In May I returned to the U.S. after four months abroad in Heredia, Costa Rica, a sweet, lively town about an hour by bus from the nation's capital, San Jose. I studied with Sol Education Abroad, and I loved it. The directors made sure that we were more than tourists: at every opportunity, we talked about the social, political, economic, and cultural situations of the areas we visited. I spent my semester parasailing, white-water rafting, waterfall rappelling, hiking, and zip-lining...all while taking five classes and improving my Spanish by leaps and bounds. (Parents, never fear! I did indeed study plenty, and one of my five classes was with locals. That's right, in Spanish for Spanish speakers, dealing with the Costa Rican government structure, with Spanish tests and Spanish presentations! Was it hard? YES. Was it worth it? YES.)
My Spanish improved big time, especially since I lived with a host family. I still talk to my host mom, and I have plans to return in a few years. My host family's open arms are just a microcosm of the way that all of Costa Rica welcomed us not simply as tourists, but rather students of their language and their culture. I had conversations with bus drivers and taxi drivers and hotel clerks alike, all whom were impressed by my desire to communicate in Spanish and excited to share their opinion on the best beaches or the most beautiful can't-miss views in the country.
I could talk about my time abroad for a really long time. I wrote a blog if you want to know more (equaltohismajesty.wordpress.com), but from volunteer work to typical meals to beach weekends with the girls to Holy Week processions that filled the streets, I can't do justice to how my time in Costa Rica with Sol changed me. Basically, I have to tell you this: just go! You won't be sorry; I know I wasn't.