“No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive” (Gandhi). I believe Gandhi is trying to tell us that by exposing one’s self to cultural diversity, you will improve yourself and your own culture. This is why I enjoy traveling. I believe when you visit other countries and immerse yourself in their language and traditions, cultural barriers begin to breakdown. You become aware of others customs while also enriching your own culture.
I am currently in a language immersion program at J.R. Tucker High School in Richmond, Virginia. The goal of this program is to produce students that can speak fluently in either Spanish, or French, while also attaining a general knowledge of that culture. I took an interest in the Spanish program because my grandmother is of Spanish descent. I wanted to learn how to speak with my grandmother in her native language and learn more about the South American culture and my heritage. To help me accomplish these goals, I traveled to Costa Rica.
My travels took me to Quepos, Costa Rica. While in Quepos, I lived with a host family for two and a half weeks while attending school. Living with a host family helped to improve my Spanish because they didn’t speak English. If you looked at a Costa Rican travel brochure, you probably wouldn’t see pictures of downtown Quepos. Quepos isn’t very “fancy”, in fact, some people might consider it “run down”. My grandmother always says, “You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.” The people of Quepos are warm and welcoming. Our teachers were very friendly as they taught us about the culture and language of Costa Rica. We also taught them a few things about American culture. The phrases and conversational Spanish we learned at El Paraiso Spanish School were put to the test in the evenings when I talked with my family at dinner or went out to meet some of the local teenagers. My experience couldn’t have been learned in any classroom.
Aside from Quepos, I also visited, Manuel Antonio. This touristy place was just over a mountain about ten minutes away from Quepos via bus. While in Manuel Antonio, I encountered a sloth, raccoons, and monkeys. Monkeys are abundant in Costa Rica; they’re like squirrels in the United States. One day at school, there were two monkeys playing in the trees behind the school. Our teachers allowed us to feed them bananas, and soon there were more than two monkeys. I also went on tours to the Mangroves, a volcano, and the rainforest.
By traveling to Costa Rica, I learned more Spanish and improved my knowledge of the Latin American culture. More importantly, I learned about the way Costa Ricans live harmoniously with nature. The school I attended was like a tree house. It was composed of wooden support poles with roofs and trees. In Quepos, there were no paved roads and the houses were built so that some of the rooms were actually outside. We also walked, or biked, everywhere. There were very few times when we took a car or bus to a location. The food I ate was fresh, especially the fruit, and you could taste the difference. The wild animals are treated more like pets and roosters actually are the alarm clocks! While all of the tours I went on showed the beautiful landscapes that Costa Rica has to offer, the culture of Costa Rica is just as rich as its scenery. We can learn from the Costa Ricans’ respect for nature and simple way of living; you don’t need money to be rich.
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