Purgatorial entrapment in a gorgeous country November 26, 2019

By (Kenyon College) - abroad from 09/02/2019 to 12/11/2019 with

The School for Field Studies / SFS: Costa Rica - Sustainable Development Studies

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Costa Rica is beautiful, and I learned some neat stuff. Throughout the semester, I was extremely frustrated that I wasn't trusted to take care of my self. I feel like I missed out on a lot because I wasn't able to do anything on my own.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

There are a ton of contact hours, usually 9-10 per class per week. However, the tests and projects are not graded hard at all. Literally every single project you do for every single class is also done in groups, so don't expect to be able to work independently.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Professors are nice people for the most part. However, the problem with this program is that you are treated as an absolute child. The schedule keeps you incredibly busy, so there is no time to connect or immerse yourself in the local community. The Student Affairs Manager (SAM) gives you seemingly unending safety information on what shoes you'll need to wear, what clothes, whether or not you need bug spray or sun screen, reminders to hydrate, reminders to eat snacks, constant safety checks on 2km hikes, etc. etc. etc. You have no autonomy, you are not trusted to take care of yourself (regardless of the fact that everyone on this program is a fully capable 20-22 year old) and you are under the watchful eye of Big Brother SAM for the whole fucking semester.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Functional, but you can hear everything through paper thin walls. No privacy. Ever.

* Food:

Basically only carbs, but they're tasty

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

You are locked behind gate and key 24/7. You don't get to leave, mostly because of scheduling (always ridiculously busy)

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I don't even know what to say. Its so overkill. The SAM has said multiple times that SFS's selling point is its incredibly high safety rating (which I would disagree with). However, their comprehensive policies and incessant enforcement moves all of the impetus for self care from the individual student to a third party. You won't have to worry about being in an awkward or dangerous situation because they make sure to keep you far, far away from any place or situation that could potentially be harmful. The problem with this is that every student loses their own autonomy throughout the semester. You lose the ability to make decisions based on your own judgement and you lose the responsibility of taking care of your self. What really, really sucks is that you lose so many opportunities to make mistakes and grow. I believe that the SAM and the program's role should be to make us aware of risks and then let us make our own decisions based on that information; rather, they control just about everything you are able to do. They're also condescending the entire time that they're giving you safety information.

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

You just simply can't be independent here. If you're someone that needs constant structure, then maybe this program would be good for you.

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)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 20

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

You're in confinement with roughly 20 other American students for 3 months, so opportunities to use Spanish are few and far between. Spanish table is one, and the Spanish class they offer is another.

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? 200 level college
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? It's up to you how much you use Spanish

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* 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?
  • Field trips
* What could be improved?
  • Overscheduling
  • Incessent and ineffective safety policies
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Studying abroad is an awesome way to learn firsthand about a country, but you absolutely have to have the ability to make mistakes in order to grow. If you're never in a position to make a mistake, then you're never going to be able to grow in a meaningful way. The shortcoming of this program is that at no point are you able to make those mistakes, and thus you can never really grow.

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!