Greetings from Costa Rica, friends! My first two weeks studying abroad have been a whirlwind of emotions, adventures, and new experiences. It’s safe to say that getting adjusted to a new country is like a roller coaster. There are times when you feel so happy and at peace and others where you feel down and just want to go home.
If you are studying abroad, or plan on going abroad, I’m here to tell you that feeling this way is completely normal. It’s okay to let yourself feel sad or happy or whatever way you may be feeling, it’s all part of the experience of figuring out who you are and how you want to spend your time away. Here’s how I survived my first two weeks of being out of the country:
Telling Myself it’s Okay To Make Mistakes
Learning a second language is quite possibly the hardest thing I have ever done. At the end of every day after speaking in a language that wasn’t my own, I would feel drained mentally. The best analogy I could think of to describe is it like a dream. Have you ever had a dream where you were trying to run, but couldn’t? Or trying to talk, but the words wouldn’t come out? This is the feeling of being lost in a new language.
When you are trying to say something that you could effortlessly say in English and then trying to piece every word together carefully in a different language, it gets to be exhausting.
It’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to feel tired, and it’s okay to give yourself a break from the magnitude of it all. Learning a new language is no easy task, and you have to keep in mind that you are learning. You’re not going to be perfect. The sooner you realize this, the more easily you will be able to relax and let your new reality sink in.
Letting Myself Feel Homesick
Homesickness comes and goes in waves. I have found that sometimes I won’t think about home because I’m so lost in the moment here, and other times all I think about is what’s going on at home.
Feeling homesick is completely normal, and we are so lucky to live in a time where technology is so useful for this type of feeling. Use this to your advantage! Give your parents or friends a call if you miss them, check in on social media every once in a while to see what’s going on, do whatever helps you connect to home.
It’s also important to stay mindful of the fact that you are abroad to experience something new. You should connect to home if you are missing your friends, but don’t stay plugged in all the time. Take in as much as you can while you’re abroad, because you can update your family and friends later on your experiences!
Keeping an Open Mind
Culture shock is real. You might experience things that are just weird in the country you are studying in. For example, something that is really common in Costa Rica is “Tico Time”. Basically, it’s normal for teachers, friends, or whoever to show up 15-20 minutes late to class or a meeting. This is a foreign concept to me because I have lived in a time driven society for my entire life.
It’s important to keep an open mind when it comes to the cultures and practices of others. Surprisingly, I have found myself having to do this with other students from the United States as well. The United States is a huge country, and I have met people from every corner of the country since I have been here. Everyone has different mannerisms and cultures than your own, so it’s very important to be mindful of this and to be accepting of others and their differences.
Absorbing Everything Around Me
You see that ocean over there or that mountain over there? Snap a mental photo. Take a second and let your surroundings sink in. These moments are the moments that remind you why you are studying abroad, and why you’re doing what you’re doing. They will put you at ease and make whatever you are feeling seem a little more small.
I was standing in the Pacific Ocean this morning and letting the waves ebb and flow around me, and all I could think about was how beautiful the world we live in is and how every problem I have ever had with being scared, being frustrated, or being sad seemed so unimportant.
You are traveling to take on the world and take in everything it has to offer. The more time you take to appreciate your surroundings, the more you will gain from your experience. I promise.
As of now (along with a whole lot of Spanish), this is what I have learned so far from my being away. I have 10 weeks left in this gorgeous country, and I can’t wait to see how much more I can take in. More importantly, I can’t wait to share it with you all!
Taylor Hunter will be updating us with her experience studying abroad in Costa Rica this semester! Read the rest of the articles in the series: