Costa Rica: Life Lessons I’ve Learned Abroad

Amanda Arroyo is a student at California Lutheran University and is an ISA Classmates Connecting Cultures  blogger corresponding with the Study Abroad Center at Cal Lutheran. Amanda is currently studying abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica on a Fall 4 program.

Going abroad is one of the best experiences you will ever have the opportunity to take. It’s life changing to say the least. You learn a lot about yourself, your values and you become thankful for the things you’ve been blessed with back home. With only having been here for 2 months, I’ve already learned so many things. I only hope to continue to embrace these lessons as I return home.

A beautiful and relaxing scene at a beach in Tamarindo.
A beautiful and relaxing scene at a beach in Tamarindo.

1. Relax. I’ve always lived a busy life. I’ve always been on the go and have never had time to relax. The moment I stepped foot in Costa Rica, I knew that was all going to change. And it has. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been able to relax and enjoy life in a way that I never knew existed. And now that I’ve experienced life this way I can’t imagine what it would be like without it and how I lived without it for so long. For the longest time I mistook exhaustion with relaxation. But my way of relaxing is giving into my exhaustion and resting. My body is recovering from a life of wear and tear, of constantly being on the go and of never stopping to appreciate the world for what it is. I definitely now have an appreciation for relaxing and will definitely make time for that when I go home.

A group of us found a skating rink here in San Jose and organized a spontaneous skating night!
A group of us found a skating rink here in San Jose and organized a spontaneous skating night!

2. Spontaneity. Life is full of curve-balls and the best way to deal with them is to embrace them for what they are. They make life a little more interesting and keep you on your toes. Since I’ve been in Costa Rica, I’ve fully embraced this whole do-what-you-wanna-do mentality. So life doesn’t have to be planned out every second of every day. I’ve always lived my life based on calendars and planners but now I know that I can do without them. I can live life and just be without having to plan everything.

3. Necessities. We all have those things that we feel we cannot live without. But once you’re in another place without them you find yourself not really needing them. It’s not until we are put in a situation when we realize that some things deemed “necessary” are really not all that necessary. Its nice living the simple life and not having to worry about so many material possessions.

A beautiful nature scene: a waterfall in Arenal near the volcano.
A beautiful nature scene: at a waterfall in Arenal.

4. Nature. Living in suburbia and being close to a city my whole life has never given me the opportunity to stop, think, reflect and enjoy the nature around me. Its always dead. Or fake. I’ve been to places over the years in order to be able to experience such wonderful things in nature but nothing is compared to what I’ve experienced here in Costa Rica. There is nature everywhere, whether you like it or not. Rainforests, beaches, everything. It’s all so breathtaking and is never going to get old.

Me and two of my close friends that I've made while I've been out here, getting ready to go horseback riding together in Arenal.
Me and two of my close friends that I’ve made while I’ve been out here, getting ready to go horseback riding together in Arenal.

5. Friends. Some come and go, others stay and become stronger with you. Some embrace this experience with you and some let you grow on your own awaiting your return to hear stories. I’ve come to know all of these situations in various people. But what this experience has taught me more than anything is the power of friendship. And what I want in a friend. How I want myself to be as a friend. Friends are important and I honestly feel like I’ve met some amazing people who will be long time friends of mine, while I’ve let go of other friends that I left behind. Real friends. Fake friends. True friends. Best friends. Temporary friends. All have helped me grow and get as much as I can out of this experience.

Me, while on a street art hunt around San Jose.
Me, while on a street art hunt around San Jose.

6. Myself. You think you know yourself til you put yourself in a situation you never would have expected to be in. You grow and see yourself change for the better. You learn about yourself. Your likes, dislikes, wants, goals, etc. My changes have been subtle but I know that they will become more apparent upon my return home. But I will say that I’ve learned SO much more about myself in the last couple months than I have my entire life. It’s quite amazing and makes me so much more confident in who I am.

One thought

  1. Reblogged this on Ladyjaneowens's Blog and commented:
    There are so many things one can learn from life and travel abroad. I tried to convey, in my book, “America Huh! I’m Going Home,” a world of learning from my travels to Nigeria Africa as a graduate student at Temple University.

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