The Importance of Perception – Caroline Miller

I have been in Costa Rica for exactly one week now and, in four of those days, I have lived with my host family. Adjusting to a new living style, new home, sharing the bathroom with two others, and eating food that I would never dream of eating in the states is much different. As a very type-A “plan ahead” person, the “pura vida” lifestyle has been a bit of a difficult adjustment at times. I have the urge to constantly “go, go, go” and plan everything. After the first day of classes and five hours of depleting homework while running on little sleep, I have finally come to my senses (well… at least somewhat).

I believe that this journey is all about perception. Being my own worst critique is what I do best and I want everything to be perfect. Yet, after these four days, I have realized that, in this culture, perfectionism is not a plausible characteristic. Therefore, I have realized the importance of perception. It has been easy for me to become overwhelmed by the work I have to get done, the excursions I have to plan, and the exercise I have been unable to do. But here, I realize, I need to take a step back and change the way I look at things. After all, I have only been here for four days and I cannot expect to know everything or have a set routine.

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Every day, I constantly remind myself to take a step back and be in the present. Right now, it does not seem like my five weeks are going by quickly. Everything seems frozen and slow, but I am sure that just as quickly as I am writing my first blog, my last one will be coming sooner that I think. I want to urge each of you to try and take one step back and look at the big picture. If you try in your classes, remember that is your best self and that is all you can do. It can be hard to find that balance between experiencing the culture, doing well in your classes, taking care of yourself, and enjoying yourself.

The amount of information we have received is overwhelming, but I think back on the beginning of my college journey and the new world I entered. Being here, in Costa Rica, is just like the beginning of anything—it’s different, difficult, overwhelming, exciting, scary, and every other imaginable emotion. But… it’s worth the change of mind. Fight the urge to allow your mind to tell you that you cannot have a great experience. Take it all in and enjoy the casados, frutas frescas, arroz, frijoles, and all other typical foods. You have five weeks, so step out of your normal routine you can return to, open your mind, and live this tranquil life the best you can.

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Excursions

7 Places you could go when visiting Costa Rica – by Melissa M. King

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Photo by : Melissa M. King

Costa Rica is home to such a diverse population of wildlife and unique places to explore. It would be very difficult to fit all the activities in a short trip to the country. Though it won’t make it any easier to decide which places to visit. I have listed seven popular destinations and activities for Costa Rica.

  1. San Jose

You could visit the Museo de Oro Precolombiano also known as the Gold Museum. There are over 1600 artifacts dated 500AD to 1500AD.

Also the Museo del Jade is another option.

  1. Arenal Volcano

You could take a dip in the many hot springs Arenal has to offer, go canyoning and repelling down waterfalls, and even visit the La Fortuna waterfall and river.

  1. Monteverde

Famous for their cloud forests, nature, hanging bridges, and zip lining. You could even go on a coffee tour or visit the Cheese Factory.

  1. Rio Celeste

Located in the rainforest of Tenorio Volcano National Park, this bright blue river is surrounded by things such as hot springs, a blue lagoon, and even a magnificent bright blue waterfall.

  1. Manuel Antonio

Located on the central Pacific, there is so much to do here and abundant wildlife to observe. You can visit the beach, or go on the various tours for snorkeling, fishing, scuba diving, or even tour the mangroves as a ride along. You can enjoy nature in the canopy tours, go horseback riding, river rafting, and so much more.

  1. Nicoya Peninsula

Enjoy bioluminescent views on the southern end of the Nicoya Peninsula at Playa Organos, Hotel Vista Las Islas offers a night tour on the river.

  1. Puerto Viejo

On the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica you can enjoy the unique cultural lure, wildlife, and white sand beaches all with proximity to national parks and refuges.

 

Excursions

Finding what Pura Vida means to you… – by Mary Claire Kramer

-Hola, como esta?

-Pura Vida

A typical Costa Rican greeting that boggled my mind at first. It seemed unauthentic for people to respond with “pure life” when asked how they were doing. Therefore, I made it my goal to find my meaning to Pura vida. In the beautiful country of Costa Rica, this was not a challenge.

