Oh, the places you’ll go

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.

One of the more interesting aspects of studying abroad with other students from the U.S. is trying to understand their motivations for coming abroad, and for choosing their new host country. In my case, studying abroad was something I have known I would pursue for a long time now, but I was never sure of when or where. The decision to study abroad the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college was one that just sort of happened on a spur of the moment, as many of my biggest decisions are made (can you spot the character flaw here?). My decision to study specifically in Costa Rica was similarly acted on, and had a lot to do with which Spanish-immersion programs were open to students with little previous exposure to the language.

However spontaneously these conclusions were reached, I could never regret them. I am convinced that if I had thought through my options any more thoroughly, I’d still find myself right where I am right now… sitting cross-legged in my bedroom in Costa Rica, listening to the rain on the roof, tired from a fulfilling day of sunshine and bus travel.

Why San Joaquin, Costa Rica is hands-down the right program for me

  • I wanted to visit a Spanish-speaking country so that I could do a language immersion program. I fell in love with Latin American culture when I visited Puerto Rico in high school, so I knew that I wanted to visit somewhere in either Central or South America instead of Spain, which is one of the most popular study abroad destinations.
  • I am a nature geek with no shame. I had lots of abstract images in my head of rainforests and beautiful beaches pre-departure, but I’m not sure that I really expected Costa Rica’s naturaleza to be as cool as I imagined it, because I know that I have a tendency to exaggerate things in my mind. Now that I’m here and have done a decent amount of exploring, I can say that it’s my expectations that weren’t as amazing as reality and not the other way around – there are no words for Costa Rica’s arresting landscapes!
  • Since arriving in Costa Rica, I have developed “OMG” syndrome. Symptoms include spontaneous moments of “Are you freaking kidding me?! Is real life allowed to be this (insert beautiful, awesome, unreal, or similar astounded adjective here)?!”, and manifest themselves at a minimum of twice per day.
  • While I am an Austin girl to the bone and I appreciate city life and the beauty in so much people and activity, in my roots and my heart I belong in small towns and modest homes. Living in the small town of San Joaquin has felt like home, and I love the coziness of the town, my host family, and my house. It is true that my showers are frequently ice cold, that the sheer number and variety of creatures in my room other than myself no longer surprises me, and that downloading a 40-minute video from the Internet is a 5-hour ordeal, but these are minor details to me. The simple, colorful homes and long walks have dug their way into my heart in a way that apartments and city homes never could.
  • I am not sure where API excursions in other countries go, so I don’t have much of a basis for comparison, but our weekend excursions so far (both with API and unofficial explorations) have been totally unparalleled. In the short time I have been here, I have hiked a volcano at Arenal, been surfing for the first time and made subsequent plans for my future life as a professional surf bum at Manuel Antonio, watched lighting light up the stars on a beach in Cahuita, missed three busses and nearly died on my way to La Paz, tripped my way through dance classes in Heredia, and sat with my face glued to the glass bus window as we pass through rainforests, cloud forests, and mountains on our way to all of these new adventures.

And because whoever said that a picture is worth a thousand words got it right, here are further reasons…

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