My name is Estevan and I am a recent graduate of San Diego State's International Business program. Part of our program's graduation requirement is to do a study abroad and internship; I decided to do them simultaneously by doing a 250 hour internship abroad. I was referred to Adelante Abroad by a friend I had met in my classes who was also looking to fulfill the requirement. I was lucky to be able to submit a late application ( I am quite the procrastinator), as it was less than 60 days before the start date of the program. Ellie, Kimberly and all the Adelante staff were all really helpful in expediting the process with good communication; they even made arrangements to put me with the same host family as my friend Ricky (my classmate that referred me). I was nervous and excited because this would be the first time I have ever traveled anywhere independently.
I didnt exactly start out the trip on the right foot because I missed my initial flight out and had to grab the next flight out the following morning. Adelante arranges for you to be picked up at the airport but since I missed my flight, I took a taxi to my host family's house ( I had her contact info and she told me how to get to her house ). I speak Spanish, so I think my first initial and possibly only instance of 'culture shock' was the ride to the place where I was going to be staying. It was dark and the driver seemed real intent on getting me there because he was going pretty fast, and the whole uncertainty of where I was going started to set in. I have to admit, upon first sight, San Jose isn't the most elegant or inviting city (although most places dont look too inviting at night) - but I really felt at ease once I finally arrived at what would be my home for the next 3 months. My host family greeted me with open arms upon my arrival, my friend Ricky was already there and settled in, and the lady of the house Dona Maritza had dinner waiting for me. I met everyone at dinner, including my other roommates which included another exchange student as well as Maritza's kids Luis (25) and Mariana (10).
The trip included two weeks of intensive spanish courses, which began the morning after my arrival; they were conducted at a great graphic design college called Veritas that was just a few blocks walking distance from our house. This became a sort of home base for me and ricky because this is where you will meet all of your new friends. The neighborhood where our house and school was at was really safe and there was never any problem with walking to and from (even at night). You take an assessment the first day to be placed in the appropriate proficiency level; the class you are placed in is really engaging and gives you the opportunity to make a lot of new friends. I was placed in the most advanced class, but they are very flexible and because I had already taken a similar class, they let me transfer to an elective historical class which was of more interest to me. Veritas really does a great job of making you feel welcome, Esteban was our Adelante English speaking liaison at the school and was always there to help.
Once my classes were finished, I was given my internship assignment; I was to be a intern for an export/import company about a block away from the school. This internship was a great experience for me, the one thing I got the most out of was using a high level of spanish every single day. I assisted in general administrative tasks, client relations, market research, and logistics. The company did their own distribution all over the city and even to neighboring areas, I was often able to accompany the driver and see all of the clients and help with delivery. This gave me the opportunity to see almost the entire city, as well as surrounding cities. Don Manuel, Laura, Andres, Dona Sida, y Don minor were all the people I worked with at Importadora Roma and they were truly amazing, good people who genuinely cared about me and did their best to make my experience an enjoyable one. One tragic event occurred during my stay in Costa Rica and Adelante really showed how great of a company they are. The son of Don Manuel, Andres, whom I had the pleasure of briefly working with decided to take his own life. Esteban from Veritas and Kimberly/Ellie of Adelante were quick to reach out to me and make sure that I was doing ok, even offering counseling through Veritas if needed. I found that to be an awesome gesture and really appreciated the level of support offered. I attended the funeral and was also personally taken out by Don Manuel and we had a really good conversation on the situation. I was happy to know that although he was deeply hurt, he was at peace and his son was at peace. This was a really eye opening experience and made me really take a look at my life and how thankful I am for everything and everyone in it. Aside from this tragic event, my internship was a really great, fulfilling experience and I came back speaking a high level of Spanish while also learning how a small business works internally. On my last day of work, I treated everyone to a wonderful dinner at a Peruvian restaurant; I know that from this experience I have made friends for life.
On to the greatest part of the trip, the weekend excursions and social life! PURA VIDA!!! thats all I can say...pura freakin vida. The trip included two weekend excursions, the first was to Puerto Viejo. Puerto Viejo is a beach town on the Caribbean side of the country and honestly one of the most awesome places ive had the pleasure of visiting. Me and Ricky took a six hour bus ride, in which we met people who would become our good friends and nightlife crew for the rest of the trip. Everyone was from different places in the states, we even had a few people from canada. We went snorkeling, swimming, dancing, drinking and just had a blast in general. The next weekend we went to natural hot springs and ziplining. The hot springs were in a water park/hotel of sorts and was a lot of fun...it was in front of a active volcano!!!! you could see the lava shooting out of the top, it was pretty exhilarating. The next day we visited waterfalls in the middle of this wildlife sanctuary, took a boat ride and then arrived in Monteverde for ziplining. Ziplining was crazy fun, flying far above a rainforest and yelling at the top of your lungs can be a pretty liberating thing!
Luis our Tico (what they call the costa ricans, ticos and ticas) brother would show us around san jose when we were at home on the weekend and we would go bar hopping with all of the friends we met during our excursions. We went out about 2 or 3 times a week and got to see alot of cool places.
I also wanted to add how amazing my host family was, it was like a home away from home! They truly care about you as if you were one of their own. Dona Maritiza is truly one of the kindest ladies I have ever met and I will always consider her and everyone in her household family. She took care of me when I got a really bad fever (I thought I had dengue yikes!) and Adelante also made sure to keep in constant contact with my parents to make sure I was doing well and that no further actions were needed. Luis is my brotha from another mother and mariana like a little sister. They really showed me a ton of love and I cannot wait to go back and see my Tico family!
All in all, I have to say Costa Rica was the greatest decision I have ever made in my life and I can thank Adelante for providing a safe, extremely fun learning experience. I will never forget the time I spent in Costa Rica and I look forward to the day when I get to return. ( I am also hoping to do another one of Adelante's internships...possibly barcelona or montevideo). PURA VIDA ADELANTE!!