How I broadened my perspective by experiencing different realities June 25, 2018

By (Covenant College) - abroad from 01/09/2018 to 04/21/2018 with

BestSemester: San Jose - Latin American Studies Program

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Yes! It was life-changing and was an experience that changed how I view the world and God's people. My eyes and heart were opened and exposed to new ideas and I am thankful for my new awareness. From LASP, I gained a desire to be a more active steward of the earth and I learned that I want to strive to live in a way that allows other people to thrive rather than suffer.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

It challenged me to think in ways that I have never have before and to see different perspectives. LASP taught me to think for myself and to not just accept what I believe, but to analyze my beliefs. Through my classes and experiences during the semester, I became aware of many important issues and had the chance to see history and life from a different reality than my own. Because of this learning experience, I now have a passion for topics that I didn't have before and my daily actions are slowly changing to reflect that. Most of all, I learned that I have a lot to learn and now I care about many more topics that affect God's people, even if it doesn't directly affect me.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The administration of the program was spot on! Britney and Javier served in roles that directly influenced me during my time with LASP. They were encouraging to us and supportive, but also challenged us and held us responsible, which was a necessary growing experience for me. Both Javier and Britney inspire me to think deeply and differently.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Each host family was such an important and special experience and I was very satisfied because it was such a valuable time for me. I learned so much from my families and got to live life with them and become friends with them, which was so meaningful to me.

* Food:

It was a very special experience to try new foods during the semester. I began to love certain items (especially the coffee and platanos maduros) and dishes that I miss now that I am back in the States. Sometimes dishes would be new to me and I would be a bit uncertain about it, but usually I ended up enjoying it and when I didn't, I still counted it as a cool opportunity. My favorite food that I tasted may have been during our class trip to Limon. (The pati and coconut rice were amazing!).

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

So many great experiences with LASP and on my own during the semester contributed to my social and cultural integration. The trip that I went on for my science credits was so very cool, but during that time, I was a bit more secluded from cultural experiences and when I was with LASP friends rather than Ticos, I was not able to integrate as much with the locals. However, despite these few setbacks, I had so many great experiences being immersed in the Costa Rican and Nicaraguan culture. If I could do it over, I think that I would lean into it even more and try to start even more conversations with my host family members or other locals.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Britney was helpful in advice about many common issues we may experience. She was knowledgeable and there for us if we needed advice about what to do if a certain health issue came up. Although I did not experience any serious health issues, if I had, I would not have hesitated to talk to her about it. One thing I remember is that a few medicines were recommended to have, but we did not know about it until we got there. It may have been nice to have a more accurate updated list of medicines, but it was not a big deal because none of them were very expensive. Overall, I did not have any issues with health that weren't typical of traveling in general.

* Safety:

I give this fewer stars only to draw attention to the fact that, like anywhere, you should be careful and aware of yourself and your surroundings. I listened to LASP's advice about safety and I did not have any issues. I felt safe in most areas that I was in and rarely did I feel unsafe. However, incidents have happened and it is just important to travel in groups when possible and to not be out at night if possible. Another tip is to not be on your cell phone on the bus and to not bring anything too valuable with you.

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

I do not regret this experience at all, it was so necessary for me and was life-changing. Overall, I am glad that I choose to participate in the Latin American Studies Program.

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)

Easy to not spend a whole lot of extra money if you don't want to. Occasionally there are reasons to spend some money during the semester, but most of your needs are met through the program.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 10-30 dollars. Each week was different.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? What I did to save money was planned a shorter Spring Break trip for just 2 nights and 3 days and spent the rest of my short break with my host family. This helped me not spend as much, but still get a cool experience. Manuel Antonio National Park is very cool to see and Quepos and Manuel Antonio are cool little towns to see as well. (I will say that the monkeys WILL steal your food, so be careful of that.)

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

It was GREAT to have Spanish class. It helped me get into the zone of speaking Spanish each day and helped me to become more comfortable with it.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? I had completed 300 level 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? As for the hours of use, some days it was more than 4-6 and some days it was less, just a clarification. My advice would be to really lean into your opportunities to listen and speak. Find a member of your host family and/or a LASP friend that is willing to practice with you and encourage you. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, because ultimately it will help you to just dive in and speak as much as you can. If you get discouraged, know that it is a difficult thing, but that you can learn a lot from your mistakes and it is part of the learning process.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Hotel
  • Hostel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
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?
  • the opportunity to live with host families
  • what I gained from the Perspectives on Latin America class
  • my experience working with sea turtles in playa Ostional
* What could be improved?
  • at times, communication to students about various little program details could be improved
  • maybe a longer time period before we were released in San Jose on our own (but then again, it is good to trust their process)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I honestly don't know. I think LASP does a pretty good job of informing the students about major things at the appropriate time.