Things I Wish I Knew before Studying Abroad

I cannot believe that it has already been four weeks of being in the country! I have already learned so much and upon reflecting on my time so far, I can comfortably say that my transition has been very smooth. However, there are a handful of hurdles that would have been easier to overcome had I prepared in advance! Here are a few things that I wish I knew before studying abroad. 

  • Comfort snacks are irreplaceable. From salty snack mixes from the grocery store to very American candies, there are some foods that simply cannot be found in Costa Rica. I am very thankful that my mom reminded me to pack a few snacks for my stay, but I have found myself rationing these snacks to make sure I do not run out too early! Costa Rica is home to so many wonderful new fruits and foods, but some of my comfort snacks are irreplaceable and I would definitely pack more if I were to study abroad again.
  • You will miss family and/or close friends. I definitely took for granted my ability to exist in comfortable silence with the people I’m closest with. Living in an entirely new country with new friends and a new family while also having an exclusively Spanish-speaking household is definitely very draining. My new friends and family have been incredibly supportive, but it is a huge change as compared to what I have at home. However, taking everything one step at a time and allowing myself to take time for myself has been so important! I try to call at least one family member or friend from home every day, and it has helped me not feel any severe homesickness so far. 
  • Time flies! I feel like everyone always says this when studying abroad but time is truly so limited. I feel as though I just got here, but I am already more than a third of the way through! Reflecting on my time, I feel that one of the largest challenges that I have faced is definitely the balance of time. It is so important to take breaks and get rest, but every weekend feels so important for trips and exploring. The concept of a time limit on my time here has made me want to spend all of my free time doing something new or learning about a new area. However, trying to find time to take breaks is tricky but very important to avoid burnout! 

Overall, although studying abroad comes with so many new experiences and concepts, it is important to remember that so many other students are going through the same together or have gone through a similar experience. Talking to other students about the unique challenges of studying abroad has also helped with airing out complaints. Even if everything cannot be solved, the sense of camaraderie is very reassuring. Finally, learning through experience has definitely been my main form of cultural immersion and has also allowed me to feel much more confident with facing new challenges. I am incredibly optimistic about my time here, and cannot wait to make more memories!

Here are a couple of pictures from my most recent weekend trip to Manuel Antonio!

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