No expectations are the best expectations. While going with the flow and taking things as they come goes against every fiber of my being, I made a conscious effort to be different for the next four weeks of my life. I just wrapped up my sophomore year as a double major at the University of Texas pursuing a BBA in Marketing and BFA in Dance. I am currently writing this post on day 2 of my study abroad in San Joaquin de Flores, Costa Rica.
On Sunday, 18 other McCombs students and I embarked on this four week journey. We are taking a Social and Cultural Entrepreneurship course with Professor Karen Landolt of the University of Texas. We are also the first group to attend this specific McCombs Maymester program, so this was a collective leap into the unknown.
Leading up to big trips, expectations always seem to be what flood my mind. What will my host family be like? Will I like the food? Will I make real friends? And I will have to say, that last question worried me and has worried me the most the past two years at UT. Social life at McCombs and college in general is not always easy. For me, my semesters are jam packed with courses in order to graduate with both degrees in four years. I am not in a social group and I had to drop the one service organization I was in because just one evening a week was overwhelming me. So, I have banked on friendships to emerge in my day-to-day routine – finding people that I connect with naturally built into my classes so maintaining those friendships would take little to no extra social effort. Theoretically. In the dance department, knowing people and being known happens almost instantaneously as there are no more than 75 students total across all four graduation classes. But McCombs is another beast in its own league. To be completely honest, finding my people in the business school has not been easy and I am still figuring it out yet. While I may be an introvert, I have always valued relationships in my life deeply. I feel most connected and grounded when my community is established around me. Unfortunately, my time at UT so far has left me unfulfilled in that regard. All of that to say, coming into this experience I was hopeful, but my expectations were very low in the friendship department. Okay enough with the sappy stuff.
Monday morning 9AM we were told to arrive at the Instituto San Joaquin de Flores. Side note: there was a general orientation on Sunday, but I had a later scheduled flight, and this was going to be my first time meeting most of my classmates as well as the program directors. Of course, I am the first one to arrive hoping the first face I see is a friendly one. And thank God it was. Travis and I easily sparked up a conversation followed by Hannah, Anthony, and Ally. This continued the entire first day with just about anyone. Honestly, I was shocked at how easily we were all connecting and getting along. Being a thinker and an analyzer, I instinctively asked myself why – why have I connected with more people from McCombs in one day than I have in two years?
My conclusion: no personal expectations + collective vulnerability.
As I touched on earlier, expectations are natural. The human mind wants to create a picture of the things we have yet to see based off the information we know. The tricky part is learning how to manage them. Maintaining optimistic while not setting yourself for a complete let down is a very fine line. The past two years I have been practicing this mental game. And I can say that in the last two days it has paid off. I was hopeful that connecting with people on the trip was possible, but knew I would make the most out of this experience regardless of the people involved. Luckily, the next component involved blew me away.
I think humans connect in vulnerability. Bonding occurs when people are willing to bear themselves honestly and transparently with each other. That is the wall I have hit with McCombs students the last couple of years. But the last two days, I felt like people were letting me see them. Like really see them. But what makes it different? Why now? Collectively, I think we all figured out very quickly that we need each other. We are in a foreign country surrounded by foreign people practicing foreign customs speaking a foreign language none of us are used to. And as 20 something year old humans in college we all know everything is more fun when you have people to share it with. Several of my classmates have been frequent visitors of Latin America, but many others including myself have had little to no experience in primarily Spanish speaking countries. The Spanish speakers of the team have been critical for communicating at restaurants, in taxis, and during simple interactions. Maps are confusing, the internet is spotty here and there are no street signs, so we have had to turn to each other for help getting around the city. We all want to maximize our time here and certain group members have researched activities and put together plans for weekend excursions. These little gestures have opened big doors to starting many friendships for me here.
Last night we planned to meet up as a group to grab dinner at a local bar. We found a place called Longhorns – yes, even Costa Rica cannot resist the horns. We spent 4 hours there – talking, laughing, eating (eating rooster specifically – was surprisingly not bad), karaoke, and thinking we could salsa dance. I could not have asked for a better first night.
I am genuinely excited to see where these next few weeks will take these newfound friendships. Look out Costa Rica – the Longhorns are here! Pura Vida!
This post was contributed by Bridget Caston, a 2019 Global Ambassador.
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