April 24, 2017
It has been two weeks since my feet returned to U.S. soil. The last three weeks of my study abroad experience were the busiest weeks I had while being there. From skydiving overlooking the mountains and beach, hiking 24 miles to the highest point in Costa Rica, and ATV’ing through the beach town of Montezuma; my days in Costa Rica came to an end.
As usual, each experience came with a new lesson learned. I sat on the edge of a plane, 10 thousand ft above the ground, and simply felt free as I spiraled toward the Earth in a matter of seconds with the force of gravity behind me. I followed in my Grandma’s footsteps on this one, and I could feel her happiness radiating through me the entire time. I stood at the top of Chirripó, the highest mountain in Costa Rica, and felt the true satisfaction of hard work that had paid off. Most importantly, I laughed and talked with friends from all around the U.S. We talked about our dreams and our plans, and shared a sense of peace when thinking about everything this experience had brought us.
This was the first semester of college I spent not worrying about my next paper or test. My worries consisted of how I was going to tell Mama Tica my weekend plans, or better yet, how I was going to tell the bus driver where to stop so I could get to those weekend plans. I learned something new from every single experience, every single day.
Being back in the United States has only given me time to reflect on everything I took away from my study abroad experience, so I’m going to try to sum it up in just a few sentences. One thing I learned was adaptability, as nothing about this experience was monotonous. Plans, people, and my surroundings were constantly changing. I was pushed out of my comfort zone every second.
‘Going with the flow’ was essential, and I quickly learned I didn’t have much control over what others threw my way. From the cat calling to traveling on the weekends, I quickly realized I could only control the way I responded to uncomfortable and difficult situations.
I left Costa Rica with a more grateful heart than I have ever had in my life. It is so easy for us to live ignorantly in a place like the United States. Many of us live with a sense of entitlement where we think bad things shouldn’t be able to happen to us. Then when they do, it becomes a question of ‘why me?’ For some of us, we grew up with everything we ever needed. Hot water was never a question and poverty was not something we saw on a day-to-day basis.
Costa Rica took me out of my bubble and showed me what it is like to truly live simply. The people there did not have a lot, and I would say many lived by the motto ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.’ This lifestyle was beautiful to see and experience firsthand, because the Ticos did not spend much time sweating over the small stuff.
If you look around you, anywhere you are in life, you will find there is always something you could complain about. My friends and I realized this during our last week as we complained about being hot on the beach… (seriously?!). When we took a step back from our complaints and evaluated our situation more realistically, we were able to realize how blessed and lucky we were to be where we were at that exact moment. Although we were exhausted from our hike, sweaty from the sun, and 100 percent overtired; we were in a place many people would kill to be in.
Instead of looking for complaints, Costa Rica taught me to look for beauty in every single situation. It’s always there– sometimes you just have to put in extra effort to seek it out. Costa Rica gave me way more than a few experiences I get to cross off my bucket list. This experience opened my eyes to things I needed to see and realize in order to live my life more fully. My heart is forever changed, and I am so incredibly grateful I was able to have the experience I did.
Ciao para ahora Costa Rica, hasta luego. Te quiero siempre.