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My Costa Rican Crib

December 15, 2016
by Andrew Mantone

Ever wonder what it’s like to live in a strangers home for four months? Let me tell you, it’s a pretty unique experience. Especially when they speak another language! I have become immersed in my family’s traditions and culture, but they still manage to make me feel at home.

Decisions, Decisions

Before arrival, CEA had all of their students fill out a survey that let us choose our preference for certain aspects of our home. Among these included diet restrictions/foods that you don’t like, number of students you want to live with, if you have any particular students you would like to room with, and my favorite, special suggestions. In this category, I was able to list all of the miscellaneous properties that I wanted to be included in the house; all of which were accommodated for. A couple examples are a longer bed because I’m tall and I put that I love animals.

Speaking of animals, I have two pets in my house. A dog named Luna and a cat named Simon. They are both very friendly, always are there to greet me when I come home and are absolutely adored by the members of my family. Not to embarrass my Papa-tico, but every time he comes down the stairs I hear him yelling out, “pokey-piggy!” This is his nickname for Luna. I envy his excitement for her and it makes me laugh every day.

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 This is a picture of my Homestay. Inside, there are six bedrooms! My family of six includes myself and another study abroad student.

Chew on this

As a student in Costa Rica, my host family provides me with breakfast and dinner. For lunch, I usually go the kitchen that CEA lets students use. Every family is different on how they prepare their meals, but my meals are always delicious! Breakfast is pre-made in the morning for me, so when I wake up all I have to do is heat it in the microwave. A typical breakfast for me is eggs, gallo pinto, fruit and of course, coffee. For dinner, my mamatica will absolutely not let me leave the table without feeling full. In my house, the best part about the food is it is always changing, with new recipes every week.

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 My Tico parents are great chefs, but for my birthday it was a special treat to go to a restaurant that overlooks San José


In college, I have to do my own laundry. Most of the time this means it sits in my room until I literally have no more clothes left to wear. So you’ll probably believe me when I tell you one of my favorite things about being in a homestay is that my laundry is done for me once a week. Every Monday, I bring my laundry down and my mamatica washes, dries and folds it. There are very few dryers in Costa Rica, especially in homes, because they use so much energy at one time. To compensate, my family has a skylight in the laundry room so the sunlight may enter to dry the clothes.

Let Freedom Ring

Before coming to Costa Rica, I feared that living in a host family would really limit my freedom. Since I am so used to going in and out of my apartment at school, I thought it would be hard coming into someone else’s home and doing the same. I’m very glad I was proven wrong! After dinner, I have my own space to go into my room, relax and finish any homework. There is no curfew in my house, as long as I am not too loud when I come home. As for guests, I am allowed a reasonable amount before 9pm, with prior permission. The only restriction: I am not allowed to have guests upstairs. Each host family is different, but mine imposes this rule to reduce noise and respect the home. Overall, I feel as though the rules are fair and my freedom is definitely ringing!

“Safe” to a T

 Through the Barbed wire, you can see the
camera that monitors the activity outside of my
house. There are also five more cameras
located throughout my house.  I have never
felt threatened here, but the cameras make me
feel much more secure.

Anywhere you go in the world, there are always risks to your safety. When I got to my homestay, I realized they have accounted for every nook and cranny of this idea. I’m actually having trouble where to begin, so I will take you through a walk home at night, by myself. Coming home from school, there are workers from Veritas University who have motorcycles. Their job? To follow students home on their bikes and make sure we get home safe. When I get home, I have to open a gate with my short key, shut it and open the door to the house with my long key. In addition, there is barbed wire across the front gate and garage gate. Not every home has this, but mine really does have “safe” down to a T.


When I first got to Costa Rica, I took cold showers for the first week. I twisted and turned every nob and shivered my way through. After asking my mamatica, I found out the water heater only works on very low pressure! I got very lucky, because my house has high pressure for the toilets and a water heater for the shower. Some of the other students living with host families don’t have these features, which means they can’t flush toilet paper. This is common across the country, and often times wastebaskets are placed next to toilets to dispose of the paper.

 An example of the typical
wastebasket-toilet combo

I am blessed to have a family that cares about their students so much. I would like to dedicate this blog to all of the host families who unconditionally provide for their students and go above and beyond their call of duty.  They make study abroad students feel welcome into their homes and deserve some recognition!

Pura Vida!

Andrew M. is the Fall 2016 CEA MOJO in San José, Costa Rica. He is currently a junior studying Physician Assistant Studies at Philadelphia University

Andrew Mantone is the Fall 2016 CEA MOJO Blogger in San Jose, Costa Rica, and is currently studying at Philadelphia University.
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