Alumni Spotlight: John Gilpin


A kid from a town in Colorado. Never had much money but always wanted to travel.

Why did you choose this program?

I decided to go to Costa Rica because it was much cheaper than anywhere else. The first city I decided to spend a semester was called Puntarenas, I choose there because it was cheap and was next to a beach. The second place I went to was Heredia. I chose Heredia because it was cheaper than Puntarenas and had more to offer my Spanish learning.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

My program university helped me set up classes. I learned later that they had no Idea how the system worked and I had to redo my entire class schedule. The program took care of all the legal work and visa things I needed to get done. They offered to organize your flight for you, but the costs were very high. Through their program, It would have cost me almost 1200 dollars to get there and come back and do it yourself cost around 600, for the same flights.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Download a ton of music on to your phone. You will be on 3 to 4-hour bus rides every time you want to visit somewhere. Music will make the trip amazing. Also, do not get rid of your Spotify account before you come, You cant get a membership started in Costa Rica, But you can have one. Bring a knife, you will feel safer. bring great sandals and shoes, you will walk a lot. Bring a smaller travel backpack, you will use it a ton.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Wake up to a meal made by a Costa Rican family. I had a good family so, I would wake up to a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice, some fruit, a pastry, and a thermos of hot tea. would head to school usually with a packed lunch and take Spanish classes all day and during the afternoon a science class. would get home and usually go out. On weekend I would head to a beach in Costa Rica and have an amazing time.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

The only real fear that I had going into Costa Rica was that it would not change me. I was very worried about going into the country for a year and not growing as a person. While in Puntarenas I realized that I could only grow if I wanted to grow and put in the effort to do it. So I decided to switch to a more intense program with less of a party scene. I cut back on my bad habits and surrounded myself with good people. Came to the end of the year and realized that I am whoever I want to be, If I want to be a great person, Then I can be one I just have to stop getting in my own way.

Are there anything more you'd like us share about your experience?

I would have been more careful with what I ate, I got a pretty bad sickness and lost almost 30 pounds when I had no fat to lose. I would also be less patient with my host families, My first family was not great but I was too afraid/unaware to realize they were not good. We fought constantly and she refused to give me a normal amount of food. I did not think this was bad until I go to my second family, and within a week I felt like I was a member of the family. I can barely believe I put up with my first family now knowing how big of a difference a good family can make.