- What are classes like? Do you get free time?
My classes have been informative and very interesting. I am currently taking Spanish, Economics of Healthcare, Vulnerable Populations, and Healthcare in Costa Rica. The classes are very participation-based and do not have a lot of work required outside of class. Classes are not held on Fridays, which gives us three-day weekends.
The classes are held with the other students from the ICDS program, and are taught in English (with the exception of Spanish class). Most of the professors are doctors from the hospital that the program is paired with (Hospital Clínica Bíblica). The classes themselves are very discussion-based, and the professors have so much knowledge and passion surrounding their subjects, making class very engaging. Overall, I feel as though there is a lot to learn but the work is very manageable and easy to keep track of.
We get plenty of free time on the weekends, but generally spend that time taking trips to explore the country. Weekends are also times when ICDS plans trips for us, so we have had smaller day trips every other weekend. I usually spend the extra time with my host family or catching up with friends and family back home. I personally sometimes wish I had more free time, but I have also loved planning weekend trips and exploring the country!
- How is living with a host family?
Living with a host family is wonderful! I live with an older middle-aged woman and her mother, but they have a huge family that stops by to visit very frequently. I have bonded with my family and have loved talking to them, hearing their stories, and sharing my experiences.
They cook meals for me and provide me with housing essentials, which is definitely a huge benefit of living with a host family. I also feel as though I get much more practice with the language, since English is not spoken in my household. I have learned to communicate in a way that is not only abiding by the rules of the Spanish language, but also Costa Rican culture.
One of the disadvantages would definitely be the fact that I have to fully communicate my plans for outings, trips, and food throughout the day. Living in a dorm would likely provide me with more independence as compared to staying with a host family. Overall, however, living with a host family has been incredibly immersive and would definitely be my choice for housing if I was to study abroad again.
- What kind of friends have you made? Who are new people that you have met?
This program gathers students from across the United States that have a variety of majors. While the majority of the students in the program have health or global-related majors, there are also a couple of students with other plans of study as well. The majority of the students in my year are from Kalamazoo College in Michigan, with a couple from Drexel, and some remaining individual students from colleges in South Carolina, Washington, and Ohio.
Going into the program, I did not know any of the students from Drexel on a personal level, and was very happy to have bonded with them early on in the program. I have since become friendly with everyone in the program, and it is great to know that I will have friends all across the country when I get back! The support of the other students in the program has been wonderful and I am so thankful to have met such wonderful people.
I have also made friends with people in Costa Rica through the host families of my friends who have children our age. We have been able to spend time together and get to know each other, and I would definitely say that this study abroad has allowed me to make new connections!
- How has language learning been?
Language learning was definitely overwhelming at first. For my first week here, getting used to new food, new people, and a new country was a lot, and not being able to communicate in English in my new home added to a little bit of stress. However, living in a fully Spanish-speaking household made it very easy to be more in touch with the language. I definitely would not call myself fluent, but I am able to effectively communicate, talk about my day, ask questions, and maintain conversation with my host family. Listening to similar phrases throughout the day has made speaking much more natural, and it has been very satisfying to see my improvement with the language.
My host family has also been very supportive. They help me with grammar but let me learn through mistakes without making me feel bad, and I have tried to fully avoid using a translator app to better my learning. I know that my friends have all taken different approaches with language learning; one of my favorite methods is a journal of new words that one of my friends keeps to refer to new phrases throughout the week.
Also, doing daily tasks such as getting on a bus, ordering food, and talking to customer service has allowed me to practice my conversational speaking and listening skills very effectively. I am very happy with the progress that I have made so far, and am excited to see what else I will learn!