First Impressions of Tica Culture in San José

Brandi Gallaher is a student at Oklahoma State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Brandi is currently studying abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica on an ISA Fall 4 program.

Plazoleta BBQ

Well, I’m not from Kansas, but I am from Oklahoma (close enough, right?), and I just arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica this past Saturday afternoon. I just finished my first week abroad, and I only have one word to describe it: OVERWHELMING!

Everything has been so crazy, fast-paced, and just completely different than what I’m used to back in the States. I got here Saturday afternoon, had a Spanish placement test on Sunday, and started classes on Monday. Everything is different here too! In Oklahoma, everything is pretty spread out and flat. The largest building in my town is my university. This is not the case at all in San Jose! All the buildings are so close together and the streets don’t make any sense. Here, they don’t believe in street names or addresses apparently. Unfortunately, I’m directionally impaired so I have no idea how to get anywhere… every day is an adventure! But it’s good Spanish practice since I always have to ask for directions. The smells here are so different too! Oklahoma is mostly fields, and not a lot of cars. My house mate and I went downtown the other day and we got so sick from the smells of smoke, gas, trash, and pollution. I don’t think there are laws against littering here.

Barrio Cordoba

But, the people here are so friendly! Everyone talks to you and when you take a taxi, the driver basically tells you his life story and vice versa in the 15 minute ride. It’s great practice for Spanish too. But, you have to be careful because some of them will be really nice and get you talking, then rip you off at the end. People here are really patient with English speakers as we’re trying to communicate in Spanish though. They really appreciate our efforts, and help us out a lot. I hope to join a Spanish conversation exchange at Veritas University to practice even more. I’ve definitely improved so much even in just this first week!

Vivian, Kylie, & I at Plazoleta BBQ

On Thursday, the university hosted a fiesta for the international students called Plazoleta BBQ. It was a way to show us a little preview of the Tica culture. There was an accordion player, salsa dancers, Spanish singers, and a HUGE parade of drummers. It was so awesome to see everything and it made me want to take a dance class while I’m here. Luckily they offer them at the school for free 2 days a week. This fiesta also showed me that Costa Ricans have no sense of time! The fiesta was supposed to start at 6pm, but things weren’t even ready until about 8pm. Definitely something I’ll have to get used to since I’m used to being 10 minutes early to everything. Despite all the differences, and the overwhelmed feeling I have right now, I’m so excited for this weekend in Dominical, a beach on the Pacific coast, and the rest of my adventures for the next 3 months!

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