Thirty passports, thirty exhilarated students, one AeroMexico plane (of course including the complimentary six hour layover in Mexico City), a yearlong awaited trip, and one month of total Costa Rican immersion. So commenced the most sensational summer spectacle since Woodstock. Never had I imagined that a year of hard work and savings would land me on the Trip-of-a-Lifetime with my three best friends and 26 best-friends-to-be in Costa Rica.
There we were, 30 students of 17 years, in the middle of San Jose, staying with a dozen tico (Costa Rican) families in one neighborhood, two chaperones to manage us, and a month of the most amazing experiences of my life. I had left the country for the first time in my life, and 24-hours a day we were surrounded by Spanish. I was praying to El Dios that my five years of “Dónde está el baño” would be put to excellent use because I was right in the middle of SpanishLand, and the date on the return ticket home wasn’t changing.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
My tico family: Mama Tica, Papa Tico (the funniest man I have ever met, ex-policeman, lawyer, and, as we found out the last week of the trip, a loanshark), Marco my older brother, and Fio my younger sister. These are people who use their house as part of their income, and they regularly hold over 20 people at a time (the most they had ever had was 34 people at once), so if you are looking for extended stay, see if you can’t find a respected family to shelter and feed you for a month. That house is where my seven bunkmates and I became brothers and sisters.
The main purpose of the trip: one semester of study at ULatina, four hours a day with a linguistics profesora. For vacation, I would advise skipping this part, but for an immersion trip, this was an invaluable portion. I had never learned that in depth of the workings of the language than in those four hours every morning at the university. But the learning didn’t end after 12 o’clock, no sir.
Nothing except firsthand experience could completely and instantly expand my worldview into what it has become because of this trip. You want a mind-blowing experience? Spend time thousands of miles away from your bed, thousands of miles away from 3G, in a place where bargaining was not only commonplace, but expected, with the day-to-day lives of another human being of a totally different culture. I learned more about the value and details of another culture more profoundly than I ever could have by simply reading about them in a textbook. This idea of “other cultures” took on a whole new meaning, a respected light for me. It is now an inseparable part of my existence, to know and understand the world more completely as a whole by being separate.
The fun part? You mean studying all summer doesn’t sound fun? Well it wasn’t, that was the mandatory part. We made it fun. From 12 noon until we couldn’t keep our eyes open, we had the city of San Jose as our own. From $2 movie theaters to Pop’s IceCream to frustratedly discovering how the bus system worked, we roamed every inch of that city. On the weekends, we took four pleasure-vacations to all around Costa Rica, diving into the best the country had to offer. Food, drink, nature, resorts. All in the name of learning… of course. I’ll elaborate in the pictures (because I’m at 596 words already), but these trips were each to die for.
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