The Costa Rican Experience with AIFS March 28, 2018

By (University of South Carolina - Upstate) - abroad from 08/21/2016 to 12/17/2016 with

AIFS: San José - Universidad Veritas and Internship Program

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned that I am much more adaptable than I originally thought. I can have a plan but I also learned how to be flexible when that plan changes. I also realized how passionate I am about the Spanish language and that I would love to integrate that into my future career.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The Spanish classes were completely immersive. Every day we had four hours of Spanish classes that were completely experience based, so we talked for four hours! Additionally, we were required to interact with the Costa Rican people to complete Spanish class assignments. I learned Spanish more quickly through this type of learning than I did back in the United States. The other courses I took were interesting in that most of them had field trips included in the course schedule. Going to a large university, we do not have the resources to take class field trips. The opportunity to actually see first hand what we were learning in our classes was really wonderful.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

AIFS has offices on-site at every location. I can say without a doubt that all of my questions were answered and my needs were meet by the office. It was a welcoming place to stop by and helped all of the international students navigate a new country. They truly went above and beyond what was expected- even helping me set my dad up with a wonderful rainforest tour when he came to visit.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

As wonderful as the classes and the opportunity to explore Costa Rica was, my favorite part of my experience was my host family. They take the time to consider your preferences as a student and match you well with a host family. My host family was welcoming, supportive, and an essential part of my time abroad. I had my own bedroom and bathroom, which is not always the case, but was a wonderful perk!

* Food:

As much as I loved the food, my taste buds were not used to the Costa Rican style of eating. The fruit and coffee was absolutely delicious, however I did not like some of the sauces used on some of the dishes. However, I will say that I never went hungry. AIFS and my host family ensured that I was well- fed through the duration of the program! Also, there are lots of cost-effective restaurants and cafés right next to the university.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Living with a host family, I was brought quickly up to speed with the Costa Rican culture and lifestyle.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I did unfortunately get sick during my stay in Costa Rica. Luckily, the AIFS on-site office was there to help. They not only set up the appointment for me, but came with me to the doctor, and went to the pharmacy afterwards with me. I am studying public health, so it was interesting to me to see a different health care system first hand. Of course, when I returned from the doctor, my host mom was there waiting with a large bowl of soup! I did receive vaccines going abroad- I had a flu shot and took the yellow fever pills. They were recommended but not required for participation in the program.

* Safety:

I never felt unsafe in Costa Rica. I even got to a point towards the end of the trip where I felt comfortable utilizing the bus system alone. In terms of safety, I would tell people the same thing that I tell people in the United States- be very aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

AIFS gave me the support and resources I needed but also the freedom to explore and grow while abroad.

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

I recommend to everyone that they see a financial advisor (if their university offers one) prior to going abroad. I spent about $100 some weeks and more/less of that other weeks depending on where I was traveling.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? about $100
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Keep a budget the whole year before you go abroad and while you are abroad! See where your money is going.

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

While you did not need to know the Spanish language well to be in Costa Rica, it was encouraged to practice. My host family only spoke Spanish to me- so I learned very quickly!

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? AP Spanish
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? The Duolingo app that you can download on your phone was a lifesaver. I practiced with it before I went abroad and during my time abroad.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Host Family
  • Travel Opportunities
  • Classes
* What could be improved?
  • N/A
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Stick to your budget even more!

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Networker
An active student leader, it was important for you to network abroad as well. Once overseas, you sought out student clubs, volunteered with local organizations, or attended community events. You encouraged your friends join you, and often considered how you could reflect your international experiences in a resume.