Before studying abroad in Costa Rica, you will hear all about culture shock and tips for getting through it. However, despite what I was told and what I read prior to my arrival, I had my own expectations for what I thought living here would be like. When I arrived, I soon realized that the experience was not going to be exactly what I thought it would. During my first few weeks here, I had a very difficult time expressing what I felt due to the language barrier, getting used to the differences between Costa Rica and the United States, and of course, trying to soothe my homesickness.
Within the first few hours of being at my host home, I realized how difficult attempting to communicate with my family was. I took two years of Spanish at school. On top of that, I practiced Spanish a lot in my free time, watched Spanish television, and read many things about Costa Rican Spanish in particular. However, nothing truly prepared me for speaking with them.
When I could not communicate what I wanted to say or how I was feeling, I was frustrated to say the least. I was very angry at myself and felt unintelligent. So if you are currently in the situation I was, remember that you aren’t stupid for not being able to communicate what you want to say. You are learning and with learning comes mistakes and hardships. For this issue, I find it helpful to do one of two things: explain what I am trying to say using circumlocution. If that doesn’t work, I use an English to Spanish dictionary.
I also had my own preconceived notions about how Costa Rica was going to be. I had heard from people that it would be different, which I of course knew, as far as climate, culture, and language. However, I somehow expected that it would have every unimportant thing that I was used to in the United States, such as a hot water tank that heats the water for steaming hot showers, or the amount of fast food restaurants. However, I soon learned that although it may be an adjustment for me, different is beautiful. I am so lucky to see another side of things. Being in Costa Rica has been so enlightening, and getting to experience something different beats going to Chick-Fil-A.
Finally, another huge problem I had was homesickness. When things aren’t going your way or you’re having a tough time, it’s easy to want to take a nap in your bed, pet your cat, or hug your mom. However, I pushed through my homesickness by remembering why I wanted to study abroad and truly reflecting on how great this experience is. Chances are, I will live in the United States for the rest of my life. My time here is short, and must be enjoyed. I try to remember that my time here will end sooner than I think and focus on learning, growing, observing, and experiencing. I appreciate every moment that I have experienced thus far in Costa Rica, despite what I thought as it was happening, because although I have experienced difficulties, they have helped me to improve who I am as person and helped me to appreciate my time here.