A Month of Pura Vida Past Review

By (Biology, General., University of Northern Iowa) - abroad from 05/26/2014 to 06/27/2014 with

Universidad Veritas: San José - Direct Enrollment & Exchange

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
This experience changed my life and how I look at the world. As my first time living in a foreign country, it taught me that the American way of living is not universally considered the best way to live. I learned that I can live off of a lot less than what I'm used to, and that it's possible to be happy without all the luxuries most Americans take for granted.

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.

Very rigorous 5 week program-- I was challenged, but grew so much in my Spanish speaking abilities

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Every staff member was very eager to help me with any questions I had

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I had quite a bit of culture shock living with my family abroad, but they were extremely helpful and loving

* Food:

The food was fantastic and healthy, but there wasn't a lot of variety in the traditional meals

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

By the end of the program, I felt like I had a pretty strong understanding of the culture of San José

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Healthcare in Costa Rica is very important to the citizens, and it's extremely high quality

* Safety:

I was well protected by my university and family, but Costa Rica was noticeably more dangerous than the U.S. I had a friend who was mugged in broad daylight, in my neighborhood.

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)

Two meals a day were included in my program cost, so I only had to pay for one a day myself. Groceries were cheap as well. When we went to travel, there were many affordable hostel and dining options.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? About 75 to 100 dollars
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Buy groceries to make your meals yourself! It takes more time than eating out, but in the long run you'll save tons of money.


* 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

My professor didn't speak English, and it was forbidden in the classroom

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Intermediate Oral and Written Spanish
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? SPEAK SPANISH WITH YOUR HOST FAMILY! It's super had to stick to it if they speak English, but it will make you so much better!

Direct Enrollment/Exchange

* Did you study abroad through an exchange program or did you directly enroll in the foreign university? Direct Enrollment

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students
  • 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? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Travel throughout the country
  • Inclusiveness of the citizens
  • The challenge of being out of my element
* What could be improved?
  • The website for the university was out of date and didn't really work
  • Earlier house family placement (mine was three days prior to departure, and they told me I would know two weeks in advance)
  • Clear rules from the host family upon arrival-- at my house, rules were posted but many of them didn't match up with what the family actually wanted
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? You WILL experience culture shock-- don't think it won't happen. You'll lose much of your freedom, and you'll have to be much more cautious than you're used to. It will be more challenging than you expect, but you'll find strength you didn't know you had and you'll grow into a better person from the experiences you have, good and bad.

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 Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'