So I am halfway through my Maymester here in Costa Rica and have experienced enough to fill a whole summer’s worth (luckily, there is plenty more to come). I have had the luxury of being able to go with my classmates on several small excursions during the week and weekend trips. Side note: if you are interested in studying abroad, the fees you pay for the program cover many organized trips during the week, but not all programs provide plans for your weekends. Here in Costa Rica, we students have researched and organized our own activities in our free time and weekends which, yes, costs money but has been so worth it. So, pro tip: bring more spending money than you think you need. You may only be in your country of study once in your life and I urge you to experience as much as you can. I told myself I was not going to type this but yes, “you only live once” is THE mindset for your time abroad.
Luckily, in Costa Rica, food, souvenirs, and activities are insanely cheap for the value you get. This past weekend 7 fellow students and I planned a trip to Monteverde. Monteverde is notorious for their cloud forests, beautiful wildlife, and *drum roll please* ZIPLINES. For $50 each, we spent three hours on a ziplining tour with 9 ziplines and a Tarzan swing that in total covered approximately 4 kilometers. It was definitely an experience of a lifetime. Flying through the clouds, surrounded by nothing but layers of green forestation and blue skies above, I could not help but feel so much gratitude to have the opportunity to make so many wonderful memories through UT’s study abroad programs. So, thank you UT for making trips like these possible for your students.
If there is one thing that making these trips and organizing them with my classmates has taught me, experiences are far better when you have others to experience them with. Having people to laugh with, eat with, and fail at activities miserably with make the memories hold so much more value. With that being said, it is not always easy. Like I said in my last post, most of us did not know each other before this trip and we all dove headfirst into our friendships. For me, traveling is difficult with my best friends and family, let alone people I just met. So to say our weekend in Monteverde was smooth sailing the whole way through would not necessarily be painting the most accurate picture. To begin with, we had to take what we were told would be a 4.5 hour bus ride. Luckily we bought tickets ahead of time.
Upon boarding the bus and finding our reserved seats, we came to realize that not only were all the seats filled for the trip, but people bought standing room tickets meaning they would be standing in the aisle the entire bus ride. The bus was packed wall to wall, and it proceeded to stop at the bus stops on the route and squeeze in locals here and there. This 4.5 hour ride turned into 6 really fast. Fortunately, we were able to laugh and joke about our misfortunes. We also had to discuss where we wanted to eat, how we wanted to spend our extra time between activities, what we wanted to spend money on, and communicate through exhaustion and hangry-ness. While we all had our moments, I would not have traded the weekend or the people.
So my final word of advice for those interested in studying abroad or ever traveling with a group is to remain mindful. It is not just you on this trip. The atmosphere and level of safety relies solely upon how each member of the group chooses to take care of one another. It is not always easy and requires an immense amount of patience. But like I said previously, the experiences are more worth it when you have people to do them with. And if you cannot care for those people with care and respect, the trip quickly turns sour. Learn to love your group because you will never get these experiences again. Pura Vida!
This post was contributed by Bridget Caston, a 2019 Global Ambassador.
Don’t get left behind. Read more about Bridget’s experience abroad>>