A Lesson in Perseverance Past Review

By (Spanish Language and Literature., Berea College) - abroad from 08/17/2012 to 12/07/2012 with

USAC Costa Rica: Heredia - Spanish Language, Ecological, and Latin American Studies

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned how to maintain your values while everyone around you is living a different way. (smoking weed on the beach and getting drunk) I learned how to listen to criticism and insults without letting them affect how I view myself (my host mother called me fat, stopped giving me fruit juice, and threatened to buy a scale if I didn't admit that I was gaining weight (I weigh 113 lbs)) I learned that learning a language is a very slow process that needs to be blessed with your patience and determination, that basic grammar should always be seen as a foundation and vitally important. I learned that I can be brave enough to speak Spanish with others. I learned how to find something to smile about in each day, despite dashed hopes and disappointed expectations. It was a worthwhile experience, I don't think that I needed to go through something so hard as that, but I want to take valuable lessons from it.

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.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

They did not do a good job of helping finish the Visa application process. I was part of the GROUP visa program, and it was never explained to me that I needed to ship my passport to San Jose to finish the program. I ended up with a worthless $350 piece of paper in my passport. They informed me the week before my visitors visa would expire that this was the case and that I needed to leave the country.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived with a verbally abusive host mother. Other host parents informed me that she talks badly about each student that she has had.

* Food:

I came back to the United States with a lyposomal overload due to the constant fried nature of the food.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The program promoted a "Tico friend" one on one language exchange program, that never came into fruition. I think the isolated nature of the program made true immersion very difficult. As a female it was not safe for me to jump into the culture alone (especially considering the nature of the men there) and so most of our time was spent with the other USAC students.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I contracted Dengue Fever while in Costa Rica and they took good care of getting me to the clinic each day for blood tests.

* Safety:

It was a safe place to be, as long as you walked with another student. The men were very objectifying to women, which made me uncomfortable about talking to them.

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


* 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? 0-10 dollars a week, excluding the two trips I took outside if the program
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? If food is provided in your home, do not spend extra money eating out. If you do that you are double paying for eating.


* 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

They encouraged us verbally but did not provide opportunities for us to do so.

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? 400+
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 a program that is linked to, or directly part of a national university so that you are surrounded by students you can speak with.

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

  • 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 class sizes were small.
* What could be improved?
  • They have very low expectations for the students. They enforce a low standard for behavior and for language acquisition. I felt that the courses did not match the course descriptions in regards to the level of difficulty.
  • The visa process needed to be explained far more clearly and carried to completion
  • There should be many more opportunities to practice speaking with native speakers.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew exactly how much interaction I would have had with native speakers, and how difficult it would be to spend time with native speakers outside of program constructed events. I wish I knew more details about how the visa application process needed to be completed once I landed in Costa Rica. I wish I knew more about the personal professionalism of the professors, and their expectations for the students.

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!