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More than Just a Spanish Class - Costa Rica Spanish Field Studies: Alyssa Sheppard, Animal Sciences

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Posted: July 20, 2012

...the tropical air immediately began to seep into every pore and with it, the “pura vida” way of life...
A view of Volcan Turrialba: the local active volcano near [students'] host town.

A view of Volcan Turrialba: the local active volcano near [students'] host town.

The beginning of May was a complete whirlwind. Within the first five days I had completed all of my final exams, moved all of my belongings back home for the summer, and packed my luggage for a month in Costa Rica. By the 6th of May I was feeling tired, stressed, and a bit overwhelmed and wanted nothing more than several hours of sleep and to start on summer break. Instead, I was boarding a plane that would lead me to one of the most intense experiences of my life. For the next month I would be living with a family of strangers, attending Spanish class for four straight hours every day, and attempting to learn about Costa Rican agriculture in a language I barely knew. That much needed break would just have to wait.

Once landing in San José, the tropical air immediately began to seep into every pore and with it, the “pura vida” way of life that classifies Costa Rica. SheppardCR2.pngAlthough every day was packed full of classes, agriculture tours, and homework, I could not help but begin to take on the typical Tico mindset. Frequent trips to local ice cream shops, visiting local farms, and exploring nearby rivers and waterfalls in one of the most stunning settings helped me develop a deeper appreciation for life. On the rare day that classes would leave me frustrated, I had the most welcoming, understanding, and kind-hearted host parents to joke and laugh with over a delicious Tico meal to leave me feeling far from frustrated. It was these moments, and the opportunity to connect with other people in the community that made this experience completely worthwhile and helped create many of the memories and lessons that will continue to stick with me.

Deciding to participate in the Spanish for Agriculture program was one of the easiest decisions for me. After studying Spanish for five years and spending five weeks in Ecuador I had developed a love for this language that is also essential in the agriculture field. SheppardCR3.pngDuring the month that I spent abroad I was able to achieve many of the academic and personal goals that I had set for myself before disembarking for Costa Rica. My Spanish skills were able to drastically improve through the intensive classes and immersion into the daily life of a Tico. Visiting numerous farms and different agriculture businesses allowed me to gain valuable insight into the industry in a different part of the world, giving me new and wider perspectives. Also, I was able to grow greatly personally and reaffirm many of the basic principles that are necessary for success in my future career. From my daily struggles I continually relearned the importance of patience and to follow the phrase “never give up”. Living with a host family helped reemphasize the necessity to be flexible and willing to try new things. Spending a month with the same eleven people reinforced the principles of acceptance, compassion, and cooperation. To effectively convey the value of this trip to a potential employer would be a great challenge. Not only has it allowed me to become much more proficient in Spanish, but it has given me the opportunity to become a more humble individual, better team player, and aware global citizen.