While I was in Costa Rica, I spent most of my time in the capital city, San José. My service-learning agency was there, and my schedule was pretty packed with that. I had weekends to myself though, so I went to the Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna Waterfall, Jacó beach, and a botanical garden! The Arenal Volcano was beautiful. My program, ISA Service-Learning, was able to schedule us a trip at a beautiful resort that was placed ON THE VOLCANO! It had beautiful hot springs we could swim in, and that’s where I spent most of my time during that trip. If you ever want to see the La Fortuna Waterfall, just remember that it is over 500 steps down, and there are no accessibility features. Once you start down, you are responsible for getting yourself back up. I honestly felt like I was going to collapse! The views were amazing once you got down though. We were able to swim at the base of the waterfall too. I really enjoyed it, even if I felt like I was going to pass out on my way back up!
To be honest, my study abroad experience started out pretty bumpy! I was initially placed in a service-learning agency where they didn’t have a single person on staff who spoke English. I couldn’t understand a word of what was being said to me, and they couldn’t understand me. There was apparently a clerical problem, and I was set at a higher Spanish level than I actually had. For the first week, I had to work with the ISA staff to find a way around the language barrier. I was able to practice being my own advocate in that situation. I had to explain my situation and why changes had to be made, and they really listened to me once I was able to verbalize my problems.
My host family didn’t know how to speak much English, and in fact only one member of the family spoke English at all. During breakfast and dinner, my host mom would try to tell us stories and talk to us about our day. I spoke more Spanish than my roommate, so it was my job to serve as a translator in most instances. As someone who doesn’t speak Spanish fluently, that was definitely a difficult task. I do think it helped me learn more Spanish though!
I have been home for about a month now, and to be completely honest, I miss Costa Rica. It was so much fun and I loved my time there. The culture is great, and I really love the emphasis on family and community. I will most definitely be going back to Costa Rica in the future! If money is something that is a concern, Costa Rica is great as well! I went for a month and brought back souvenirs for ten people, and I spent only about half of what I had originally saved in my vacation fund. I was able to get scholarships through ISA and UTC, and the entire strip was very affordable because of that! As an independent student, sometimes funding can be a concern. ISA and UTC made sure that I was able to have the study abroad experience of my dreams!
If you can’t do a traditional study abroad program, ISA Service-Learning is a great alternative! They also have a Study + Service-Learning program so you can do both! I genuinely loved interacting with all of the people I met! They even helped me with professional development type things, and I have connections on Linkedin, a whole new resume, and personal references that will impress future employers! Not only did I have fun during my program, but I think I left with connections and lessons I will use for years to come. I highly recommend my program, and I don’t doubt that I will be telling everyone I can about it!
Quinn Vinson (BSW Social Work) spent summer 2022 doing a service-learning studying abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica through ISA. Quinn had the following to say about studying abroad, “Costa Rica was life-changing! I was continually challenged and tested, but I had an amazing support team that helped me to enjoy the beautiful country and my experiences there!”
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