New Shoes in Heredia

Laurel Dispenza is a student at Olivet Nazarene University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Laurel is currently studying abroad with ISA in Heredia, Costa Rica.


I wonder what I sound like to them. I wonder how bad my accent is or if they think I talk like a little kid. I wonder if they understand what I’m trying to say, or if they’re receiving the message I’m trying to convey. I know I’m still learning, and thank God for grace, but I wonder what they think of the way I speak. I find myself comparing myself to the other gringos around me, but in reality, what I perceive may be entirely different from reality. Who am I to say how good my Spanish is? I still can’t even express myself adequately. So I will humble myself and ask for help, learn to laugh when I can’t speak correctly, learn to relax, embrace the “pura vida” life, and release any kind of control I hold so tight.

paint party

They were fine before I got here and they’ll continue to be fine when I leave. So why do I find myself expecting them to want to come running to meet me. There are many other Americans here, so what would make me any different? How can I think that it will be like I am in China when I am clearly in Costa Rica? Yes, intimidation has been an obstacle I’ve had to tackle, but when I’ve got nothing to lose and nothing to prove, it only makes sense to go for it. Meet a new friend and struggle with how to greet them: the battle between do I know them well enough to stop and talk or do they just think I’m that weird American? “Besos” or handshakes, introductions or not, and when I’m still learning the language, what do we talk about?


The worst that could happen is they write me off as strange and never talk to me again, but that’s not really a loss since I had never talked to them in the first place. But the sweetest thing is when I step out to meet someone and they receive it. They even ask questions and offer themselves if I ever need help. I’ve met some of the sweetest people that way, people who I can confidently call a friend and who are patient enough to attempt to listen and understand. I don’t know what they’ll think of me initially, but all I can do is step out in vulnerability and relax, trusting that things will work out in the end. Some days will be hard, but some days will be easy and I’ll make friends. Nothing to lose, nothing to prove, so forward I will move.

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