Stephanie studied abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica through CISabroad. She plans to return to Costa Rica to complete an internship with a nonprofit organization, focusing on community development projects and volunteer coordinating.
Where do you go to school?
Winona State University
When and where did you study abroad?
Fall 2012: Universidad Veritas in San Jose, Costa Rica through CISabroad
What was the BEST part about studying abroad?
The best part about studying abroad is the opportunity to immerse yourself in another culture and living outside of your comfort zone. Getting to live with a host family, meeting new friends from around the world, improving my foreign language skills, and traveling all played a huge part in my study abroad experience. I think my host family is the main reason I had such a great experience, as they welcomed my into their home and made me feel like a part of the family. Because of them, I was able to meet other Ticos and make lifelong friends.
What did you learn about the rest of the world from studying abroad? What did you learn about yourself from the experience?
I learned that the world is a diverse place and we need to slow down and enjoy it. I learned to appreciate the relaxed “pura vida” lifestyle. And I learned it is possible to communicate even with language barriers. This experience also made me realize how fortunate I am and to really appreciate the small things in life.
What was your BIGGEST challenge while studying abroad and how did you manage to handle it?
My biggest challenge was having to say goodbye to my host family and other friends. Before I left the US, I thought I would just be the American student living in a room, in a house with a family, hanging out with other American students. I couldn’t of been more wrong. Having to say goodbye to the family that I had become a member of and all of my local and American friends was rough. I still don’t know if I’ll ever see some of them again but they helped me to have the best experience of my life.
How did studying abroad change your life?
Studying abroad definitely changed my life, in ways I never expected. My experience abroad helped me gain independence and confidence, not only with myself, but with my Spanish speaking ability. I learned so much about myself, the country, the culture, and the language. I also learned it’s important to take time to just relax and enjoy life – and not to get stressed when things don’t go as planned. Study abroad gave me foreign language and organizational skills and the ability to communicate in a cross-cultural setting, which are skills that will help me pursue a career in international development.
What are your future plans?
In a few weeks I am actually heading back to Costa Rica to complete an internship with a nonprofit organization. This time I will be living in a rural community and focusing on community development projects and volunteer coordinating. I am hoping to gain more international experience and join the Peace Corps before pursuing a career with an international nonprofit organization.
What’s your BEST piece of advice for someone who is thinking about studying abroad?
Do it! Don’t think twice about it, just go. It will be the best experience of your life and one you will remember forever. You will meet lifelong friends and have the time of your life. Even when times get rough (like the time I was in Panama and it rained for 3 days straight and I never thought I would be dry again…or the time I paid over $6 for a jar of peanut butter) you will be able to look back and smile. Studying abroad is truly something you have to experience to understand and I can’t recommend it enough – it’s worth it.