Andrew Alcala is a student at Georgia State University and an ISA Featured Blogger. He is currently studying abroad with ISA in Heredia, Costa Rica.
Before departing on my first semester abroad, I received two pieces of advice: “Prepare yourself for the ups and downs of being away from home” and “You will get out of this trip what you put into it.” After three weeks here in Costa Rica, I can say that these tips were very helpful for getting me acclimated.
The first week here was my honeymoon phase. I was excited to be in another country and I would go out every night with other students in my program. During the second week is when things started to change. I started missing my friends and family back home, and the fact that I still didn’t have any local friends didn’t help. I have a history and a psychology class with Costa Ricans; both are three hours long. With the professors speaking Spanish too quickly to understand and the students already in their friend groups, I learned just how hard it is to be the foreign exchange student in class.
Looking at the situation I was in, I decided that I needed to do something drastic to enjoy this study abroad trip as much as possible. That change came in the form of bungee jumping. As someone with a fear of heights (and ownership of some common sense), throwing myself hundreds of feet off a platform with nothing but a cord tied to my feet didn’t seem like a great idea. I told myself, however, that while I am in Costa Rica, I won’t let my fears hold me back.
Arriving at the jump site, I realized two things: One, that at 143 meters, this is the highest bungee jump in Latin America. And two, that I am jumping from a tiny cable car suspended between two mountains. As I watched the wind rock the tiny platform back and forth, I was wondering what I was thinking.
Once on the cable car, the jump supervisors put the equipment on me quickly. In a matter of seconds, I was ready to jump. I had no time to think about what I was about to do as I looked at the valley below. I slowly approached the end of the platform, gathered all the willpower I had, and took the jump. And what an incredible feeling it was! Those few seconds of flying through the air combined with the amazing view was worth every bit of nervousness.
The bungee jumping experience is over, but it also marks the beginning of me getting out of my comfort zone here. During the first couple of weeks, I didn’t go out and meet locals; I was afraid of messing up or not fitting in. Within the past few days, thanks to my new mindset, I have been talking to everyone I see. The feelings of loneliness are starting to disappear, I have friends everywhere I go, and I am adapting to the culture here much more quickly. I can’t wait for the next opportunity to challenge myself.
Are you interested in student life in Costa Rica? Check out “6 Reasons You Should Study Abroad in Heredia, Costa Rica”