It was an extraordinary adventure! Past Review

By (Northwestern University) - abroad from 09/17/2015 to 12/10/2015 with

Outward Bound Costa Rica: Outdoor Leader Semester (Ages 17+)

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Haven't I written enough?

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.

Open up your view of the world physically, emotionally, mentally. spiritually, and everything in between with Costa Rica Outward Bound. I was a student on the Coast to Coast Expedition, and while the title expedition was my favorite part of the trip, every phase had strengths, weaknesses, and lessons. Surfing is a lesson in perseverance. With no surfing experience, for me the phase was just continuous wipe-outs in the exhausting waves, but I think I got somewhere toward the end.... Anyway, SCUBA diving was absolutely amazing. Sea kayaking, snorkeling, and diving in Panama were just absolutely glorious ways to experience the wonders of the Caribbean. And the hike! The hike was an ever-evolving journey as a team to traverse the width of the fabulous country of Costa Rica. I loved the roads, the people, the group development, the mountains, the food, and the satisfying pain from having walked miles and miles carrying heavily loaded packs. The organization of the trip could be frustrating at times, but it really just takes a positive attitude to get through lateness, missing gear, an absent sailboat captain, etc. As for group dynamics, you never know what you're going to get. Maybe your instructors are perfect for you and your group; maybe you clash. Maybe your group works ridiculously well together; maybe you fall apart daily. Maybe you do a bit of both. Everything about the trip is a risk worth taking. I didn't get any credit for my course because my University will not accept any.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The program can be a little rocky in terms of organization. Our first week, orientation, was very sparsely programmed, and we mostly sat around base. Occasionally drivers or other people are not in the right places at the right times or gear isn't available when needed.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

You get what you sign up for. I personally enjoyed sleeping on the ground under tarps, in the homes of host families or rented structures. schools, and community centers. Housing at base can be tight but is comfortable. Our dock in Panama was incredible.

* Food:

Food is as good you make it. Any food made for us was always incredibly delicious. Costa Rican cooks and food are perfection. For most of the trip, however, students rotate jobs, including cocinero (cook). As the trip goes on students also plan their own menus and make shopping lists for the drivers. Most of the time we made great meals for ourselves, but every now and then the chefs had a hard time of it, myself included.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

For the most part, I was happy with the social and cultural integration considering we weren't with locals (besides our instructors) for most of the trip. All of the program takes place in rural to very rural parts of the country, and staying in sparsely populated, agriculturally rich communities was a great way to get in touch with the roots of Costa Rica. We had plenty of opportunities to go to Costa Rican restaurants (sodas) and to learn about the culture and history in daily lessons and through interaction with locals when it happened.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

We didn't have any terrible emergencies, which was good considering much of the program takes place in the middle of the rainforest or on an island a couple hours off the mainland. When a few of us got kind of horrible skin infections, we received great care at local clinics and hospitals. The instructors have excellent medical training for non-emergencies, and the program involves a small amount of training for the students as well. We always carried a well-equipped med bag. The only vaccine I "needed" that I hadn't gotten already was yellow fever.

* Safety:

You're always with your crewmates and instructors, so you're pretty much always safe. We had one interaction with a drunkenly belligerent local, but that kind of stuff happens everywhere. Just be careful where you step around landslides and look out for bullet ants, alligators, snakes, etc.

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

It was an amazing program, but it didn't take up my whole year, so I was able to travel elsewhere and do a bunch of other stuff abroad.


* 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)

Everything was paid for in the program tuition. All I spent money on were souvenirs.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? You'll need your exit tax, money for the airport and for souvenirs/internet use on transition days if you want it.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Only buy souvenirs if you really want them. For study abroad/travel in general, look at organizations like workaway and wwoof where participants volunteer in exchange for room and board.


* 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 had to make an effort to use my Spanish. The program was not very encouraging about it. It didn't help that others on my program didn't know any Spanish whatsoever. I was happy to have a very solid grasp of the language before going.

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? Advanced Placement in high school
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? Go somewhere where there is NO ENGLISH. It's the only way, but it's really hard to do.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
  • Other
  • Host Family
* 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?
  • Hiking across the country
  • SCUBA diving
  • The people and food
* What could be improved?
  • Organization
  • Orientation
  • Immersion
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? It's really really hard to immerse in another language in this world.

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 Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.