I returned from my time abroad in Costa Rica a few weeks ago and during my time back in the States, I’ve had time to reflect on my overall experience. Most trips are exciting and maybe even adventurous, but the trips that are set apart are those that leave a lasting impact on your life. The ones that help instill a deeper sense of self, broaden your perspective, and develop skills that will last a lifetime. These are the trips that 20 years down the road you’ll still reflect upon and share about.
My time abroad in Costa Rica was definitely one of these trips. I’ll never forget the things I learned while I was there, and I’ll share these takeaways with you so that you can have an idea of what you may learn in your time abroad! I’ll share some of the experiences I had in my last week abroad!
Since my study abroad program was a language camp, my whole trip was centered around learning Spanish. Every morning I had a three-hour class in which I learned grammar and vocab in a conversational method, but I think I learned the most in the times outside of class. In the times at my host home when I’d be describing my life back in the States, in a restaurant when I’m trying to order my food, and in all the moments when I simply needed to communicate in daily life outside the classroom. These moments challenged me the most, and where there is the greatest challenge there is often the greatest reward.
While I was in Costa Rica, I could tell that my lingual abilities had improved a little. I was more confident in speaking and I could say a lot more. By the end of my time abroad, I could communicate much quicker and I could understand more of what was being said to me. My last day of classes I was even able to completely improv my presentation about my time in Manuel Antonio, a feat I wouldn’t have been able to do before my trip. However, it wasn’t until I arrived back home that I realized how much I had improved.
I realized that my vocab was a lot more expansive than it had been, and I could communicate more readily than I had ever been able to. I think this is an important lesson to learn: since learning is often a progressive action, the progress that’s been made isn’t apparent until it’s viewed from an outside perspective. This is like when a child is progressively growing and they don’t quite realize how expansive that growth is until their grandparents, with an outside perspective, comment on how much taller they’ve become. This is the same with learning, so in those times when you get frustrated because you don’t think you’re learning a language fast enough, or anything else for that matter, take a step back and you’ll find that many steps forward have been taken.
The language skills I acquired in Costa Rica were one of the biggest takeaways for me, as that is the what my program was founded upon. This takeaway has helped me to make major advancements in learning Spanish, and I am certain that this trip will always be a significant step in my Spanish language acquisition.
My time in Costa Rica also drastically opened my eyes to the vast opportunities in the world. I feel like too often people from the United States have a one-tracked mindset, or perhaps everyone does, but I think it imperative to look at many different paths of life before choosing the one you want to follow. I know that going to Costa Rica allowed me to see a lot of different opportunities that I could take after high school, that I would never have been exposed to had I not ventured outside of my little world in Missouri.
Not only were my eyes opened to more opportunities for myself, but I also was able to see many different ways of life. I think having this wider perspective allows you to connect to more people and to understand them more deeply than you could have before. This is a vital experience for everyone, and it really helps to know yourself better as you begin to find out what makes you unique when you are with people that live completely different lives and are from a different culture.
During my time in Costa Rica, I got to know some awesome people. People with stories that are so much different than mine, and who have so much to offer to the world. We got to share a little bit of our lives together, and during that time we built friendships that will last long after I left Costa Rica. I’m so thankful for the time I got to spend for those great people and also for the opportunity to virtually meet some pretty awesome people at Greenheart Travel.
I’d like to especially thank Megan and Jill for making my trip possible and being a blast to work with! I think meeting people is one of the best parts of traveling. You may forget the scenery or what you did, but you’ll never forget the moments you spent with friends you’ve met abroad.
My trip to Costa Rica was awesome, and I know I’ll never forget the moments I had there.
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.