Studying Abroad in Costa Rica: Newbie Jitters

Kelsi Brooks is a student at Georgia College & State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Kelsi just finished studying abroad with ISA in San José, Costa Rica.


You have arrived at your destination, please undo you seat belt and go have an amazing adventure in Costa Rica! Walking out of the airport and boarding a bus or car, you are kind of nervous and relieved to finally have landed. You have messaged all of your friends and family that you have made it safely, and are eager to explore your new home.

Often in the United States, we take for granted the cell phone service, the Wi-fi, and the ability to make a phone call without being hassled by expenses. Communication between peers is not easy with out these tools: Facebook, Skype, FaceTime, etc. As a foreigner in a new place and environment, one must adapt to the local culture.

As a “newbie”, you will learn to do the following:

1. Learn how to face your fears

When entering the country, it is normal to be afraid. However, it is up to you to stay that way or not. You can make great strides to claim the identity that you want to leave with and carry with you when you get back home to the States. Life is too short to be afraid and to not try something new. I would encourage you to take time and enjoy your experience abroad. Be bold.

If something intimidates you, make a list about how to conquer your fear throughout your journey.

If you are afraid of losing your personal items, learn ways to be proactive. What are some of the tips that were talked about in orientation that could help you be more responsible for your things? What could you do differently in Costa Rica, in order to give yourself more confidence?

One thing that most people forget to tell you, is that studying abroad is a big lesson in controlling what you choose to be afraid of. For some, it is the fear of having their personal items stolen, for some it is to speak Spanish to a native Spanish speaker and butchering the Spanish language, but overall I think it is the fear of being misunderstood.

2. Learn to not assume you know a culture

A lesson you will learn over time: Do not be quick to make assumptions about the Tico culture, and always ask if you have any doubts.

Within the first month of arriving in Costa Rica, the majority of people will experience culture shock in one aspect or another. For some, the symptoms exhibit themselves more than others. One experiences culture shock when trying to adjust and adapt to culture other than their own. As one will notice, lifestyles in Costa Rica are not traditional to the mentality that we have in the United States, and often involve adjusting to.

For instance, for me the hardest thing about adjusting to life in Costa Rica was the fact that you were not allowed to flush toilet paper down the toilet. The sewage and pipe conditions in Costa Rica are not fool proof, and putting toilet paper down the drain could easily clog up the plumbing. Another thing was the fact that you did not have the right-away to cross the street. One had to be very careful. People would rather speed up in order to get to where they are going, rather than let you cross the street. The power of courtesy was no match in comparison to their horse power. Eventually, I became a pro at jay walking.

One must give up their pride and learn to adapt to the culture, in order to have an awesome experience while studying abroad.

Pura vida!

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