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Why Study Abroad Classes Are Different than Classes in the USA

 My first mid-term exam grade in my Intermediate 2 class

So I am currently finishing up the second month of study abroad classes in The Costa (my own personal nickname for Costa Rica) and I still have yet to become accustomed to my class schedule.

For the past three years at my university, I have never had any Friday classes or 8 a.m. classes. My classes met every other day, lasted an entire semester (four months), and rarely included homework that was graded. However, things are SUPER different here.

First of all, classes are only a month long. That’s right, four weeks. Since there's only a month, classes are every single day (Monday-Friday). They are also four hours long – they last from 8 a.m.-12 p.m. (if you’re a morning person unlike me, or have had early classes before, waking up early will be no problem). Granted, we have a 30 minute break at 10 a.m., but being in class for that long is new to me, since my classes in the states were usually only 1 hour and 15 minutes.

We go through at least two or three new lessons each day, with homework each night that is mandatory to complete. Presentations are at least 10 minutes long and class interaction is a must. Everything is definitely at a much faster pace. Students are also required to take electives (which are in English), which last two hours. I’m not saying any of these things are a bad thing though, it’s just different.
 Intermediate 2 class with Profesora Yglesias on the front right
(& yes, we had class outside almost every day!)

One cool thing about the classes here is that the professors write and create their own textbooks/workbooks which are free for the students as well (note to the USA: please catch on to this marvelous idea). There is more creative expression in class (I’ve done more arts and crafts activities than I’ve ever done in my college career) and more stress on actually understanding the information before moving on to the next topic (the class sizes are usually 8-15 people so there is more student-teacher interaction).

I have had two different professors so far, and they were both MAGNIFICENTLY GREAT. They’re honestly the best professors I’ve ever had. I think it’s true when they say Costa Ricans are the nicest people on Earth because they are both so loving and caring. While in their class, I noticed they really wanted their students to succeed and did their best to meet all of the students’ needs. They had fun loving spirits (which is how most Costa Ricans are) and always gave off positive vibes, which is important for me as someone who hates negativity. There was never a dull moment either. Their personalities and fun activities (like singing, dancing, making charts, graphs etc.) definitely helped the students forget the hard, daunting work we had to do (kidding…kind of). Each month when you go to the next class, you can see the up in difficulty.
 At the museum with my Advanced 1 class with
Profesora Marranghello in the middle

Despite the difference in scheduling and workload, I’m really glad it’s this way. My Spanish has improved ten-fold and I’ve learned more than I ever have before. It’s hard leaving one class to go to a new one because you become so attached to the professor, but the next professor is usually just as welcoming.

Leslie Brown is the Spring 2014 CEA MOJO in San José, Costa Rica. She is currently a junior at Winthrop University.

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