Experience of a Lifetime Past Review

By (Spanish, TESOL, International & Cross-Cultural Studies, Greenville College) - abroad from 01/08/2013 to 04/15/2013 with

BestSemester: San Jose - Latin American Studies Program

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I gained a more global perspective and a greater understanding of my Christian faith. It was SO worth it.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

This program is academically rigorous, however there is also a HUGE emphasis on experiential learning. So, the instructors WANT you to hang out with your host family, attend cultural events, visit national parks, etc. You need to do homework and do some studying, but it doesn't take away from experiencing the people and culture first-hand.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The instructors are amazing. They care about YOU and your experiences. You get the chance to get to know them personally. They have so much knowledge about Central America, both as a subject to be studied, and as a culture to be experienced.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My host families were wonderful, caring people who graciously and enthusiastically shared their lives with me.

* Food:

I loved the food. And, one of my classmates was a vegetarian and the program and host families made appropriate accommodations for her.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

This is really up to you. The instructors and your families give you plenty of opportunities to integrate yourself into Costa Rican/Nicaraguan culture, but ultimately YOU are the deciding factor in how much/how little you participate in local cultures. LASP welcomes you with open arms, but you have to be willing to take the leap.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I did not personally have any health issues, but several other students/friends did. The instructors/families promptly and adequately cared for their needs, even going with students to appointments, etc. I needed several vaccines, but they were fairly cheap and didn't seem to have any side affects. North American doctors tell you that there is a risk for malaria and will give you prescriptions. However, that's really not a risk in the areas you go with LASP. I brought my malaria pills with me, (THREE MONTHS WORTH!) and took them for the first few weeks, until I realized that no one else was taking them. Thankfully, that prescription didn't cost much. The locals don't take special precautions against malaria and they don't have a problems with it.

* Safety:

I never experienced any safety-related incidents. The country is very safe. I wasn't afraid to go out at night in the cities, though I was always in a small group, sometimes with other female students and sometimes with a mix of male and female students. Before the program, when I told people that I was going to study abroad in Central America, often the first reaction was something like "That's dangerous!" or "Will you be safe there??!!" That concern comes from an attitude of prejudice that a lot of North Americans have toward other countries/regions, especially ones that the media portrays in a negative light. All that to say, I felt safe during my study-abroad.

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


* 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)

They recommended about $800 in expenses for the semester, and I ended up spending $790 throughout the semester. I had budgeted that ahead of time, and so I made sure to keep track of my expenses. That $790 included daily transportation, souvenirs for me and my USA family, special weekend trips and day trips to national parks and beaches, several gifts for my host families, toiletries, snacks, dinners out with friends, minimal school supplies, museum tickets, and even an extra baggage fee for the flight home. I would consider myself a modest spender; several other students spent much more than I did.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $790 total, so about $55 a week. But I could go one week and spend hardly anything, then spend a lot the next week on a special trip.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Walk instead of riding the bus. When it's too far, ride the bus instead of taking a taxi. When taking weekend trips, get together with other students to buy groceries before-hand, so you can save money and make your own meals at the hostels. Grocery store/corner store snacks/meals are just as fun and interesting and "authentic" as those from cafes and restaurants.


* 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

Our host families were instructed to only speak Spanish to us. Our lectures were often given in Spanish by native speakers, and translated in real-time for students who didn't (yet!) speak Spanish. All students took language courses during the semester. Some students entered the program as native-speakers, or with native-like fluency, and others had had only one or two semesters of college-level Spanish classes.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Fluent
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? 500-level composition,literature, and film courses
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? Don't be afraid to try! Speak to your host family, other students, and people you encounter.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

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

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • n/a
* What could be improved?
  • n/a
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? That I had a lot of misconceptions.