Well I am back in the U.S. of A as of Saturday night! I have so many mixed emotions right now and so much on my mind. I thought I would write one final post to wrap up my experience, but I wanted it to settle in my mind before writing.
Where do I begin? These past three months felt like they were just a dream. Coming back has to be one of the most unreal feelings I have ever had. I was finally comfortable in Costa Rica, and to be honest it felt like home. My “host” family felt like a real family to me. I actually love them a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I love being home in the U.S. as well. I missed so many things about being here. I missed my family and friends so much. I missed being able to eat when and what I want. I missed being able to drive myself wherever I wanted to go. I missed my bed! But since being here I can now only think of the things that I miss from Costa Rica, like the fresh fruit (PAPAYA!), the warm sun everyday, the friendly and easygoing people, and the wonderful conversations i would have with my host mom. I miss the reggae music and dancing. I miss the sound of Spanish especially. What a beautiful language. I hope I can maintain all that I have learned over the past few months. My Spanish has gotten a lot better.
Costa Rica taught me so much about myself and about the world in general. I will be forever grateful for that. I feel that now, I am much more appreciative for my family and friends, and for the small things in life. I have learned to SLOW down, and enjoy every moment. I have learned to be patient. Tranquilo ( to be peaceful, tranquil, relaxed). Here in the U.S. we have such a different lifestyle. We are always in a rush, and we always want things done NOW. We could learn a thing or two from our Latin American neighbors. They seem to lead a much less stressful lifestyle. I did so many things studying abroad that I never believed I would ever do. It was like I was a different person altogether. I met so many great people there. It was such a diverse group, and everyone brought something different to the table. It is so sad to me that I may never see some of them ever again. However, on the bright side, I know that I will stay in touch with many, and hopeful have reunions. The time we spent together, although very short, was so meaningful. We shared an experience that our friends back home can’t relate to. I wish them all well in their future endeavors and I can not wait until the next time I am able to see them again.
Costa Rica was gorgeous as a country. The music, the people, the scenery! Oh the scenery. Everything was great.
Here is a picture that my roommate Edith took:
I will definitely miss those sunsets. So beautiful. So tranquil.
My Tica Family, with the exception of my other brother and sister:
I hope to see them again one day!
Since being back a few things have been, well, wierd to me. For example, the traffic seems so much slower compared to in San Jose. People ACTUALLY follow road signs again. Carpet feels extra soft. I haven’t walked on a carpeted floor in so long. I feel strange every time I throw my toilet paper in the toilet. I finally go the hang of throwing it in the trash can. When I drove for the first time yesterday it felt like it was my actual first time EVER. I was a bit nervous. All of the Christmas decorations don’t feel right. I had no idea this week was Christmas. It didn’t feel like December over in Costa Rica. Last night, while I was out getting sushi (one of my many cravings I had back in CR) I accidentally said “Gracias” to the waitress. Woops! I can tell this will take some time to get used to. What do they call it?Reverse culture shock, that’s right.
In order to give a full reflection on my study abroad experience I feel as if I have to give the entire story. There were so many positives and they definitely outweighed the negatives, but there still were things that I was not completely happy with. Unfortunately one of these bad experiences included me getting robbed at gunpoint. I had heard so many stories about it happening to other students, I was just praying that it wouldn’t happen to me. The night that it did, I was so angry. Angry at myself for being so complacent. Angry at the man who did it. Angry that the authorities did absolutely nothing about it. But in the end I thought it about it, and there wasn’t anything I could do after the fact. It was done. Yes, it sucked, but it was done. I couldn’t be angry because it is something that happens all over the world and in every country. There are people like that out there. I did not want it to ruin my experience and so I let it go.
Another thing that I guess I was not entirely happy with was the vast amount of Americanization in Costa Rica. One of my preconceptions I had before going there was that it would be more like other Latin American countries in the sense of culture. There were so many American restaurants and fast food chains. Even the language was influenced by the U.S. They don’t roll their R’s! That was a huge surprise for me. The kids listened to a lot of American music and rock. It was almost as if the country was little America. After visiting Nicaragua and Panama on two of my free weekends, it was even more apparent how different Costa Rica was. After this initial shock, I began to realize that in order to enjoy the rest of my experience I had to accept Costa Rica for what it was. It DID have culture. I just had to take a closer look and learn to appreciate it.
I was also elated to have picked up an old pastime :) I started to train in Tae Kwon Do again! It had been about 5 years since I put that uniform on:
I can tell that I am not the same person I was 3 months ago. I feel different. It is hard to put my finger on what has changed, but I just know my perspective is different and I have learned so much. I never thought I would be the one to take off and leave my family and friends for 3 months to study abroad. I was so scared coming into this. I honestly wanted to back out just a week before I left. All I can say is that I am glad I didn’t. Costa Rica has been one of the most life changing experiences I have ever had and I will never forget it. I will be back for you one day Costa! But until then, I will just have to remember, Pura Vida!