Lauren Weihe is a student at Doane College and is an ISA Classmates Connecting Cultures blogger corresponding with students at Pound Middle School in Lincoln, Nebraska. Lauren is currently studying abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica on a Fall 2B program.
Well, I’ve survived a hectic first week of classes down in Costa Rica. My typical school day looks something like this: get up around 6:30-6:45, breakfast at 7, class from 8-12, lunch and occasionally ISA meetings, a couple hours of break (also known as homework time!), then class until 6 or 7 at night. The class schedules here are much different, and in many ways more demanding than at home, yet at the same time much more relaxed. Although I spend 6 to 8 hours every day in class, I don’t often have much homework (unless it’s for my conversation Spanish class, for which I have 3 oral presentations this week).
Go anywhere in Costa Rica and you will immediately notice that punctuality is more a suggestion which can accommodate your schedule, not an absolute rule that dictates your daily life. School is no exception—it is not only likely your teacher will be 5-10 minutes “late;” it’s the norm. So although the sheer number of hours spent in the classroom can feel overwhelming, the Costa Ricans know that sometimes you need to loosen up and relax.
One way I’ve discovered the students relax here is through activities offered by the university such as cooking classes, yoga, self-defense classes, and dance classes. Mostly because it was free and I figured “why not?” I decided to go to dance class last Tuesday. The majority of the people there were international students like me who wanted to try something new, but there were one or two locals as well.
I am a terrible dancer, there is absolutely no doubt about that. It sort of falls under the category of skills that require at minimum some semblance of coordination (also in this category would be sports of any kind, walking without tripping over something, you get the idea). But the wonderful thing about taking a class such as this is that everyone thinks they’re a bad dancer, no one knows what they’re doing, and they’re too focused on their own actions to pay attention to what everyone else is doing. It is surprisingly easy to let go of any insecurities or feelings of self-consciousness.
Once class began, the students started moving in a big mob to their own interpretation of the steps, a result of attempting to mimic the teacher’s movements but lacking the experience and space to copy them exactly. I’m sure there were many feet stepped on and many collisions. We learned the basic steps of both merengue and salsa, two popular dances in Latin America. Once we had mastered them as well as we were going to, we partnered up and danced in pairs, learning new moves as partners while constantly dancing the basic steps we learned individually. Of course there were too many mistakes to count and much improvisation, but at the end of the night, it was still a fun experience. Maybe not something I’d do again, but it was still an experience I wouldn’t have wanted to miss.