Here’s what I expected spending a month in a half in Costa Rica: I expected to learn a lot about a new country and culture. I expected to see and experience new things. I expected to improve my Spanish. I expected to meet new people. And I really did expect to enjoy most of these things. All of these experiences took place, but, here’s what I did not expect: I did not expect to fall in love with Latin American culture in a way that left such a lasting impact on me. I didn’t expect to love getting a kiss on each cheek every morning by my host mom and love watching the way people care for each other in Costa Rica. I expected to learn about Costa Rica, but I didn’t expect to love it.

I didn’t expect to find a new love for traveling and taking advantage of every new adventure that comes your way. I didn’t expect to do a 500-foot bungee jump or raft through rapids in the middle of a rainforest or repel down a waterfall and love every last second of it. I didn’t expect to spend a weekend in the jungle, awaken each morning by howler monkeys and falling asleep seeing stars in a way I never had before. I expected to see and experience new things, but I didn’t expect to be in utter awe of the sights of this beautiful country and have the adventure of a lifetime.

I didn’t expect to have the hardest educational experience of my schooling thus far, but furthermore, I never expected to absolutely love it. I didn’t expect to be pushed so hard in learning a foreign language by professors who wanted nothing more than to see my progress thrive. I didn’t expect to love being immersed in a language that I didn’t speak fluently, even when at times I was very much so out of my comfort zone. I expected to improve my Spanish, but I didn’t expect it to flourish in the ways it did and to actually love going to school to learn it.

Most of all, I didn’t expect for my heart to be broken when leaving. And it wasn’t because of the country, even though that was hard to leave. It was because of the people. I didn’t expect to meet people that I would come to truly love. I didn’t expect to love my host mom in the way I did and gain such an appreciation for the love she gave my roommate and I. I didn’t expect to meet some of the best people I’ve met in my life and now have such amazing friendships with. I didn’t expect to come back with friends in Philadelphia to North Carolina to Colorado, and have trips planned to see all of them. I expected to meet some new people, but honestly I expected to do much of this experience alone. I didn’t expect to make lifelong friends in the process.

All of this to say, I came in to the study abroad experience with an open mind and not too many expectations. But, I can so confidently say that every expectation I did have was exceeded in the most beautiful way I could have imagined. And I definitely did not expect that.

Morgan Williams is majoring in Social Work and spent the Summer 2019 semester studying abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica through ISA. Morgan had the following to say about studying abroad, “College is a time of growth, a time to be pushed out of your comfort zone. It also truly is the best time to see the world in my opinion. Studying abroad can give you all of this.”

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