This summer I spent 11 weeks in San José, Costa Rica. During this time, I completed 19 credit hours, by studying Biology and Spanish. In Costa Rica, I lived with the sweetest host family. I really felt as if I was an integrated member of their family. I went to school 5 days a week, and the work was intensive. I had only heard about the traveling part of study abroad, and I did not realize the work would be so intensive. My favorite part of my summer was getting to travel with incredible people. We went to the beach nearly every weekend, and I made lasting friendships that I continue to foster.
My favorite trip of the summer was between semesters when my friends and I traveled to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica and Bocas del Toro, Panama. The marine and tropical wildlife made the trip memorable. I am from Tennessee, so I do not often get to see dolphins, starfish, or sloths. My friends and I traveled for 9 days when we had only planned 4 days. The great thing about Costa Rica is that they have such a relaxed and laid back culture. It made me feel as if everything did not have to be planned or rushed. It was a nice change from the American culture.
In school, we had four hour classes. Which seems like a lot, and trust me at the time it was, but looking back I learned a lot through these long classes. The long Spanish classes allowed me to focus and practice my Spanish intensely. We also took field trips, which helped me understand the topics first hand. For example, my Tropical Ecology class went to a reserve in Playa Tortuga where we studied leaf-cutter ants, helped with stingray research, and patrolled the beaches at night for sea turtles.
I have grown a lot through my study abroad experience. I am now more comfortable and confident speaking Spanish, and I actually enjoy it! Before I was timid and uncomfortable with what others would think of my Spanish speaking skills. I have learned to at least understand the gist when people are speaking to me in Spanish. I have also grown in my independence. I have always been relatively independent, but facing a new life in an unfamiliar territory placed me well outside of my comfort zone. I learned how to direction better than I ever have before. Finding your way has proved to be difficult in a new country, but I became quite competent towards the end of my stay in Costa Rica. I have learned to connect with people on a deeper level because I let myself be who I am without worrying about other opinions, and this freedom of letting go, has brought forth many other individuals of similar mindset, giving me many new friendships.
All in all, I would encourage all students to study abroad. It is an indescribable experience. I would get on a plane tomorrow to go again. I loved every aspect of my study abroad, and I cannot wait to travel again.
Lindsey Sherrill is majoring in Biology (pre-professional), Psychology, and Spanish and spent Summer 2019 studying abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica through a Spanish department faculty-led trip organized by CISabroad. Lindsey had the following to say about studying abroad, “A better understanding of life abroad makes for a better rounded individual. Visiting a place and actually living in a place is an astounding difference.”
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