Study Abroad: Spanish for the Medical Professional in Costa Rica

The summer of my freshman year, I decided I was going to study abroad.  After talking with the nursing program and the study abroad advisor, it was recommended that I complete my study abroad experience during the summer as compared to spending a semester abroad.  I decided that I wanted to go to a Spanish speaking country because I am a Spanish minor.  There were also very little choices for nursing classes which I thought was a shame.

For my study abroad experience, I took two classes.  I took Intermediate Spanish for the medical professional and Tropical Medicine.  My Spanish class was extremely difficult for me because my instructor did not speak any English.  Throughout the class, we would have to give presentations without using notecards or any words on our slides.  Although I have given many presentations during my college career, giving these presentations was harder than any other class I had ever taken because the presentations were in Spanish.  Overall, my Spanish language skills greatly improved because of this course.  Now back in the US and taking more Spanish classes for my minor,  speaking in the language comes much more naturally and I no longer “think in English and then translate the sentence.”  Now, I simply “think” in Spanish.

My Tropical Medicine course was extremely interesting.  I took this course because I thought it would be fun, not for any particular goal. This class was taught by a man named Pedro who was a veterinarian.  Throughout the course, we talked about different parasites and disease that affected the people of Costa Rica because of the humid climate.  We took multiple field trips throughout the month where we visited the different hospitals offered in Costa Rica because they have a universal healthcare system.  We also went to a dairy farm where I got to feel a calf inside of the mother cow.

Living in my host house was also an interesting experience.  Unlike the other students on my trip, it was only me living with my host mom.  Her name was Elsa and she was a nurses aide at a local hospital.  She also spoke no English and at first, it was very hard for me to communicate with her.  Over time, however, we actually formed a really close bond and I even started going to church services with her and her family.

I the greatest thing I got from this study abroad experience was my sense of independence.  I was really worried about not being able to make friends.  I ended up making friends with the best group of girls, who I still keep in contact with today! I went on excursions and did things that I thought I never would, like ziplining a mile up above the forest.  My study abroad experience helped me to figure out that I want my career to involve travel and that I really have a desire to help those in other countries as well as in the United States.