With Sol, I learned more about myself and the world than I had ever imagined! December 14, 2016

By (Middlebury College) - abroad from 09/03/2016 to 12/17/2016 with

Sol Education Abroad- Heredia - Universidad Latina de Costa Rica

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
This experience was 100% worthwhile. I learned so much more by being abroad than I had ever expected. I learned how to become more independent, I learned about some important challenges facing this planet and our society, and I improved my ability to speak spanish. I truly believe that this program has changed how I want to live and what I hope to do with my career path, and I am so grateful that our directors made the excursions super fun but importantly more than just a tourism experience.

Review Photos

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Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

I was very comfortable in the classes and feel like a I learned a lot from some of the most caring professors I have ever had. At times, I wish we had been pushed to dig a little deeper, but the lighter work load allowed me to travel and experience the culture, which I am incredibly grateful for.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The directors are fantastic. They were always planning activities and were always there if we had any issues.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Living with my host family was one of the best parts of the entire experience. I had the opportunity to learn and practice spanish every day at home, and my host mom was the sweetest. She went above and beyond to feed me great food and always made sure I was comfortable. It was also great to spend time with the rest of the extended family that would visit every weekend.

* Food:

The food was fantastic. The fruits in Costa Rica are amazing, there are all kinds of fruits that I never knew existed but now have some new favorites (Guanabana, Granadia, etc.). I ate gallo pinto just about every day and it never really got old for me. I enjoyed the mix of hispanic and Caribbean dishes that I found in Costa Rica

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Living with a host family made me feel like I was part of the local culture. Although with my appearance, it was hard to avoid being immediately recognized as a gringo, I still personally felt like I was living like a local. Heredia is more Americanized than other cities in Latin America but the Ticos came across as being very friendly.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I was fortunate to be very healthy for the majority of my time in Costa Rica. I was just a little sick for about a week but my host mom gave me many different forms of natural medicine and teas to make me feel way better. Some of my classmates had some serious health issues, but from them it seemed that the health programs were very helpful, and our directors were fantastic in that they stayed with the students throughout their health issues. Going in I was very nervous about the prevalence of the Zika virus, but once I got to Costa Rica I almost never even heard it mentioned. There are very few mosquitos in Heredia and I rarely had issues with mosquitos when I traveled.

* Safety:

I pretty much always felt safe in Heredia. During the day I felt safe to walk anywhere. We were advised not to walk on the streets late at night and take taxis instead, which fortunately are very cheap. I stuck to that and never really felt unsafe. There were no major safety incidents among the students while we did here about incidents nearby in the news.

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

I honestly loved the program. The excursions were some of the best experiences I have ever had. The directors were fantastic and they made it so that the excursions were not only enjoyable but incredibly educative, and have opened my eyes to all kinds of things I didn't know about. I was able to travel way more than I had expected to and that allowed me to see the incredible beauty and diversity of Costa Rica. I am also super grateful that I was able to spend so much time with a fantastic group of classmates/friends/SOLmates.

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 could go for a whole week without spending a dime if I so chose. While we were in Heredia, our host families offered to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. When we went on excursions there were some additional expenses for food and tips. Most of my money went towards personal travel. I was able to travel somewhere most weekends as the public transportation is very cheap and I was always able to find a hostel for $10-$15 per night. With food prepared for us, it can be very affordable if you want it to.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $10-$20 (This would jump up $50-$100 if I chose to travel for the weekend)
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? I ate all breakfasts and most dinners in my house, and my host mom prepared a boxed lunch for me every day. This saved me a lot of money on food. Other than that I would suggest taking advantage of the cheap public transportation and hostels.

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

I was always using the language at home, in class, and on my own in town. A lot of english was used among the students when we were together, but our program directors frequently encouraged us to use spanish. It also depended heavily on the student as all levels were represented and some wanted to speak spanish more so than others.

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 College Spanish Classes ("Advanced" classes, such as literature and film)
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? Push yourself to use spanish as much as possible. It is difficult with the other students because you want to become close with them and that's most easily done through english, and the truth is that I am glad I became so close with my fellow students. For me, the best things to do are to speak regularly with your host family and try to make some local friends who you can hang out with and talk in spanish. Also be open to talk with locals even if you feel uncomfortable, it is worth it.

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?
  • The excursions and how easy it was to travel most weekends (Costa Rica is so beautiful!)
  • My fellow students and the directors
  • Living with my host family
* What could be improved?
  • I wish the spanish classes were just a little more demanding
  • I wish Heredia was less Americanized
  • I wish I wasn't so easily profiled as being a gringo (This last two can't actually be improved, but there's not much that I would realistically improve)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew I was going to be able to travel so easily/frequently/and cheaply on my own, and that I'd be able to explore all over Costa Rica, and go to Nicaragua and Panama as well. I wish I knew a little bit more about Heredia and my host family beforehand.

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.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Literatura Latinoamericana

Course Department: Español
Instructor: Laura Natalia Ramírez Rodríguez
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: This course covered a wide range of Latin American literature. The professor was the best part of the class because she is so incredibly caring and excited to teach us. The students enjoyed her so much that they were literally in tears on the last day because they didn't want the class with her to end. We did not go on any field trips but we learned a lot about Costa Rican authors and authentic literature. There were 13 students in the class and I was able to participate frequently. We covered a lot of material and at times I wish we could have gone into more depth on some subjects and I wish we had more time for discussion. We were assessed on presentations about Latin American Authors and their books, homework assignments and short essays, and a final exam.
Credit Transfer Issues: I am not sure yet.
Course Name/Rating:

Español Avanzado I

Course Department: Español
Instructor: Andrea López Jiménez
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: This was a helpful course in that it brought my grammar skills back up to speed and increased my confidence in my grammar. We did not go on any field trips but we learned a about things that were specific to Costa Rica. The teacher was very organized, knowledgeable, and always made class fun. She also was able to relate to the students very easily. Since there were only 8 students in the class, everyone participated frequently. We were assessed on regular homework assignments, short essays, presentations, and exams.
Credit Transfer Issues: I do not know yet
Course Name/Rating:

Español Avanzado II

Course Department: Español
Instructor: MEL. Leticia Salas E.
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: This course extended what we learned in Español Avanzado I and helped us apply our grammar to more real world examples rather than worksheets. We did not go on any field trips but we frequently learned about current events in Costa Rica and the rest of Latin America. The professor was always well-prepared and knowledgeable. Student participation was a big part of the class so we had the opportunity to talk frequently. We were assessed on homework write-ups, frequent formal and informal presentations, and exams.
Credit Transfer Issues: I am not sure yet
Course Name/Rating:

Civilización y Cultura Latinoamericana

Course Department: Español
Instructor: Laura Natalia Ramírez Rodríguez
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: This was a fantastic course. The professor was one of the best parts. She is incredibly caring and always wants the best for her students. She is very knowledgeable and was always organized for class. The class was very fair if you paid attention and put in effort. There were 16 students in the class and I participated about the same as I would at my home institution. The class covered a wide range of Latin American history in a very short amount of time. We went on two field trips to local museums and we also learned a ton about Costa Rican history and the country today. We were assessed on many presentations, creative in-class and at home assignments, and a final exam.
Credit Transfer Issues: I am not sure yet