A Piece of My Heart is in Costa Rica Past Review

By (Spanish Language and Literature., University of Nevada - Reno) - abroad from 01/18/2013 to 05/17/2013 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 that I can be independent, and I mean truly independent. I go to college an hour away from home and with the same friends from high school, so this experience gave me the opportunity to branch out in a way I had never had to. I learned that it is important to try to things and open your mind to different perspectives.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The courses were challenging, but not too difficult that I was allowed no free time.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The on-site USAC staff were so helpful in arranging activities, volunteer opportunities and taking care of the students overall.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My host family was so good to me and made me feel like a real daughter.

* Food:

I got a little tired of rice and beans by the end of the semester, but the meals were hearty and tasty.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

USAC integrated us through the host families, activities with locals and attendance at the university.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

We were covered by insurance and knew where the local medical center was. I had a terrible allergy attack, and my family took me to the clinic where I was treated promptly. We had a girl in our program get injured by a train. The program assistant in Heredia stayed with her for days and took care of all the paperwork as well as arranged her family to fly down to see her. I'm sure that wasn't in his job description, but he had a genuine concern for the students in his program.

* Safety:

During the day I felt very safe in the city, but I still guarded my purse. At night, however, it is important to take a taxi to your destination because of the robberies in the area.

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)

With the help of scholarships and financial aid I was able to live comfortably all semester. Granted, we traveled cheaply on local buses, stayed in hostels, and eat cheap meals. If you're smart with your money, you can make it happen.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $50-$100 depending on what I was doing that week.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Eat casadas at sodas. Take the bus. Stay in hostels. Shop at thrift stores (ropa americana). Go home for meals whenever you can!!


* 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

We were forced to wake up speaking Spanish or we wouldn't get fed by our host families. My courses were taught entirely in Spanish and we had to ask questions/ give answers in Spanish as well. We were encouraged to interact with locals as much as possible to continue practicing.

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? Span 212
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? Spend time with your families and don't be afraid to talk to people in the city. Make local friends and try only texting/fbing in Spanish! I changed the settings in my phone and online which was challenging, but really good for me!

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?
  • Learning about a different culture from a firsthand perspective
  • Traveling
  • Making tons of friends
* What could be improved?
  • Information about the bus systems
  • Advice on packing
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish they had provided the students with a clear map and description of the bus system in San José. It took me months to get the hang of it, for things were always changing! However, I suppose the challenges like this are a part of living in a different country. Also, I wish I had been advised on what to pack better. I ended up investing in some flip-flops, hiking shoes, sunscreen, and bug spray at ridiculous prices. They were all things I should have brought with me!