An experience you'll never forget September 28, 2015

By (University of Kentucky) - abroad from 06/06/2015 to 07/18/2015 with

Sol Education Abroad - Study Abroad in Heredia, Costa Rica at Universidad Latina de Costa Rica

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Go into the experience with an open mind. Try to fully immerse yourself in the program so that you can learn the most about yourself and the culture. Once you decide to study abroad you have to realize that the experience is going to happen whether you're excited about it or not, so make the most of it while you have the chance because you'll miss it so much once it's gone!

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.

Overall it's a good balance between academics and fun experiences. Each class lasts for 3 weeks, and class is conducted for 3 hours a day Monday through Friday. While there was homework, it was never too much to handle and it was helpful in building Spanish skills.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The program directors are absolutely amazing and I loved any encounters with them! They are excited about their jobs, which makes all of the activities exciting for participants. Everything was always clear, information was provided ahead of time, and if there were any changes they would let us know!

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I really liked my host mom, but the living arrangement wasn't as great as it was for most people. I shared a small room and bunk beds with my roommate, and although we got along well sometimes I just wanted a little more space to myself. I adjusted, though, and tried to stay open to any situation since studying abroad is a unique experience in itself.

* Food:

The food in Costa Rica is absolutely amazing. There is so much fresh fruit. If you don't like rice and beans, this definitely isn't the place to go because they are definitely staples in the diet. I only gave it 4 stars because I didn't have the best "traditional Costa Rican food" experience (I ate pizza at least once a week with my host family, and had a lot of sandwiches), which I was looking forward to, but I think some people would have been happier experiencing that.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

There are weekly conversation clubs with local students to help you mingle with locals. Most of the effort to integrate is put on you, though. Classes are taken only with other students in the Sol program that are studying abroad. The homestay definitely helps you integrate with the local culture. I got to experience a Costa Rican church service, meet some of the extended family, etc.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I didn't have any experiences, but the people I knew that went to the doctor, etc. didn't have any issues!

* Safety:

They warn you a lot about crime in the area, but they also help prepare you to know how to avoid it. I definitely wouldn't want to walk around alone at night, but taxis are cheap, most of the students live near each other so it's easy to go somewhere with a group, and only a few people had incidents. Just don't go anywhere alone at night, take taxis if you're in an unfamiliar place (especially at night) and always be cautious of your surroundings.

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

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 spent an average of $75 per week while I was there (not including the cost of a big weekend trip to Nicaragua, but including other weekend trips). Bring snacks that you like the most from the U.S. You will crave them and it will save you money (and space on the way back) if you bring them with you. I bought a lot of food for myself even though 3 meals were included every day, and that was the majority of my expenses. Most weekend trips can be done for about $50 or less including bus fare, hostel expenses, and a few meals if you budget properly.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $75
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Bring your own snacks, stay in well-reviewed hostels (not hotels!), shop around for the best priced items, don't go out and drink too often (that gets really expensive)

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

Classes were taught completely in Spanish, most host parents didn't even know English. However, among Sol participants we hardly ever used Spanish.

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? 300 level Spanish 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? Go to conversation clubs and other events with the locals, force yourself to speak it with your friends in the program (it's hard and frustrating but definitely helpful)

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • 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?
  • The people
  • The excursions
* What could be improved?
  • Food provided
  • Schedule of events
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? When you go with Sol on a summer program, almost all of the major events are in the first summer session that you are there (the first three weeks). So just be sure to have the resources to plan things for yourself in the weeks after that.

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 Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!