When starting to write and talk about my study abroad experience, I have found it hard to explain. I have so much to say that I have nothing to say. One thing I can confidently state is that studying abroad has changed me for the better. Through new experiences and stepping out of my comfort zone I have gained so much. I hope to inspire other people to studying abroad and explore the crazy wonders of the world.

So, where do I start? My study abroad experience took place in San Jose, Costa Rica. To give you a rough weekly schedule: I had school Monday through Friday, went out with friends usually on Tuesday nights, and then on weekends traveled to some other places in Costa Rica.

The actual study part in studying abroad was a lot different than in the U.S. The school, Veritas University, in San Jose was a competence-based learning system. That differs from the U.S. style by less testing and more project, hands on, class discussion, and group work. That aspect of school was really enjoyable. I am a big fan of class discussions and project-based learning.

The classes I took while studying abroad were Spanish 1 & 2, Major World Religions, Ecological Photography, and Alternative Health Approaches. I enjoyed all my classes, but the one class that stood out to me the most was Alternative Health Approaches. This class is one that can be applicable in every person’s daily life to improve it. The Holistic way of health has changed my perspective of my personal health standard and the ways I go about it. Because of this class, I have gotten into yoga and meditation. My final class portfolio and presentation was on yoga. Another thing I loved about the classes were the field trips. I’m pretty sure the last time I took a field trip was in 4th grade; until this year, in Costa Rica. The field trips I went on were: yoga in Monteverde (mountains), photography excursion in mountains, Buddhist gathering place, and market in Cartago to practice Spanish. I loved the hands-on experience that each class required students to have.

Outside of class during the week some activities I would do were: play frisbee at the park, go on hikes, try new places to eat, workout, and try out different clubs. The new friends one makes while studying abroad was one of the best parts! You do and experience all the new adventure with them. Thus, one can get really close with new friends. And trust me, it’s not that hard either. Everyone else there is there for the same reasons. To travel, experience new things, and study. So that puts everyone on the same wavelength, making it easy to get along and make friends with everyone.

Now onto the weekend excursions. Being in the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose, made it easier to travel cross country. San Jose had a bus terminal to every corner of the country. Well, once you figure out how to work the public transportation too. That was a whole other battle for me; especially because I’m not familiar with ones even in the U.S.

For the month of January, my program, AIFS, took us on several weekend trips. This really helped with giving the study abroad students confidence and an idea of how to travel in Costa Rica. My program had several excursions including: weekend trip to Monteverde, weekend trip to Manuel Antonio, several hikes, coffee plantation tour, hot springs in La Fortuna, and waterfalls.

With all that said, the study abroad students did a lot of traveling with our program, but also much more outside of it. That is the part that shapes your character because there is bound for at least one thing to go wrong. But you learn to just roll with the punches. For example, not pre-buying bus tickets and having to stand on a bus in the isle for a 6 hour ride back to San Jose. The good thing is, if you’re smart, you’ll learn your lesson the first time. After that, I’m proud to say I didn’t stand on a bus for 6 hours again. To give a short outline of the several places I traveled while in Costa Rica: Monteverde three times, La Fortuna twice, Manuel Antonio, Jaco, Playa Bandera, Tamarindo, Puerto Viejo, several day trip hikes, and Cañas. I know I am missing some places too. So, for a 17 week program, I definitely would say I juiced the heck out of it.

That leads me to some advice for future study abroad students. Get everything you can out of being abroad. Embrace the awkward situations, make new friends, make it a point to step out of your comfort zone. You will be completely submerged in a new culture. Personally, I became way more observant while abroad. So many new things to take in. And I hope to keep that quality as I return home and go back to “normal life”. Also, be ready to respond to adversity. When traveling and living in a new country, things will be different and things will go wrong. It is just approaching these situations with an open and positive attitude.

To bring it all together. Through studying abroad with AIFS I have traveled many places I didn’t think I would be able at 18 years old. Because of it, I truly do feel like I have a better perspective and outlook on life. And the final advice for future students is, juice the heck out of it. It’s a once in a lifetime experience. Now the real question is, where to next?

Jesyah White is majoring in Entrepreneurship and spent the Spring 2019 semester studying abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica  through AIFS. Jesyah had the following to say about studying abroad, “All the cliches heard prior to studying abroad are cliches for a reason, they are true. It is crazy how one abroad experience can change your life.”

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