I cannot describe to you how grateful I am that I was able to experience this trip. Studying abroad was something I wanted to do since I was a junior in high school. The main goal for me during this trip was to improve in the Spanish language. Spanish is one of my fields of study, and I wanted to immerse myself in the culture, so that I could pick up the language on a higher level. With that being said, I am proud to say that I’ve gotten so much better. I am able to carry a conversation, even though there is tons of vocabulary I need to learn more about.
There have been a lot of firsts for me within this trip in general. Before leaving the US, I had never been to another country. The closest I’ve been to leaving the country was when I was on a four-day cruise ship that reached a tourist area in Cozumel, Mexico. However, I do not count that fully as me being outside the country because the tourist area was really small, and I only had a limited amount of time to explore the area. Another thing is that I’ve never been away from home, my family, and I have never been on a plane. I graduated from high school in 2020 which is when the pandemic hit. Because of this, I decided to attend college here at UTC and remain living with my parents for financial reasons.
Because I have never been away from my family or out of the country, the first week was super strange for me. Months before leaving the US, I was extremely excited, and I wasn’t nervous at all to leave. This is partially because I didn’t actually believe I was going. The idea of leaving the US and living in a different country for a month only seemed like a dream waiting to come true and never a reality. However, strangely enough, as the weeks got closer it started to hit me. I remember my mom dropping me off at the airport, and I was holding back tears of joy, fear, and excitement. It’s almost like I had all the emotions at once.
There were so many pivotal moments in Costa Rica that felt super transformative for me. I got to live with a host family. I lived with a 70-year-old grandmother and her 20-year-old son. This dynamic was different for me because I was used to living with a lot of people, and it’s usually loud in my house. However, there was something so quiet yet peaceful and comforting about this home. I was able to connect with my grandmother on a spiritual level that almost made me emotional when it was time to leave Costa Rica.
Another pivotal moment was when the students and I went to La Paz Waterfall Gardens. This place has a hike to where you see waterfalls as well as animals. This touring area was amazing because I actually enjoyed the hike. I am not interested in athleticism at all, but it was something about this hike that gave me a peace of mind and an appreciation for nature.
There is so much more I could talk about, but the last thing I want to talk about is the language and the culture. As I have mentioned before, the main goal was to get better in the Spanish language. I had been studying Spanish for years and felt like I wasn’t growing the way I wanted to, but it all change during this Costa Rican experience. The first week there, I felt like I was constantly trying to catch up with all the natives. For me, they speak really fast, and I would have them repeat things over and over until I could understand them. However, as time passed in Costa Rica, I was able to easily understand them, and I was able to cohesively speak without hesitating.
Tony Bonner (BA Spanish, BS Entrepreneurship) spent the Summer 2023 semester studying abroad in Heredia, Costa Rica through USAC. Tony had the following to say about studying abroad, “This experience will stretch you out of your comfort zone, but will allow you to find interest in the things you never would imagine.”
Share this post: