A necessary evil Past Review

By (Spanish Secondary Education, Longwood University) - abroad from 04/07/2012 to 06/30/2012 with

ISA Study Abroad in San José, Costa Rica

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned how to get around using public transportation (taxis, inner-city buses, transnational buses). Worthwhile? Sure, but I want to go back to Latin America on my own terms, instead of only being there to get good grades and satisfy my home university's requirements. I want to explore and get really into the cultures and customs, talk to the locals and really become, in the Costa Rican case, a true "Tico".

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.

Intensive courses, but assessments were simple

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Good job, local ISA office :-)

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

From my evaluation survey for ISA: I learned a few new words from them and chatted every so often when they seemed interested // One crappy overhead fluorescent light; I had to buy a $10 desk lamp to make desk tasks easier on my eyes. // Family never really liked me, confronted me frequently on my eating habits (why don't you like beans, why do you cook popcorn that way, are you sure you know how to use the [american manufactured] oven) // hot shower, reliable toilet... [positive] // very cold, quiet place; Olga [mother] has a serious narcolepsy or sleep apnea problem: when son and she showed me the streets and sights of downtown San Jose, she slept through it all, in broad daylight; and when my wife came to visit, Olga fell asleep during the short picture slideshow of our wedding. She frequently fell asleep at the weirdest times and places, including while washing dishes and doing laundry... very unhealthy and it clearly made her distant as well as slurred her speech - she never spoke clearly, even though she knew I couldn't understand her nearly as often as I could any of her clear-spoken relatives // only Noe [father] would eat with me on occasion. But when no one ate with my wife and me, after repeated requests that the extended family dine at least once with me while my wife was visiting, I gave up on trying to integrate myself into host family meals - they certainly weren't trying to do that. I did get to go to daughter Olga's wedding, although they tried to make me stay an extra two hours after the reception had ended while they waited for the party company to pick up the tablecloths and other decorations. I said please either send Sergio [son] to get me (because he had taken some other relatives home) or find me a cab. It was 1145 pm before I got home, and the company didn't show until like 1230 AM. Thank God I didn't wait. // Safe place, safe neighborhood [positive] // 15 minute walk to the university, even though very few students I knew lived in Barrio Cordoba // I was rarely "hosted" in any sense of the word, but since I had lots of studies and never really had money or interest to interact with the younger students, I just rode out my time, suffering a little in order to enjoy getting back to my own home and families more. Oh, and Noe, BREAD AND CEREAL ARE NOT CONSIDERED A COMPLETE BREAKFAST. The one day I asked for a scrambled egg, he was reluctant to make it. Thank goodness there was a McDonald's not too far away for those mornings when I needed a more balanced, protein-rich breakfast.

* Food:

Rice and beans all the time gets old. Fast.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Didn't have a lot of money to spend, and UVeritas' "Tico Mentors" were not responsive to my repeated requests to get involved with them.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Don't remember anyone having trouble with the healthcare system. Although I believe that it's a lot better (almost free?) in Costa Rica...

* Safety:

Quite a few of my [stupid/ditzy] female program-mates had cell phones and cameras stolen, but I never had an issue; San Jose's a big city, so just keep your stuff close to you, wrap bag straps around chair legs, you'll be fine...

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No


* 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 didn't have ANY money. Thankfully I was able to get food almost every meal at home, even though it was crappy most of the time.

* Was housing included in your program cost? Yes
* Was food included in your program cost? Yes
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Budget in earnest. If you want to have fun, you need to have some money to get around and pay for decent tours and activities.


* 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

I got a little better at my Spanish, although I was the second-best speaker in the entire group of international students, so their poorer Spanish skills held me back.

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? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Several Spanish 300s (Culture&Civ both Spain and Lat.Am., Literature of both Spain and Lat.Am.) and a Spanish 400 lit class
How many hours per day did you use the language? 10+
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Talk to locals. Get involved with clubs and organizations. Have money, too...

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • 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? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Howling back at Congo monkeys in the mangrove forest by Tamarindo Beach
  • Teaching a bit of ice hockey rules to my host father and brother
  • Going to the Children's Museum with my wife
* What could be improved?
  • My host family needs to stop being a host family
  • ISA and UVeritas need to schedule some extracurricular clubs and activities that don't conflict with afternoon electives (I had these Mon-Thurs)
  • UVeritas needs to integrate local students/mentors better
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Have a decent amount of spending money.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Latin American Film & Lit

Course Department:
Instructor: German A
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: We just watched sub-par movies and chatted about them. Could have had a little more literature analysis and cinema theory... A true "mickey mouse" course. Still, it was fun!
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Latin American Literature

Course Department:
Instructor: Alexandra
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: Way too much literature theory and a few of the readings were too long for the too-short amount of time given. Such as Marquez's "Candida Erendia" - 50 pages in 2 days? I don't think so!
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Advanced Conversation

Course Department:
Instructor: Sylvia M.
Instruction Language:
Comments: Not enough class discussion - more Q&A with the teacher... In other words, little conversation, and more back and forth with the instructor. Would have been better to have free conversation guided by her class<->class instead of teacher<->class.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Advanced Composition

Course Department:
Instructor: Alexandra M.
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: Did not write nearly enough. Too much grammar and writing theory, and not enough writing and class critiquing. Can't get better at composition if you only do one or two writings per week in a class that meets every day...
Credit Transfer Issues: