The Day-to-Day Tico Life

I would like to start this post out with an apology: my computer stopped working about a week into my trip and I have not been able to connect to the internet on it since then.  I am now just getting settled back into Huntsville, so my posts will be more of a recap on my trip.  Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy reading about my time in Costa Rica.

As a whole, my stay in Costa Rica was absolutely amazing!  Despite my nervousness going into the trip, I enjoyed nearly every second of the time I was there!  So many things were new and exciting (and sometimes a bit surprising), but so many were also familiar and welcoming too.  Upon my arrival, I was very hesitant and was unsure of myself in everything I did.  Fortunately, I quickly grew accustomed to the Tico ways, traveled through some of the country, tried as much food as I could, took buses on my own, and communicated with people in every situation I was presented.  I’d say I came a long way since day one.

We spent the first few days in the country in a series of orientation meetings.  These were designed for us to address any fear we had coming into the country and how to quickly get rid of it.  We discussed aspects of  “culture shock,” natural disasters, health and safety, and money.

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The paper money was actually one thing that I loved! All of the bills were colorful, increased in size as the value increased, and had animals on them (such as sloths, monkeys, and deer!)!

Once we got settled in, my typical day (Monday through Thursday) consisted of taking the bus to the city of Heredia where I took classes at Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica (UNA).  This class was a bit different, but still a good experience.  There were only three of us in the class (me and two other study abroad students from the same group), with one teacher and one assistant teacher.  Neither one of the instructors really spoke any English, so if there was ever something that we did not understand (or they did not understand what we were saying) communicating and resolving the issue was a bit tough (often resulting in me giving up and trying to figure it out later on my own).  In addition to the communication issues, there was also the fact that all three students were at different levels in their Spanish careers.  They say if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.  While “smartest” may not be the best word in this situation, I had studied Spanish for the longest and was definitely in the wrong room…  I do not want to say that I did not get anything from the class, but I definitely could have been challenged more.  While I did practice my speaking, listening, writing, and reading skills in the class, I feel that it was probably the least helpful activity while I was there. (Pictured are photos of the campus and our first and last days of classes)

We only had classes from 9:00-11:30 in the morning, so our afternoons and weekends were pretty free.  Most days, after class, I would return home to eat lunch with my host family and then hang out with them or do homework or various things.  On occasion, we would go to the mall after class, or grab lunch in a cool restaurant.  A few too many times we went to a small cafe near campus.  We stopped in many mornings for coffee, utilized the WiFi and studied there sometimes, tried smoothies and pastries and anything we could, and definitely spent way too much money!  It was a family-run, Venezuelan place (Tepuy Bistro if you ever make your way to Costa Rica!), where the staff was so friendly and helpful!  It quickly became our go-to any time we were free!  Below you can see pictures from some of our trips there (included are some of my Snapchat captions to capture the mood of each day).

Most evenings the two other students (pictured above), my Tico brother and sister, and I would all go to the gym together (yes, I did pay for a gym membership while I was there). This was actually really enjoyable because it was another opportunity to interact with people, hang out with my super cool Tico family, and get a little exercise!

In addition to the everyday stuff, we also went on some cool weekend trips, had weekly cultural activities, explored a little off the books, and found our favorite club!  Another day-to-day thing that I need to discuss is the food (arguably the best part), but that, and the other activities mentioned, should get their own posts.  So I will update you all again soon!  Hope you enjoyed your first look into Costa Rican life!

Until next time,

Natalie

The Journey Begins

My name is Natalie Davis and I will be spending a month studying abroad in Costa Rica. Although this is not my first time traveling outside of the country, traveling by myself, or even visiting a country in which my native language is not spoken, something about this trip feels very different. I think it is the combination of all of those things that make it both so terrifying and exciting. Although I don’t mind traveling alone, the idea of going to a place where I know no one is a pretty scary thought. In addition to that, I am relying on my language studies to even survive! Although I’ve studied Spanish for a long time, I’m now doubting all of my abilities because I’ve never been fully immersed and using it all the time.

I’m flying out this morning and will arrive for lunch to meet the host family that I will be staying with over the next month. Over the next few days I will be in orientations before starting classes Monday. I will keep updating as fun and exciting things begin to happen, but I just wanted to do one practice post from the states before my journey begins.

Wish me luck!

Natalie