I chose this program because it offered the study abroad, cultural immersion, and excursions I wanted to experience at an affordable price for my family. Additionally, I liked the fact that I had a roommate while staying with my host family because it gave us the opportunity to build our friendship more during our stay and help each other with translations and other Spanish related topics.
Olivia Fredriksson is a student from Kentucky who participated in SOL Abroad during her senior year of high school, where she traveled to Atenas, Costa Rica.
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
I was unable to continue taking Spanish past my sophomore year, so I worked with the head of the Spanish department at my school to put together a curriculum that would cover the Spanish III I missed during junior year.
The workers at SOL and the teachers at Atesa were willing to work with me to incorporate the content I needed to learn. Also, I knew I wanted to complete more volunteer hours while abroad, so SOL helped me coordinate more service work with the local daycare.
They were super accommodating to my travel schedule as well! When looking at the weeks they offered, I realized I had a few conflicts; however, SOL went above and beyond to work with me to find a timeframe that would allow me to still participate in the program. When it came time to actually go on the trip, SOL provided the participants with a great amount of information to ensure we were all prepared.
They were incredibly kind and accommodating throughout the entirety of my trip and truly worked to make every student’s experience abroad memorable.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Don’t hold yourself back!
I was so excited to go on this trip; however, I remember being nervous about how I would talk with my host family since my Spanish was not very good. It ultimately didn’t matter though because everyone, whether it was my host family or teachers, helped me stumble through my sentences. My roommate and I laughed at each other because we both struggled with speaking Spanish, but we helped each other piece together words to communicate with those around us.
Don’t be intimidated to try to talk to the local people because they are so kind and understanding— plus speaking out loud is the best way to get more comfortable with the language! Just embrace every moment and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way on your trip!
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
I participated in the program in Costa Rica, so during the week, my roommate and I would wake up and eat breakfast with our host family before getting dressed and ready for class at the Atesa language school. Then, we would usually coordinate with some of our other friends on the trip to walk to the school together.
Classes began around 8:00 and lasted until noon, with a snack break in between. We ate lunch with our family and hung out with our friends for the afternoon. For dinner, we would eat in town or with our family.
Sometimes, during the week, we would have super fun cultural activities, such as making empanadas or taking dance classes. On weekends, we went on excursions which were always really exciting! We went zip lining one weekend and to Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio another weekend.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
My biggest fear was probably not being able to communicate with my host family and locals because, as I said before, my Spanish was not the best!
I was initially worried I would be the worst speaker on the trip, but everyone I was with spoke varying amounts of Spanish, so we all worked with each other to piece together our words. The environment at Atesa and with the other students was so down to earth that I just learned to laugh at myself and not take things too seriously, especially when I had to practically play charades to relay whatever it was I wanted to say!
Is there any type of information you would like to point out to others?
It may be nice for some people to know that, during the trip, we took taxis to and from the town, simply because walking there took around 20 minutes and wasn’t as convenient. The rides were no more than 5 minutes and we always rode in a group. The program directors taught us how to use the taxis when giving us a tour of Atenas. I never felt unsafe at any point; however, I know some people may feel uncomfortable with this aspect. This being said, walking is still an option, so don’t let this one factor prevent you from participating in this program!
Overall, this program was truly life-changing and really helped me improve my Spanish skills immensely. The excursions I went on, the experiences I had, and the people I met made such an impact on me— I wouldn’t trade my time abroad for anything. The only thing I would have done differently would have been to extend my stay, or find out about this program well before my senior year of high school!