1. It’s nothing like school.
Shh, don’t tell. Studying abroad isn’t just for the education, but for the experiences you get outside of the classroom that open your mind to a culture different from your own, help you grow personally, and teach you something about yourself. It’s just a plus that when you do have to go to classes, you get to learn experientially through field excursions that take you up close with the places and things you’re studying. You’ll get to see the country, flora and fauna, and actually get to see, touch, and smell the things you’re learning about — so does it even really feel like school?
2. There is so much more to see and experience than what you’ve heard and seen on Instagram or Planet Earth.
Just because something is in a guidebook doesn’t mean you have to go and look at it, or that it’s any more amazing than the off-road waterfall or hot springs hidden by a daunting, winding 5km hiking trail. Take every opportunity to go off the beaten path and explore the places the locals recommend — often these are the coolest and most untarnished by the amenities that surround high-tourist areas.
3. Do it to be thrown out of your comfort zone.
There are other people living on this planet that live differently than we do and are really happy that way. It’s an awesome thing to realize that you don’t need to rely on hot showers, clothes driers, makeup, or a venti Starbucks coffee every morning to be happy. And contrary to every mother’s belief, you won’t get tired of eating from one food group for every meal when the food is as good as it is here.
4. Nothing bonds you like traveling. You’ll make lifelong friends and find talents you never thought you had.
The best way to know if you’re truly friends with someone? Trying little hole-in-the-wall local restaurants, figuring out how to navigate a bus system that runs on Tico time and stops at unmarked bus stops. Getting lost together can be an amazing thing and bring your closer than ever. Maybe you wouldn’t have thought that you could navigate the Costa Rican countryside with no internet, a map, or ability to speak the language…but you did anyway and came out on the other side with new friends and memories because of it.
5. Study abroad-ers are incredibly lucky people.
Very few people get to spend wonderful months exploring their passions in a world beyond their own hometown and get college credit for doing it. If your school has a good study abroad program, take advantage of it. To study abroad is a privilege and arguably the best way to travel for an extended period of time. When else will you have the opportunity to put your worries about the future on hold, while doing things that make you curious, happy, and help transform you into the person you hope to become? Follow your dreams, don’t let the fear of striking out hold you back. Be bold because this life is amazing.
Bonus: 10 Things I’ve Learned from My Semester in Costa Rica
1. Cold showers are WAY more refreshing than hot ones
2. Rice, beans, and plantains = Costa Rican Essentials
3. Classes are better when they’re not in a classroom
4. Your watch/bracelet/sandal tan can gauge how long you’ve been here
5. People will know you by your water bottle
6. Drinking 8 glasses of water a day is no longer hard
7. Traditional “real” school is a thing of the past
8. Every day feels like summer camp
9. Staying here forever crosses your mind at least once every day
10. When in doubt…Pura Vida 🙂