Pura Vida. In Spanish, it literally means, “pure life”. It is used as a greeting, a farewell, to ask for a favor, to say thank you, and everything in between. Over the course of 11 weeks in Costa Rica, I learned that Pura Vida is more than just a phrase, it is a way of life. I changed drastically this summer, and although I took classes, it was the experiences outside of the classroom that shaped me and transformed me. That is why instead of writing about Costa Rica, I am choosing to write TO Costa Rica. Because for me, Costa Rica was more than a destination; it became a part of who I am.

So, my dear Costa Rica,

Thank you for teaching me.

But not about conjugations, correct translations, and flawless grammar.

Rather, thank you for teaching me about how slowing down and going with the flow is easier and more enjoyable than fretting over an itinerary.

Thank you for teaching me that joy is not always found within the obvious, and that laughter can be created, no matter the circumstance.

Thank you for teaching me that lovely things like stars that peek through rain clouds, and the town lights that sparkle like glitter on the shore are treasures that photographs can’t capture.

Thank you for teaching me that love does not always come with romance, but can be found in the gentle way that your host mom lays out breakfast to-go when your mornings are early and your days are long.

Thank you for teaching me that through the tear-filled nights of hard work, the piles of essays, and the mountains of presentations, that knowledge is a privilege, and education is so much more than exams.

Thank you for teaching me that mistakes are okay and that a mispronounced word does not deem me as a linguistic failure.

Thank you for teaching me that confidence is not cockiness; rather it is the boldness with which you ask for directions to the bus station or the museum.

Thank you for teaching me that friendships and love extend beyond borders, oceans, and mountain ranges, and for teaching me that connections with people matter more than any homework assignment.

Thank you for teaching me that culture shock subsides, and that after it does, it is replaced by a comforting sense of security and peace.

Thank you for teaching me that beautiful people are not always the ones with fancy clothes, but rather the ones with the largest hearts and the most vulnerable souls.

Thank you for teaching me that life is a treasure, and that experiences that cause your eyes to widen in amazement and a smile to sweep across your lips are worth more than any number of zeroes on a paycheck.

Above all, Costa Rica, thank you for teaching me that home is not necessarily the location on your passport, but can be found wherever joy abides, laughter lives, and memories are made.

Until the next adventure. Pura vida por siempre.

Brenna Yap is majoring in Spanish and Early Childhood and Family Studies and spent Summer 2019 studying abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica  through a Spanish department faculty-led trip organized by CISabroad

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