First Impressions Of Costa Rica

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.

Today was our first full day in San Jose after arriving yesterday afternoon. Right now I’m busy taking everything in, and there is a lot! It’s all been amazing and exciting up to this point. My brain has been completely overwhelmed and scattered by all of the new things, so my post is going to follow in similar fashion with a list of all the major impressions I’ve had so far.

First Impressions of Costa Rica

  • Oh my gosh, I am so white… leave it to Costa Rica to make me realize the painful extent of my whiteness. I’m talking beyond skin color, though, I’m talking obviously bewildered gringa who says “Qué…?!” far too often.
  • Can I go exploring yet? Seriously. Costa Rica is breathtaking – green in every direction with mountains looming picturesquely on the horizon, accented by the pastel-colored buildings that pepper the landscape.
  • One of the coolest things ever: walking down the street in San Jose, and looking past the chaos that is a Frogger-like game of pedestrians and cars, seeing the mountains in the distance.
  • There are so many people out on the street! I am used to downtown Austin, where the only people out and about during the day are a few meanderers and people stepping out for lunch breaks. Today, the streets of San Jose were brimming with pedestrians. My resident director, Francy, explained that the work shifts here are different from those in the U.S., and that in Costa Rica a 9-5 job is much less typical. She also said that it is not uncommon for the ticos (the local word for Costa Ricans) to work on Saturday and Sunday, and to have Monday and Tuesday off as a weekend.
  • Comida! The food here is different, but not totally new to me. I think that the real cuisine culture shock has been on the students from schools up north. I realized this when a student studying with API from Wisconsin asked what an avocado was, and said that she had never had guacamole before! Now that is a preconception-shattering realization.
  • The weather is great. Coming from Texas, the sun feels much more mellow, and the heat (while definitely present… my shoulders got a bit burnt!) is milder. We are here during the rainy season, which means that we can count on rain almost every late afternoon, but even that isn’t wholly unwelcomed.
  • I am realizing that I was a little (ahem: a lot) attached to my cell phone. I think that this forced separation will be good for us, though. Maybe when we are reunited this fall, our relationship will be healthier.
  • Last night (our first night here) we went to dinner at a restaurant in the mountains that overlooked Central Costa Rica. It was at night, and we could see the lights from all of the provinces from where we ate. As if that weren’t an incredible enough sight, there were fireworks in two different places. One of our resident directors, Esteban, told us that each of the provinces typically celebrates the birthday of their patron saint with by setting off fireworks. ¡Qué bonita!

And to those of you considering study abroad, here’s a dirty little secret: Ninety percent of the time, I don’t know what’s going on. Honestly, NOBODY actually knows what’s going on. Everybody has admitted to being scared out of their minds, and even though some of us are better at Spanish than others, everybody has blank stares on their faces every once in a while. Everybody is scared! Don’t ever think that you’ll be the only one, or that you shouldn’t study abroad because of it. It wouldn’t be such a memorable experience if it didn’t take a lot of courage in the first place!



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Summer doesn't have to end! 🌞 Study abroad in Costa Rica this coming fall or spring and enjoy plenty of sunshine, lounge on beautiful beaches, and explore their vast rain forests. Our Costa Rica programs are now open for application, don't wait!
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