Mary Gross is a student at Concordia University Portland and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in San Jose, Costa Rica.
When I first arrived in Costa Rica, I was excited, nervous, and overwhelmed. I found myself immediately facing culture shock, a language barrier, and an overall feeling of displacement. I hadn’t practiced my Spanish in years, and I knew very little about the Costa Rican way of life. Having a tico host family made the transition into my semester abroad as smooth as it could possibly have been. My host family has made my experience here exponentially better. I can honestly say that I feel at home with my host family, and here’s why:
6. Cultural Immersion
Every country has their own unique culture, and Costa Rica is no exception. The native people here, called ticos, have many special customs. Living with a local family in Costa Rica has given me the insider’s view of the culture here. For example, we run on “tico time” in Costa Rica, which essentially means that deadlines and meeting times here are inconsequential. Unfortunately, “tico time” is not an excuse my professors accept for tardiness or late homework, but “tico time” is a very real concept in the Costa Rican social world.
5. Costa Rican Food
I eat like a king everyday here. As an ISA student, my host family provides me with a home-cooked breakfast and dinner todos los dias. Before going to school for the day, I am always fed a delicious breakfast. More often than not, I eat a typical Costa Rican dish called Gallo Pinto for breakfast served with juevos, platanos, jamon, queso, y fruta. After a meal like that, I feel ready to face my intensive Spanish class early every morning.
4. Costa Rican Fruit
One of the first places I went when I arrived in Costa Rica was a fruit market. In Costa Rica there are fruits I had never even seen before, much less tasted. The fruit is all locally and organically grown. Es muy delicioso tambien. I get to eat fresh fruit and drink homemade fruit juice everyday. I will never get tired of the fruit here. ¡Que rico!
3. Tico Affection
I am greeted every morning with a kiss on the cheek from my mama tica and I receive a kiss on the cheek before I go out. Los besos are just one of the many ways ticos show affection for one another. My mama tica gives me complements frequently and she even calls me by a nickname. She refers to us host-students as “gringitas.” Yes, we are gringos here, but she says it purely with affection. I feel very loved by my host family.
2. Spanish Practice
As I mentioned earlier, my Spanish ability was not very high when I arrived in Costa Rica. But now, after having more than 3 hours of Spanish class everyday of the week, as well as living with a tico family, I know my Spanish has improved a ton. ISA wasn’t kidding when they said this would be an intensive language program! Because I live with a host family, I get to practice my Spanish daily, even though I’m not always in the mood. In the end, I know that repetition and practice is going to make all the difference. Each member of my host family, including my housemates, has helped me improve my Spanish, and for that I am grateful.
1. I am treated like family
In Costa Rica it is common for family members to live very close to one another. My mama tica’s house is literally connected to her parents’ house. I have gotten to meet her parents, her children, and her grandchildren. My mama tica loves to host international students, and she’s been hosting for about 30 years! Ticos are friendly and affectionate people. I am grateful for my host family because I truly feel like a part of the family here. I have three housemates, a mama tica, and a nanny whom I absolutely adore. I know that it is because of my host family that I feel at home here, despite the fact that I am living in a foreign country. I would not trade my host family for the world and I cannot imagine my semester abroad without them.
The world awaits…discover it.