Name: Jenna

Major(s): Spanish and English

Program: CEA

Where: San Jose, Costa Rica

When: Spring 2008

Highlight: My amazing host family

Best Excursion: Isla de Tortuga

Favorite Dish: Gallo Pinto

Next Destination: Hawaii to continue my surf journey


Describe your most memorable experience while abroad.

My most memorable experience while abroad was the first time I learned how to surf. My roommates and I had the opportunity to meet Costa Ricans from San Jose through the University that we were attending. The one friend that we made was an avid surfer and offered to teach us. Of course, all of us jumped at the chance. It was a strenuous, grueling day. At the end of that first day my roommate and I were sitting on our boards past the break while the sun was setting. All of the salt water I ate, the sand brush burns, and any pain I would feel the next day were totally worth that moment. I felt like I was on top of the world and could overcome anything.


What did you learn to love about the culture(s)?

I grew to love the people. Initially I was nervous about how people would view me and the fact that I was from the United States. To my surprise, no one cared at all they were just interested in getting to know me and about my culture. I also came to love the food. My favorite dish was Gallo Pinto. It was a rice and beans combo that came with all kinds of spices and flavors. It was served for breakfast with eggs. Just thinking about it makes me hungry!


What was one challenge you faced? How did you deal with this challenge?

One of the biggest challenges I faced while studying abroad was the language barrier. At times the inability to communicate became very frustrating. However, the longer I was in Costa Rica and the more I worked on my Spanish language skills the easier it became to talk with people comfortably in Spanish. Overall, this was one of the most rewarding aspects of my study abroad experience. To see my Spanish communication skills improve so greatly was extremely gratifying.


How has this experience changed you?

This experience improved my confidence level not only in my Spanish speaking skills but in my confidence in me. I had the opportunity to travel to a country through a program where I knew not one other person. It was scary, terrifying, and intimidating, but to go there and make friends with other students from all over the United States and from Costa Rica completely took away my fears. I realized that I had the ability to survive and thrive on my own. That is a great feeling, to know that I have the skills to stand on my own two feet without the help of anyone else.