Alumni Spotlight: Madeline Hill

Madeline Hill is a 20 years old female from Fort Collins, Colorado. She attends Fort Lewis College, and double majoring in Spanish and Public Health. After staying in Colorado for 18 years and never leaving the country, she went to Puntarenas, Costa Rica for a study abroad trip in the Spring semester of 2014 (January - May) and stayed an extra month for recreational purposes.

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What did your provider do for you and what did you need to do on your own?

Madeline: My provider, USAC, is hands down simply amazing. At the beginning of the semester, I tried to not bother them and try figuring everything out by myself. Once I got sick that all changed. Not only did they provide me with a place to go get medicine, they took the time out of their day to transport me to the pharmacy.

They would do anything to help their students even if it was information about buses, best places to visit, or if they were going to be playing soccer with us.

However, there were many things I had to do by myself but I had expected this. Going into another country, I had to make sure that I had to look out for myself, find people/friends I could trust, trust my language ability/dictionary, budget appropriately, and have fun.

Did you run into a language barrier? Did you ever think you knew more/less of the language?

Madeline: I ran into many language barriers, it comes with going to another country. However, it only challenged me to become better at Spanish. At first it took me forever to become comfortable speaking to locals, but soon I realized that it wasn’t helping me. Once I got comfortable speaking the language, my Spanish improved. It was comforting that the locals loved helping me because I was trying to learn their language and not relying on my own. The more comfortable I got the more friends and people I talked to.

However, there was still a language barrier, and even if there was no language barrier there was a cultural barrier. I learn to work around it or try to explain the best. It was rather frustrating and sometimes we would have to change the conversation. We both understood the situation and would just laugh it off.

What is one piece of advice you'd give future students traveling with your program?


Madeline: There are many reasons that separated the people who loved their experience abroad and who despised it. However, the main reason people hated it was that they compared the country they went to, to their home country. That is a huge mistake, and a very common one. For me it was easier to differentiate because I came from living in mountainous Colorado to a beach city.

However, other than the climate change there were many things I had difficulties at first not to compare. For example; food, authority, dress code, culture, shopping, and much more. Experience as much as you can from it!

This leads me into another piece of advice, go out of your comfort zone. This is your trip do not play it safe don’t spend it in bed or in the same place. This is advice I had to take as well, even if it was as simple as saying yes to go on an adventure or to simply go out for the night.

Describe your most meaningful souvenir and why you love it?

Madeline: My favorite and best souvenir would have to be my friends that I met (I know it sounds corny but it is true.) I went to Costa Rica solo, I didn’t know anyone, but once I left I felt like I knew my friends forever. We relied on each other in many situations, we could understand our American habits, got to learn Costa Rican habits, go on adventures and much more.

I am still very close to them due to the fact we talk almost every day, and are planning to visit each other constantly. Because we didn’t want to depart from each other or Costa Rica, we decided to stay an extra month (which is a lot cheaper changing a flight then booking a new one, and I highly recommend doing this!)

My second favorite would have to be the photos I took while I was there because I get to see them every day and remember the places I went.

How has this experience impacted your future?


Madeline: One of the reasons I went to Costa Rica, aside from learning was to figure out my major. I was an undecided sophomore going into Costa Rica, and leaving it I decided to major in Spanish and public health.

However, my experience abroad didn’t just change my major, it changed everything about me. It planted the largest travel bug into my system, and has made me want to look for a job that would allow me to travel as much as possible. I even am trying to study in Puerto Rico for another semester.

But again, schooling and traveling wasn’t the only thing impacted from this trip. The way I try to live my life has been affected as well. I learned a lot from Costa Ricans and I try to remember everything and put them into my everyday life.