Hello, my name is Owen and I’m currently in Costa Rica for a summer language camp. I’ll be here for two weeks learning Spanish and embracing the pura vida way of live that characterizes Costa Rica. During my time in Costa Rica, I’ve learned a lot about the language, people, and culture of Costa Rica, and I hope my experience can help you in your time abroad.
Here are four pieces of advice that will help you enjoy your time abroad and hopefully allow you to live the pura vida:
Whether it’s deciding to go abroad or you’re already abroad and are decided whether or not to do something totally out of your comfort zone, just dive on in and give it a shot. My comfort zone has already been challenged many times while I’ve been in Costa Rica, and I’ve done things and eaten things that I never would have when I was home.
One of the favorite things I’ve done so far is surfing in the Pacific Ocean. I had never been surfing before, but now I can see it becoming one of my favorite things to do. Now all I need is an ocean in Missouri, and it’ll all be good. I’m not trying to give the false impression that everything you try is going to turn into your favorite thing, but I guarantee that you’ll always regret not stepping out.
For instance, this week we had Salsa dance lessons and I really don’t like to dance. By no means did salsa dancing become a passion of mine or even something I had a blast doing, but I’m glad I had that experience! Stepping out of your comfort zone, getting out of that bubble of what we call “normal,” is the only way to truly discover what you like to do and who you are.
It’s how you find out whether you like to surf, or whether you like to salsa dance. Whether you enjoy traveling constantly, or picking one place to hang out for a while. It’s in stepping out that you become who you were meant to be, not who you are expected to be.
Without fail, people are one of the coolest things about traveling abroad, especially on programs that have people from a lot of backgrounds. You’ll find people that are from completely different backgrounds than yourself, people with drastically different lives than you, and people who have different passions than you. Every person you meet broadens your perspective of the world and opens your eyes to just how unique each person is.
I have met some awesome people here that I would never have had the opportunity to meet if I didn’t strike up an “awkward” conversation (and you’ll find that it’s never quite as uncomfortable as you think it might be)! I met a couple from Argentina, a lady from the Netherlands that now lives in Costa Rica, and a lot of other awesome people in Costa Rica. You’ll never regret introducing yourself and getting to know the uniqueness of another person!
I can’t vouch for everywhere, but the typical food of Costa Rica is delicious! I have really enjoyed getting to try new foods that I most likely would never have eaten at my home in the States.
Gallo pinto, a typical rice and beans dish, and chicken and rice are just a few of the meals that I’ve eaten. I would also highly recommend taking a cooking class or having one of those new people you’ll meet teach you how to cook some traditional meals. This way you can have your friends and family back home try some of your favorite new foods.
I had a cooking class this week to learn how to cook the traditional arroz con pollo, which has a lot more ingredients than just chicken and rice. Not only was it a lot of fun to take the class, but we also got to eat a scrumptious meal afterwards!
Whatever you’re doing, whether it be sitting in class learning a new language or getting to do something you’ve been waiting weeks to do, do it with a smile on your face. Go into whatever activity, whether mundane or exciting, with a good attitude and a positive expectation and you’ll find that no matter what, you’ll have a good time. Whether rain or shine, (in quite a literal sense here in Costa Rica since it’s the rainy season) you’ll be able to rejoice in the pura vida.
I hope these consejos (tips) come in handy during your time abroad, and I wish you the best of luck in exploring more of the world!
Owen Arnall is 17 years old and lives in Springfield, Missouri. His goal during his language program in San Jose, Costa Rica is to “embrace the pura vida of life so that I can be completely submerged into the culture and build meaningful relationships with the Ticos!” Follow Owen’s adventure in Costa Rica on his weekly blog post updates.