Living la vida con los ticos - Pura Vida style! Past Review

By (SUNY - College at Oneonta) - abroad from 01/28/2012 to 06/16/2012 with

SUNY Geneseo: Heredia - Centro de Estudios Hispánicos de la Universidad Nacional

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned more about myself while I was there because I was exposed to various cultures (also traveled to Nicaragua and Panama) and because of the experiences I had. I also learned many things from my classes and my friends. I improved my Spanish immensely which is what I had anticipated from the beginning (and was determined to achieve). My experience was more than worthwhile and I look forward to going back to Costa Rica to visit my family and friends who are there.

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.

The courses were not too hard, but I feel that I learned a lot and improved my Spanish immensely, which was why I chose the program in the first place. All of the teachers were more than willing to help me, as well as my classmates.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Paula, Norma, Myrah and everyone else from Bienestar Estudiantil at la UNA were amazing and were always more than willing to help us. They got to know us very well and were very personable!

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I am giving housing a 4 just because of the first host family I lived with. They were inconsiderate, did not care to include me in family activities and abused my youngest host sibling (5 yrs old) in front of me. It was awkward and unwelcoming. I ended up talking to Myrah, in charge of housing for foreign students and she helped me find a new family - which more than met my expectations! I was very sad to leave them in the end because we had connected so much and I felt like a member of the family.

* Food:

Gallo pinto, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, maduros and fresh juice. AMAZING!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I felt integrated because of the friends I had made from my classes, from traveling, from locals in general and from my host family (2nd host family)!

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Did not have health issues with my stay, but I heard from other foreign students that their issues were always addressed well.

* Safety:

At first it was a little threatening because women, in the US, are not praised by men as much as they are in Costa Rica - this is a result from the machismo culture. At first I felt threatened walking down the streets during the day because the men would whistle, make a cat call, say something, etc. I talked to one of my professors about it and she said it is just a part of the culture, that it is normal for men to do that to any woman. There are frequent earthquakes and it is important to know that their rain season is BRUTAL. In the US there is no rain that exists like that in Costa Rica, including the storms. The thunder and lightning were very close the last few weeks of my semester.

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


* 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)

As a foreign student, with the visa we have, we are not permitted to work. This all depends on what you like to do in your free time, if you want to travel during the weekends, etc. The books are cheap and you pay for the food in the house you are staying with. You could easily only spend $20 a week or less depending on your extracurricular activities.

* Was housing included in your program cost? Yes
* Was food included in your program cost? Yes
Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? about $15 if I didn't travel, about $150 if I did travel (estimate numbers)
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? If you know you want to study abroad - save up, work for a summer and the semesters before...IT PAYS OFF. You have to take advantage of being in a different country and learning about a different culture while you have the chance!


* 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

This is only because I took classes with the costa rican students, started speaking Spanish with the people in my study abroad program from the very first day I met them, lived with a costa rican family and made many friends.

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? Fluent
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? at SUNY Oneonta a 330 level course, but our 300-level courses are equal to 400-level courses
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? DO NOT SPEAK IN ENGLISH WHILE YOU ARE THERE!!!! And be outgoing, meet people from the country and get to know them, you'll learn not the standard Spanish (or whatever language you are studying), but their slang/dialect they use.

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
  • 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 university - Universidad Nacional
  • my host family (2nd host family)
  • all of my tico (costa rican) friends!!
* What could be improved?
  • not sure...
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? What the men in the streets were like so I wouldn't have been so surprised.