When I first arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica, I was still in awe at the fact that I was actually studying abroad. As the plane prepared to land, I stared out the window and took my first glimpse of the country I would soon learn to love; as cliché as it may sound, it was love at first sight. The motto “pura vida” or pure life, means to enjoy life in its purest form, and is synonymous with Costa Rican culture.
During my stay in Costa Rica I interned at the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress,a non-profit organization founded by the Nobel laureate and former President Dr. Oscar Arias Sanchez.While I worked with the organization I didn’t get to meet Mr. Arias, but I did work with the smartestgroup of people I have ever met, college graduates from the top schools in the US including Harvard and Georgetown. It was tough keeping up but luckily, it wasn’t all work.
Costa Rica is world renowned for its beaches and natural preservation, and for good reason.They have incredibly diverse rainforests that you usually only see on television shows, though I was lucky enough to zip through them on a Canopy line. While in Costa Rica I tried a whole bunch of activities such as canopy, white water rafting, kayaking, snorkeling, bungee jumping, and rappelling down a waterfall, though there are also lots of other activities for the less daring. There are tons of national parks that offer awesome views and many opportunities to see rare animals. There really is something for everybody. Costa Rica proved to be the experience of a lifetime for me, but don’t just take my word for it. Take the next step and head to Costa Rica. Trust me, you wont regret it. Pura Vida!
Studying abroad in Italy; wow! What a significant experience in my life. Just being away in Europe for about four months was enough to open my mind to a whole new level of appreciation, but the fact that I was in Italy made my experience all the more epic. The blatant cultural differences that I picked up on while living in Florence were probably what kept the trip most interesting for me. It was amazing to see how differently humans can behave when growing up on the other side of the world. Just the little things like a glass of wine being the normal choice of beverage to drink with a sandwich at lunch, are the things that made me say, “Wow, I’m not in the U.S. anymore.” But those are the things that you grow to love if you really allow yourself to be immersed in the new culture you inhabit.
For me, living in an apartment in the center of Florence was the perfect spot to let the Italian wayof life influence me to the fullest. As I am a huge foodie, there wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t
hit “Il Mercato Cenrtrale,” or The Central Market, to pick up fresh produce, fresh meats, specialty cheeses, prosciuttos, salamis, oils, olives, pastries, or any of the other hundreds of products typical to Tuscan gastronomy. What I already knew, but grew a much deeper understanding for was the fact that Italians truly value their food and all aspects involved in how it is produced.
Each town, province, and region takes pride in the artisanal products that have represented them for hundreds of years, while continuing to move towardthe future with a new generation of specialties. This is something unique about the culture that should be appreciated, but definitely not the only thing.
The historical value that the country has accumulated over centuries is unlike any other. On my journey I was able to discover historical wonders from all over the country. THE DAVID, THE COLLOSEUM, THE VATICAN! Theses are places where, when visiting them you question you are really looking at what you think you are looking at! A great plus about being in Europe is also the fact that traveling to other European countries is very affordable.
I wasn’t just limited to the wonders of Italy; it was also possible for me to seek out beautiful places like Spain and Morocco. Luckily my classes were conducive to this, being that homework was not overbearing and there was no class on Fridays. On the whole, there isn’t anything more I could have asked for in my experience abroad. I met new people that I still keep in touch with, I have been inspired to learn Italian fluently, I experienced Europe’s history, and found a summer internship that has prompted me to return for another three months. I strongly encourage anyone who wants to experience something new and broaden their education, to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the study abroad office. Ciao!
During the spring 2010 semester I studied abroad through the SUNY Albany program in Madrid, Spain. I was lucky enough to live with a Spanish family that had many years of experience hosting international students. Classes were held in a small institute in Madrid that hosted study abroad programs from various American universities. All of my courses were conducted completely in Spanish. Upon arriving in Spain I felt a wave of anxiety because of the huge language barrier and the gap of unfamiliarity between the Spanish way of life and the American life I was used to. It took a few weeks to adjust, but with the help of my host family, advisors, roommate, and program friends I began to realize the incredibly different and interesting lifestyles that Madrid had to offer.
Food and meals were an adjustment and usually a general topic of conversation with my friends and family back home. It wasn’t uncommon in my Spanish household to eat dinner at 11pm (Madrid time), right around the same time my parents were sitting down to dinner at 5pm in New York.
Trying the new cuisine and guessing what it was became fun; I never regretted trying anything because 95% of the time it turned out to be delicious.
Living in a metropolitan city was also an enjoyable change for me and I became very comfortable staying in Madrid. The various restaurants, parks, bars, museums, discos, stores, and methods of transportation were fun to discover, use and visit. My Spanish language skills improved greatly during my time abroad, mostly from the patience and guidance from my host family and professors. I learned a lot about myself from my language and culture experiences, the most important things being: never get too frustrated, and to keep trying and remain confident in myself. During my four months abroad I had many travel opportunities throughout both Spain and Europe. If I had one piece of advice to any perspective study abroad students it would be to travel as much as possible, I believe it’s the best way to learn about the world and yourself. Once in Europe it’s much easier to travel throughout it, so why not seize the opportunity? You never know when you might be there again.