Study Abroad: Costa Rica

In the winter of my junior year, I went on a 12 day trip to Costa Rica. The trip involved lots of classwork, too much driving, and a few papers in the middle, but in between all that, was beautiful scenery, great conversations, and unique experiences.

A flax seed smoothie. While in Costa Rica, I made it a point to try new foods and drinks as much as possible. The flavor was good, but the consistency was quite gummy.

We landed right outside San Jose. We landed at about 11 am. It took an hour to secure a ride. After being tired from plane travel, I was ready to take a break, but we were always on the move on this trip. We were provided a bus with a tour guide named Felipe. I would ask all kinds of questions. I’m sure he grew tired of me.

A casado platter. We had to eat three hearty meals a day, almost every dish had beans and rice. I’m used to eating two meals a day at home, so three dishes of this size were too much for me to handle.

Our first leg of the trip was spent in the city. We went to the market and ate some food. Bullfighting was the most common thing playing on Costa Rican TVs as fall as I could tell. I sat down at a restaurant and tried to order food. Most people in Costa Rica know a little English since their biggest industry is tourism. I purposefully avoided foods that I could decipher. For instance, I know hermanos means chicken, so I avoided that. I wound up getting french fries with cut up hot dog pieces. It tasted like you would imagine.

A note about the physical geography. Lying squarely on the tropics, Costa Rica is very humid. While the warmth makes water really nice, it makes it hard to bear walking around. Ice is not served with drinks either. A mountain range travels through the center of the rectangular country, delineating one side as the Pacific side, and one as the Atlantic. We traveled on the Pacific side during the trip. Everywhere you look, you can see mountains.

A volcano once thought to be a mountain. In the 80s I think, it erupted and caused a natural disaster. Lava could be seen flowing at night for 20 years.

I have always been more fond of the mountains than the beach, so I enjoyed the week spent up there the most. After leaving the city, we went to a hostel (essentially an airbnb) called Pal Michel. It was a bit rustic, but that has never been an issue. We toured sugar and coffee farms, taking some home. I tried some of the coffee back home. I thought it was pretty ehh. By Pal Michel, there was a stream flowing down right by my room. I was told the stream was certified as clean enough to drink. I enjoyed spending time there at night.

A wood carving that technically works as a canteen. While others purchased large wood masks, I really enjoy the small stuff more.

After Pal Michel, we went to Monteverde, which is the most popular tourist spot. Monteverde means green mountain, but Monteverde was really green. We took a walk about a mile high above sea level, and every tree and vine was covered in moss. Monteverde also offers common tourist attractions like horseback riding and zip lines.

After Monteverde, we went on a few tours to find animals. The highlight for many was the Alligator tour. I personally enjoy the unique foliage the most. My favorite tree was the Poro Poro tree that has a flame orange color which functions as a shade tree on coffee plantations.

While taking the alligator tour, it took a while to see any alligators, and instead it was more like a bird watching tour (which isn’t bad), but we were rewarded in spades by seeing this huge alligator start to swim toward us.

After a bunch of long bus rides, we ended our trip in a native village inhabited by a tribe that existed before the spaniards conquered. They shared with us their political struggles and a bit of their culture.

Brunka or Boruca masks for sale in a souvenir shop.

The trip was a great experience, while the trip was technically about economics, I preferred looking around at the new environment I was experiencing. It was my first time outside of the country and showed me a great way to tour a foreign country.