I had an amazing time living in Costa Rica for 5 months, and I am so grateful to the John Speak Trust for enabling me to have such an unforgettable experience there.
I have really enjoyed being able to improve my Spanish both inside and outside the classroom – studying at university in Spanish allowed me to expand my vocabulary immensely, whilst also allowing me to take courses at the Universidad de Costa Rica unlike anything that is offered at Cambridge. Being able to talk and study with Costa Ricans my age was fascinating to talk about the very different experiences we have had growing up, especially as the Universidad de Costa Rica has a student population of around 40,000 students from all over the country.
Outside the classroom, my improved Spanish allowed me to talk and communicate with
people in a much deeper way, and made travelling around the country so much easier!! I also really valued being able to experience and learn Spanish in Latin America, because most of my teachers at university in the UK are all from Spain. The Spanish spoken in Costa Rica really embodies their mindset and their culture – ‘pura vida’ is used constantly even when getting out of ubers, but it really reminded me to embrace every moment and opportunity in Costa Rica. Although their lack of punctuality, referred to as tico time, still baffles me to this day!
Travelling in Costa Rica was definitely the biggest highlight of the trip – being able to explore the diverse country and experience all that it has to offer, especially as the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts are so different! The biodiversity and national parks I was able to go to were amazing, and also reminded me how incredible the planet is, and how we really need to save it.
I was lucky enough to pretty much all of the animals Costa Rica is famed for: Sloths, Toucans, Parrots, Whales, Dolphins, Turtles, Frogs, Tapirs, Anteaters and many many Monkeys!
Living there, rather than just travelling really allowed me to see the true Costa Rica, rather than the one sold to Western audiences when booking holidays. It is definitely a nature utopia, but not quite the climate change pioneer that it has the reputation of, which definitely surprised me. Capitalism and tourism is undoubtedly reaping negative effects – with massive resorts destroying natural habits but also harming the lives of indigenous peoples. In my Sociology course we watched a video in which the construction of a 5-star resort meant that only American investors rather than the indigenous and local people would experience the benefits of the resort. It also meant that the black sand was concreted over and white sand placed on top, because that is more appealing to western tourists, but this means that the turtles are unable to dig their nests to bury their eggs. I am grateful I was able to learn about this, so now I will think twice when deciding where to travel to and where to stay, and how this affects the local people and nature.
Thank you so much to the Trust for allowing me to have such a wonderful experience and meet so many new people, whilst also improving my Spanish and having a university experience unlike that of the UK!