Your study abroad experience is going to be much like a winding staircase. When you begin you will be at the bottom with the weight of it all on top you, but slowly you’ll climb and with that you’ll build memories and overcome obstacles. When you finish you’ll be at the top, looking down on the many steps you took to fulfill and create your study abroad experience.
I always knew I wanted to study abroad in college. Little did I know I would end up studying in Costa Rica, where I do not know the language, people, or anything other than what I could come across on the internet. I want to say that this is the best decision I have ever made for myself, but it has only just begun. I never thought I would have such worries or fears, I pictured it being perfect and just pure happiness and excitement.
The week before I departed from my homeland I second guessed my decision in every aspect. I worried that I would be gone for too long away from familiarity. I would miss work, gymnastics, and my friends. The day before I departed, I wanted to cancel my flight, I was worried that two months would be too much and I even questioned whether I should just shorten the trip to one session instead of two. I was afraid I would have no friends to accompany me on the many trips I wanted to take and the explorations I wanted to embark on. I was afraid I wouldn’t understand Spanish because after all I have had to drop it twice when it was just too hard with my schedule. What if I was making the wrong decision?
The day was finally here. I wanted to cry as I said goodbye and stepped into the airport. I wanted to cry as I was standing in line to print my boarding pass for my red eye flight. I wanted to cry when I was the only person in line that was not speaking Spanish. I felt alone as I waited to board my flight. I felt lost when I landed in Panama for my connecting flight. I felt nervous as I was walking all alone with my backpack and my phone to baggage claim where I was anxious that my luggage would be lost. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Scared. Alone. Afraid. Nervous.
I finally saw my luggage. I grabbed my suitcase and headed outside but even still I was worried I would not find my International Studies Abroad people outside where they should have been waiting for me. But there they were, as well as at least fifteen more students in the exact same situation that I was in. I took a deep breath. All of us took the same steps to bring us together in this lifelong journey here in San Jose, Costa Rica, for our study abroad experience.
There comes a time in everyone’s life where stepping out of their comfort zone is necessary in order to experience something remarkable. This experience can allow personal and intellectual growth, improved creativity, self-exploration, and memories to last a lifetime. This experience can allow a way to gain work experience or an artistic endeavor. It can allow you a way to give back or get involved.
Studying abroad is one of the scariest, yet most rewarding experience a college student can do, they say. Though it has been only one week since I left my home in the United States, I can already say I know I made the right decision to study abroad, even more so here in Costa Rica. I have watched most of my fears vanish, and in only a few days I have been able to easily learn more Spanish than I thought I would. I have found new friends who will share this experience with me. I am trying new foods that I would have otherwise never eaten. I am so relaxed with little stress other than waiting for the weekend to come for my beach trip.
In order to make the most out of this experience one of the most important things to do is step out of your comfort zone and be happy while doing it. You have Costa Rica at your fingertips, this opportunity is a once in a lifetime chance to change yourself. Experience new things (like Latin American dancing), try new foods even if you don’t think you’ll like them (like beans), speak bad Spanish (at least you are trying), talk to new people (strangers, fellow study abroaders, or Ticos), take lots of photos, and keep a journal. Create a bucket list for your stay and make it happen, you’ll be glad you did. Whether you’re here for a few more days, a few more weeks, or longer, do not let opportunity slip by you. Scoop her up, and embrace her. Before we know it we will be saying goodbye.
The world awaits…discover it.