It was a spur of the moment decision to throw my hammock into my already packed suitcase. I figured that I probably would not have the chance to enjoy it, or that it would be a hassle to put up each time I wanted to use it. Thankfully with the adjustment of a few clothes, and the removal of an unnecessary sweatshirt, my Eno hammock fit perfectly.

On the average weekend in Costa Rica, you can find me tied between two trees staring out at the gorgeous views that each destination has to offer. Every new place that we go, I look for two trees just the right distance apart so that I can hang my hammock. My level of relaxation reaches an all time high as I cocoon myself into the fabrics folds. As friends pass by, they join me for a swing and we allow ourselves to be in the moment enjoying our surreal surroundings. To me, the hammock life is the true physical embodiment of “Pura Vida”

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Hammocking in Manuel Antonio

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The view from my hammock in Arenal

Excursions

An Everyday Adventure – by Elizabeth Clark

For some people, one of the most difficult things when you go anywhere new is to try new things. It’s so easy to go a few new places every now and then and then think the next day “well I really liked that one place, let’s go back there tomorrow.”

Searching out opinions of locals and natives on their favorites is a great way to both make friends and learn about other options for short trips and fun times. The best tico friend I’ve made so far, I met somewhere that was suggested to me by other ticos.

Living with a host family truly gives you an authentic Costa Rican experience. If you want to continue with that, go the places that they go, and do the activities that they do. This includes popular restaurants, museums, parks, and more!

It’s also really easy to get into a routine of going to class, eating somewhere close to Veritas for lunch, and walking home for dinner after hanging out with a few friends as if you’re not somewhere new. The secret is to never stop exploring. Especially for students only here for four weeks, that month will go by much sooner than you think, and all of a sudden it’s a week before you leave, and you’re barely done half the things you wanted to. Of course some days you’ll have to study a little harder for a test the next day and can’t go out, so don’t be too hard on yourself, but try to set a deadline for things that you definitely want to do or see, then also allow extra time for other excursions that you may hear about later.

Sometimes in cities with high rates of tourism, there may be a restaurant or attraction that’s popular or highly rated online, only because it’s a favorite among tourists and it may remind visitors of home. While it may be easy to get homesick and sometimes a meal that tastes a lot like your mother’s cooking or a park that feels like the one near your home is just what you need; however, if you’re only visiting places or eating at restaurants that remind you of home, are you really getting the full Costa Rica experience?

Excursions

Soccer, Fútbol, or Football? – by Madi LaChance

Soccer or “fútbol” has always been a massive part of my life. I knew that people in Latin America would be in accordance with my particular sport preference at least more so than what I was used to in the United States. What I did not anticipate, was the extent as to which this would be true.

Some things I have observed in my time at Costa Rica; anywhere there is a flat(ish) surface especially if it is grass, it is a potential soccer pitch. There are soccer fields all over the place, and nice ones too. I observed this in all kinds of little towns on my way to and from my weekend adventures. I noticed that it was very common for the nicest structure in towns or cities to be some kind of soccer field. This is as well very apparent in the capital, San Jose, looking at the “Estadio Nacional”. Many fairly run down looking cities as well, I was surprised to see a covered arena for playing, or a nice looking turf field.

Another thing I noticed was that the world really does seem to stop spinning during a big game. I had the privilege to be in the country during a big game in the “Copa America” between the United States and Costa Rica, which would ensure one of the teams a spot outside of the group stage of the tournament. This was exciting to me aside from the fact that I happened to have a class at the exact same time as the game. However, following a bit of class time my teacher decided we should all watch the game, so learning about parasites was put to the side until the game came to a close.

Finally, if you want to make a friend, talking about soccer is never a bad way to start. One of the best conversations I had with my host brother revolved around soccer. I as well found myself discussing games and teams with people such taxi drivers, or other such natives.

Even if you’re not that into soccer tune in if there happens to be a game on, watch it. If not to enjoy the atmosphere of a group of people who are all very passionate about the same thing, then to have something to bring up when you find yourself in a lull in conversation with a local. Because chances are, if there’s a big game, they are watching.

