Monday, September 30, 2013

Nicholette L. - Costa Rica - Fall 2013

Hi all! My name is Nicholette and right now I am in Heredia, Costa Rica with IFSA-Butler studying Spanish. It is hard to believe, but I have already been here for over two months and I am over halfway done with my program. I have had so many cool opportunities since I have been here, including all the traveling to national parks and beaches nearby. I even went to Nicaragua, and even though these two countries are really close, it was a really cool to see all of the cultural differences.
I still remember the first week I was here; I was in Liberia, and towards the end of the week I was really struggling. It took me a while to get used to the differences, and the climate was a pretty big adjustment due to the humidity and the constant feeling of dehydration.  Also, since this is a language immersion program, I was pretty drained at the end of each day from speaking only Spanish. This added to the shock, and it only got worse because my host family’s Wi-Fi didn’t work, I didn’t have a phone for the first night, and the road conditions were pretty bad, resulting in some pretty miserable car and bus rides.  The food was good, but it felt like we were getting fed every couple hours, it was always pretty large quantities, and this culture finds it rude to not eat everything you are given or to turn down food that is offered to you. When I was at home, it was hard to just sit in my room because my host family would walk in and talk to me a lot. When Friday came, I was so ready to get on a flight and go home. However, that night after I got home from a fiesta of traditional dances that we performed for our host families, I went into my room and started to clean and organize. This was my main go-to that I established in the CPP-250 class, and after getting organized I felt a lot less stressed about everything and I was able to sleep the full night for the first time since I had arrived.
The following Sunday I came to Heredia, where I have been living ever since. I have been testing out the culture as much as I can, and every day brings a new adventure. So far I have gone to six different Pacific coast beaches, two of which were in the Nicoya Peninsula, two beaches on the Caribbean side, hiked two volcanoes and two lagoons, and I even jumped off a 50 foot waterfall.  Every single weekend trip I have taken has been worth it, and I am looking forward to the last of my weekends here.  Most of my weekends involve exploring the nature and going to the beaches, but I also got a chance to see some of the cities and the churches. The church in the picture was in Granada, Nicaragua, but there are also some pretty cool churches in Costa Rica. I went kayaking in mangroves while I was in Manuel Antonio; in Parque Internacional de la Amistad, which is in Costa Rica and Panama, I got to ride in the bed of a pickup truck to some hot springs; at Rincon de la Vieja, one of the volcanoes, I got to climb a Guanacaste tree, which has really big root systems in order to keep it attached to the ground when it is windy; lastly, I climbed Cerro Chato which is a lagoon in La Fortuna.
One of the best decisions I made was taking no classes Thursday afternoon or Friday because this way I have long weekends every weekend. In regards to classes, it has been an adjustment because the class structure is pretty different, and I’m sure it will be strange to adjust again when I come home. Most of my classes involve group projects that make up most of the grade, and the classes that do have tests put them in a kind of essay/short answer format that may or may not be in groups.

Any doubt or questions, I can do my best to answer and help you out, and if there is anyone who is thinking about coming to Costa Rica, please let me know and I can give you advice on what to bring, where to go, and how to navigate the country!


Blogger Kirstie Waugh said...

Hi from Kirstie Waugh CPP250

Reading your blog made me so very jealous I must go to Germany instead of where you are! I wonder if it was hard to find classes you liked that would also transfer home. How did you choose classes for your country?

Also, it must be very different there from American standards. How did you deal with culture shock? What shocked you the most? Did CPP 250 help you cope with the shock at all?

3:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

H Kirstie!
I think the most shocking part of coming to Costa Rica was all the catcalls I have gotten when I am walking on the street. Being female, I get a lot of unwanted attention from the men here, and it was just something I got used to and now I just tune it out. The other culture shock was the idea of 'tico time', which just means that the Costa Ricans tend to be anywhere from 5-15 minutes late, sometimes even later than that. Even my psychology professor tends to show up around 5:20 for my 5:00 class. At first this really stressed me out, because in the States punctuality is really important. After the first few frustrating times, I realized that it is just a part of the culture and I accepted it. I remember the first day of my psychology class; he came in at around 5:15, and I sat in the corner of the classroom until he got there and wrote a poem about all my feelings in regards to being the only gringa in the class and the fact that the professor was late, and that really helped me. CPP 250 helped me to an extent because I did decide that writing was a good way to channel the frustration, and when I was doing research for the class I learned about the catcalls and 'tico time', but it was still a pretty big surprise how bad it was. In regards to choosing classes, there is a required Spanish class through my program and a couple other program classes that I am taking which are transferring back, so that wasn't hard. I choose the psychology class because I like the material, and eventually I want to work in psychology with the Latino community. For my last class, I was looking to take a course that would count for an AoK and another girl in my program was looking for someone to take a Human Rights course with her so after a quick email to Dr. Lagerwey, I got the course approved. Hope this helps you! Have fun in Germany and be sure to travel to the other European countries while you are there!

3:26 PM  
Blogger Jordin Clark said...


It sounds like Costa Rica was difficult to adjust to. I am going to Argentina and I am very worried about how draining it will be to speak only Spanish and taking classes in Spanish as well. I am minoring in Spanish so I can speak it, but I don't think I am by any means fluent. Do you have any advice for how to deal with the language part?

Jordin from CPP250

2:56 PM  

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