A Feeling Called Home

Lizzie Jespersen is a student at The University of Texas at Austin and an official API Student Blogger. Lizzie is studying abroad with API this summer in San Joaquín de Flores, Costa Rica.

The word home has always tugged at a certain feeling in me, like slipping my arms inside a favorite hoodie or like warm chocolate chip cookies on a rainy day. And there have always been a number of things that I associate with this feeling. Driving my Jeep, salt water on my skin, those first chords of Here Comes The Sun, the right shade of blue… all of these things are home to me, more so than any set of four walls and a roof.

It was several weeks ago, as I left school and set off on the now-familiar trek home to my familia tica, that I first realized it – I was walking home. I had thought it before, and I had no doubt said it before, but something in that moment made me pause in my tracks. I was walking home, and home was a gate with a stubborn lock, rice and beans on the stove, and sleepy morning exchanges of “Pura Vida”. As I blinked through this sudden awareness, I realized that even more so, Costa Rica itself has become a home. And that is perhaps the best part of my study abroad experience: the knowledge that somewhere along the way, all of the mistranslations, 4-hour bus rides, gallo pinto, unprepared sprints through the rain, mosquito bites, failed attempts at salsa, and nighttime walks along the beach, started to feel a lot like home.

I think that this must be what studying abroad is all about: leaving home, not to run away or to forget your roots, but to find a little part of yourself in a home that you never even knew you had. It’s about learning that no matter where you go, you are never leaving a home as much as you are discovering a new one. And it’s not about growing and changing as much as it is about uncovering a part of you that was waiting for you all along, patiently, for you to step out of your comfort zone.

Even though I will leave a piece of my heart here in Costa Rica, woven somewhere between nature’s tapestry of sunsets and sprawling green forest, I will still leave fuller than I arrived, with pieces of my new home tucked away in spaces that I didn’t even know needed filling.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
-Mark Twain

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Flashback to our Fall API student's first days in Spain. Madrid orientation with our friends from api_granada, Salamanca guided tour, and lunch tapas (+first days of classes!)

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