In my initial post, I stated that I thought I would learn how other people lived. Being that I had never really been exposed to the cultures of different countries- I had no idea what aspects of society would be different and which would be the same. While on this trip I not only learned how Costa Ricans live, but why they live the way that they do. I learned that their homes are humble and functional as they do not focus on materialistic amenities such as extravagant houses and properties. Their roads are not perfectly paved with guard rails as people are expected to be held accountable for their own safety. I learned that the people there are not afraid of physical labor. Farmers tend to their own crops personally and sell and trade locally. They help one another out and pay each other back with aid when the other is in need. One of the two things that impacted me the most was how responsible Costa Ricans are for their own safety. Here in the U.S., we are not held accountable for our own actions. Bridges have fences to keep up from falling, construction areas are surrounded by fences, and sidewalks are perfectly paved with handicapped access. In Costa Rica there is no one held accountable for your injuries but yourself. It is left up to the discretion of the citizen to watch out for hazardous construction or to look where you are walking so that you do not fall in a hole on the sidewalk. The other thing that impacted me the most was how unimportant aesthetics are in Costa Rica. Here at home, we put a lot of weight on how nice someones car is, how big their house is, what designer clothing they are wearing, the big elaborate parks for recreation that are free of garbage and homeless people. It was a shock to me when I was walking the streets of Heredia to see the sewer running along the sidewalk, horses in the front yards of the houses, garbage along the streets, and incomplete sidewalks with broken concrete and holes. In Costa Rica, they do not focus on the visual appearance of things so much as they do the functionality of it. Because they are “less developed” they do not have spare time to devote to these luxuries.
For other students pondering a study abroad trip, I would say prepare. Do not go into this expecting it to be a glorious vacation. You are going into a place that is completely unknown and unfamiliar to you and that is going to be scary. The people will not speak your language, share similar beliefs, or live the same lifestyle. It will be different and it will not be home so you have to prepare for that. If you go into your trip knowing that- then you will get so much out of it. You will learn from their ways of life and get to fully embrace the experience. There is nothing that can compare to the opportunity to study abroad and it is an irreplaceable opportunity.