As a second semester junior, I have been reflecting quite a bit on my college experience so far. I’ve thought about how truly epic freshman year was. It is sort of like being 5 years old again in an enormous ball pit with a bunch of kids who eventually end up becoming your best friends. If you are like me, and have been mentally checking off a list of things you must do while still in college, you must have considered studying abroad at least once. You may have heard, as I did, that it is an experience of a lifetime, one that you will never forget. What you heard was right.
When I applied last year to a semester-long program in Costa Rica, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew a pretty basic level of Spanish, and I hadn’t been on a plane since I was 11. But I attended an information session hosted by the International Programs Office, and it undoubtedly sparked a fire in me. There was a whole world out there, and I needed to discover it. I applied immediately, and a few weeks later I was accepted into the program. I was ecstatic. The months leading up to my arrival in Costa Rica were full of excitement but also anxiety. I would be living with a host family. “What would they be like?” “Would they like me?” “Would I like them?” When I finally arrived and first felt the tingle of warmth blanketing my skin, and first set eyes on the palm trees right outside of the airport, my anxiety melted away.
The next few weeks felt like an actual honeymoon. Everything was exciting! I met so many students from all over the United States, some even from other parts of the world. My host family welcomed me with open arms, and my professors were accommodating and very kind. My program, Academic Programs International (API), took us on amazing excursions. Our first one was a hike to Volcan Arenal, an active volcano. The view was fantastic and the weather was perfect. I also visited a few beaches, one of which is famous for its monkey population. The monkeys interact with the people as casually as people do. They also try to steal your food, but that is forgiven on account of their cuteness. I took a scuba-diving class during the last two months, and did something I never thought I would ever do. I swam with sharks. It was, in a word, breathtaking.
My time in Costa Rica was full of adventure but also in-credible insight. I learned how truly amazing our world is and how important it is to pre-serve it. During my trip I faced many fears and built a confidence I never knew I had. I also learned quickly how to adapt to new situations and people. I am certain this is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life. It doesn’t matter if you go to Costa Rica, although I recommend it, but if you have been on the fence about studying abroad, jump on over. Fill out an application. It will be one of the best decisions you will ever make.
Read about the many different experiences of some other Westfield students in different places around the world:
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