univeristy of south carolina

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

People always tell me, “Wow, you’re life abroad is like a 4 month vacation.” Well, they have a valid reason for thinking this since most of my posts on facebook are about what beach I’m traveling to or what cool animal I’ve seen this week. However, let me assure you we DO go to class, but even I, myself, forget that I am in Costa Rica with the intent to study. How could you forget, one may ask…well, its because my classes and professors are so amazing and the material is 90% hands on! Experiencing the plants and insects that we are actually studying that day makes an incredible difference when you are preparing for exams.

This past week was the week for midterms since we head out to Panama on Tuesday. How come no matter where you go or what school you go to it seems that all professors get together and decide to schedule their exams on the same week?? I had a midterm in entomology, a presentation on hallucinogenic plants, a quiz on identifying plant families and a Latin American Culture paper. So I guess you could call it my “Costa Rican Hell-Week” and I’m happy to inform you that I made it out alive!! In celebration, my program and I went out for karaoke and beer at a local “soda” where we danced all night to songs that no matter where you are from in the states you would know: Wobble, Cupid Shuffle, Don’t Stop Believin’. It was so fun because the Ticos, young and old, joined us and we taught them how to do the dances!!

One weird cultural thing about Costa Rica that was surprising to me is how they approach race. They call people from The States, “gringos,” people that look of asian descent, “chinos,” and black people,“negros.” The list goes on. So even though most of the stereotypes that are made in CR would be considered offensive in The States, they are normal to use here. After living here for 5 months I have begun to call/consider myself, Gringa, instead of “the formal and socially correct”, Americana.

My poor host mom has been really sick lately with a bad cold so yesterday I went to the market, which locals call the Feria, and brought her some sun flowers to brighten up her day! I love her so much and hate seeing her sick. Also, I attempted to wake up early this morning and make her breakfast but because Costa Ricans buy everything they plan to make the day of, there was close to nothing in the fridge or cupboard. So instead, I made her some coffee and brought it to her to wake up to. When someone has a cold in Costa Rica it is common to make a tea-like drink out of fresh basil, ginger, lemon, honey and juanilama. My host mom made me some a couple weeks ago when I had a sore throat. Even though it was a little uncomfortable to drink, my throat felt 110% better in the morning. “Que raro!!!”

Yesterday I went to see the movie, “We are the Millers,” in the theatre with a group of girls who also stayed in town this weekend. I love to see movies here because the movies are usually in English with Spanish subtitles! I have found that this is one of the best ways to practice a second language; by reading subtitles while the movie is played in English. It’s great for learning new words and phrases! I personally think it’s really fun but that could just be the dork in me, who knows!

Next week, there are 40 students including myself who are traveling to Tortuguero, Costa Rica and Bocas del Toro, Panama. In Tortuguero, those who are interested can volunteer with sea turtles and learn some insiders of sea turtle conservation. Others, can enjoy their time relaxing at the beach-front hotel or go hiking/ziplining through the national forest! Then in Panama, we will be traveling to a group of islands known as Bocas del Toro. This destination contains a lot of history and to this day indigenous people still remain on the islands! You can see their circular huts that they live in from the boats that take visitors back and forth from the islands to the mainland.

Last semester I went to the same place and it was by far the BEST. The tours were over-the-top amazing that take you to places named, Sea of Stars, Red Frog Beach, and Isla Zapatilla! On the tour to Isla Zapatilla, we went to a large strip of coral reefs. On the reefs, we experienced beautiful clear waters allowing us to see the diversity of animals among it such as parrot fish, Octopi, rainbow fish, long-spine sea urchins, nurse sharks and even manta rays!!

I’m so excited to return to Panama and more excited to visit Tortuguero! I love learning about the conservation techniques that Costa Rica utilizes. Most of their techniques exclude the use aquariums. Instead, for example, the researchers will use the animals’ natural habitat to increase population size and health. The United States could learn a lot environmentally from Costa Rica. 

Thanks for reading guys and there will be pictures to come!