Abigail Daniel '15
I spent the Fall 2013 semester abroad in Costa Rica. I was participating in a program with the ACM, Associated Colleges of the Midwest, a program endorsed by the College of Wooster Off Campus Study. I spent fifteen weeks in Costa Rica, eleven in the city of San Jose and a month in a rural area of the country. The eleven weeks in the city were focused on taking classes at our program center in San Pedro, a northern section of the city of San Jose. I took four classes, all in Spanish, with two classes focusing on the language, culture, people, and history of Costa Rica. Another focused on analysis of music in Latin America with social or political inspirations in the last three or four decades. In the process of learning about the music, we learned about the cultural, social and political issues and history of many of the countries in Latin America over the last forty years. My fourth class was an elective course about the education system in Costa Rica while some of the other students in the program took a conservation biology class and others still took a health class. The really exciting part of the program was that depending on which elective course we took, we spent our month all in different rural areas as our rural practicum. I spent my month in Llano Bonito, a small mountainous coffee growing region teaching environmental awareness and practices in an elementary school.
One of my favorite parts of the program was the focus on immersion, both of the culture and the language. We spoke only Spanish in the program center (we were shamed a bit by some of the professors for speaking English, in a teasing way of course), and we all stayed with seasoned host families, all of which did not speak English. My host mom in the city, Flor, is a wonderful cook so I ate some seriously incredible meals while I was abroad. And my host family in the rural area was absolutely the most warm, loving and inviting group of individuals. I had 4 host sisters, host parents and basically an entire host village.
Finally, one other really incredible part of the experience was all the trips we took both educational and for personal travel. We visited banana and cacao 'fincas', which are the farm/jungle/plantation areas in which we learned a bit about the country's ties with export crops. We visited beaches, volcanoes, and the national Basilica where we learned more about the tradition of Catholicism in the country. In my semester abroad, I got to see so much of the natural beauty of Costa Rica, but also the beautiful culture and people. It was an absolutely incredible experience and I created memories that will last me a lifetime.