I've been fortunate enough to spend most of my time mostly traveling, studying and loving life. However, during my first couple days in Costa Rica I was not as happy to be here as I am now.
Let me start from the beginning. I decided to fly out of Newark, N.J., because when I compared ticket prices, though farther away than Philadelphia, it was a fair amount cheaper to do so. What I didn’t know prior to leaving was that one needs to arrive at least two hours early in order to board their flight.
Unfortunately, I arrived about one hour early, around 8 a.m., and because of that I missed my initial flight. To my dismay, the next flight was not set to leave until 6 p.m. Exhausted at this point, I decided to find a comfy area of the airport and try to get some sleep until boarding.
Around 4 p.m. I made my way through security and to the boarding area for San Jose, Costa Rica. I asked the gentleman working the kiosk for Costa Rica what I should do (because I was placed on standby due to missing my initial flight) and he said that after all board the plane the passengers, if there was room available, they would let me board as well. Initially, I felt pretty confident I would get a seat and thought to myself “How many people could be traveling to Costa Rica today?”
I asked the gentleman what the likelihood of me getting a seat was, and after several clicks on his keyboard he said, “it doesn’t look good.” At that point, I was completely distraught. I could not believe I missed my first plane and now I am at risk of missing a second. Seeing as my host family was already waiting for me, I called my study abroad program and let them know I was going to be late, and I potentially would not be able to make it there until the next morning.
Thankfully, they were very accommodating and told me they will have someone there to pick me up, regardless of the day or time I arrive. That was a huge relief but, all there was left to do was wait and see if I would be allowed to board the last flight to Costa Rica for the day.
After waiting anxiously for about 45 minutes, the gentleman stood up from his desk and began to board the flight. I literally just sat there breathless as I thought to myself over and over again “please let there be room, please let there be room …” Although it took about 20 minutes, which felt like an eternity, for the passengers to board the plane, I eventually heard my name over the loudspeakers calling for me to board the plane. I was so relieved, and at that point I know I was finally on my way to Costa Rica.
The flight itself was not bad, it took about five hours for us to arrive in Costa Rica and I slept most of the way. Upon landing a Costa Rican gentleman from my abroad program was standing there holding a piece of cardboard with my name on it, waiting to take me to my new family. We exchanged pleasantries (though he spoke little English and I spoke little Spanish) and then proceeded to walk to his fan, and then he drove me to my new home.
After about 15 minutes, I arrived at my new home. I was greeted warmly by my mama Tica (short for Costa Rican) and her daughter, after which then showed me to my room. At this point I was completely exhausted, and all I wanted to do was sleep.
My first night in Costa Rica was the single worst experience I had here to date. Within a matter of hours my life completely changed — I found myself living in someone’s home that I just met, who doesn’t speak English, in a country I knew very little about, and absent any social support system that I previously had. I missed home — my girlfriend, dog, cat, friends, and family — everything.
It's important to note this is not my first experience traveling abroad, and it won’t be my longest stay in a foreign country either. However, for some reason this time was different, I was alone, and if you would have asked me then if I wanted to go home, I would have immediately said yes. You may ask yourself “Why is he telling us this, isn’t studying abroad supposed to be fun and exciting?”
Yes it is, but I tell you this because it's important for anyone interested in studying abroad to know when you undertake something as life changing as living in a foreign country it isn’t always going to be easy; and it's important to understand that going into it. Just like life back home, you will have your ups and downs and though I felt completely alone that night, the following day I woke up and started with a clean slate, meet some really great friend, and I was on the beach with them in Manuel Antonio in Quepos (Atlantic Coast), having the time of my life the very next weekend.
This weekend I will be heading with the same friends to Puetro Viejo (Caribbean Coast) to experience the Caribbean culture, nightlife, and beaches. Next weekend, I will be traveling to Nicaragua to experience the celebration of Semana Santa in Granada. I decided to take this trip alone, in order to experience traveling and studying another culture like any other Anthropologist would.
I'm really excited to have this opportunity, and I will be sure to write all about it and take lots of pictures.