Excursions

Manuel Antonio: A How to Guide – by Emily Bower

Attention all study abroad students! Do you like clear blue ocean waves and sandy beaches? What about monkeys, sloths, and iguanas? What about both, together in one place? Lucky for you, Costa Rica has it all, located in the beautiful town of Manuel Antonio. The combination of the beach and wildlife made the decision to visit Manuel Antonio an easy one, and it’s a trip I would highly recommend to anyone studying abroad in Costa Rica!

At first, it seemed daunting to my friends and I to plan our own excursion, as there were numerous things to figure out before leaving. Transportation, where to stay, what to do, where to go, and for how many people were our primary concerns. To our surprise, the entire process was much easier than it seemed, with minor bumps along the road.

The public bus from San José to Manuel Antonio was about three and a half hours long for roughly $9 each way, and was a relatively easy trip to make. We decided to stay at a hostel, as it was much more cost efficient compared to the price of a hotel. Using http://www.hostelworld.com, we compared the prices and features of different hostels to find the best one. (Pro tip: check to make sure linens are provided at the hostel – no one wants to bring their own sheets!) The hostel we spent the weekend at is called Beach Packers Hostel (only $15 per night) and is located extremely close to the public beach, Playa Espadilla. The owner and staff were incredibly friendly, and the hostel itself was very pretty.manu1

On Saturday morning, after a delicious breakfast of pancakes and fresh pineapple, we walked to the Manuel Antonio National Park. The entrance to the park is $16, but is absolutely worth the cost. When entering the park, you walk through the jungle where you are able to see all kinds of animals and plants in their natural habitats. Eventually, the forest gives way to the beach. The beach is still Playa Espadilla, but is much less crowded, and the water is even bluer! My friends and I decided to pay for a private walking tour through the park with a guide, only $10 per person! A guide isn’t necessary to enjoy the park, but we never would have seen all of the wildlife without his help. My favorites were the monkeys!

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After the tour, we spent the rest of the weekend enjoying the beach and town. Between the animals, the ocean, and the chance to bond with new friends, Manuel Antonio is an experience I’ll never forget. If you’re looking to make the most of your time in Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio is the place for you!

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Excursions

Fueling Wanderlust – by Fueling Wanderlust

A few years ago I came across the word ‘wanderlust’ while scrolling online. My interest was piqued by the term, as it was in an article on traveling, so I looked up the definition. It turned out that the definition was an extremely simple one that took me only one look to retain, “a strong desire to travel.” When I read this definition, I instantly thought it was meant for me. While I do still believe I was right at the time, I hadn’t actually travelled to any magical far off places— I simply knew I would. I was sixteen when I decided that my desire to travel was far more than a want but an absolute need; however, I did not have the means or the support to take flight until I reached college where the options seem to be endless. From scholarships to programs seeking university participants I felt like I had struck gold. As a freshman I decided my first grand venture would be to spend a month in the country of Costa Rica. At this point, I have been here for a grand total of 14 days. While this doesn’t seem like long, I can honestly say that my sense of ‘wanderlust’ has been fueled to an insatiable height. While staying in San Jose and studying at Veritas has been wonderful due to the welcoming people, beautiful parks, interesting museums, and, best of all, incredible food, I must say the weekend excursions are what make this adventure so worthwhile.playa1

Keep in mind, I have only been here for two weekends so still to come is a trip to Montezuma where I will get the opportunity to visit a waterfall, snorkel in the Gulf of Nicoya, kayak through a bioluminescent river, and see capuchin monkeys up close and personal. Also, in my final weekend, a trip to Monteverde where I will go to Extremo Park and zip line at incredible heights, swing like Tarzan across the canopy and, my biggest adventure yet, bungee jump from the highest point in South America. My advice to anyone planning a trip to Costa Rica, or to anywhere for that matter, is to take the time to research your options and to make a bucket list of things you wish to experience while in the country. Your time abroad is only as incredible as you make it, so start planning now!

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Thus far I have walked along the clear-watered beach of the Caribbean, pulled an all-nighter while exploring the small reggae town of Puerto Viejo, snorkeled over coral reefs, witnessed the most colorful sunrises of my life, hiked through incredibly green rainforests, swam in the bright blue waterfall of Rio Celeste, and zip lined through the canopy above rushing water in San Louis Park.

Excursions