the time of your life if you plan around these warnings

You’ve been warned!

Excursions

Manuel Antonio – by Caroline Miller

Costa Rica is a vibrant place with many beautiful cities, beaches, and forests. As classes come to an end each week and the weekend approaches, we may find ourselves stressing as to where to venture each weekend.

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This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit Manuel Antonio. On the way to the park, we stopped at the crocodile bridge and saw many crocs sitting in the water. It was an interesting site with a couple neat shops nearby. I highly recommend getting a fresh smoothie! I paid sixteen dollars to spend my next day, in the national park exploring the nature and seeing the exotic animals. Manuel Antonio is on the top twelve list of national parks in the world—so it is a must to check out while in Costa Rica. You will find monkeys, sloths, crabs, lizards, birds, and many other animals. The water is beautiful and the sand smooth; especially if you visit the less crowded side of the beaches. After spending all day swimming in the water, I found myself hiking up a trail to see a beautiful view of the ocean.

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You can also venture into town after your day in the park and grab a bite to eat and shop around. I recommend the restaurant called “Burú” for a cheaper cuisine. Their large casado only costs 4500 mil for a great portion size. Because the park only allows natural foods in the park, I recommend taking smaller snacks and lots and lots of water. Oh and one other tip… you need to reapply sunscreen more than once. Trust me, my sunburn will thank you later. Yes, this burn I have may turn into a tan, but putting a shirt on in the morning is quite painful. I hope the pictures I have included further incline you to learn more about the amazing animals and beach!

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Excursions