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Experiencing My Study Abroad Host Culture of San José

July 09, 2024
by Ebony Owens-Kennedy
A group of study abroad students taking a selfie

Experiencing My Study Abroad Host Culture of San José, Costa Rica, Through Food, Excursions, and Food!      

My study abroad destination is San José, Costa Rica! I particularly chose this destination because the curriculum aligned with courses I wanted to learn from like Medical Spanish and Holistic Health Approaches. I also chose this destination because for my home school this was the only destination in Latin America.  

A table covered in plates of food, including fruit and pancakes

Breakfast with pancakes, fruits, and coffee. Gracias, Mama Tica! 

I really wanted to explore a Latin American country because I wanted to embrace the culture more. I’ve taken Spanish every year in high school, and I’ve taken one course in college. Throughout those courses, my desire to learn more and experience the culture grew. I wanted to apply my knowledge of the language and interact with the people.  

I also wanted to expand my food palate. I am used to greasy, unhealthy US food and coming here was a big adjustment where everything was fresher and healthier.  

A pan of rice and beans sitting on a table

My first time having gallo pinto (rice, beans, and cilantro) for breakfast! 

Sometimes every day I will consume rice and beans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I usually eat fruit every breakfast with a cup of coffee. I’ve tried fruits native to Costa Rica like manzana de agua, guanabana, cas, caimito, papaya, cacao, pitahaya, mangosteen, and pineapple. I’ve also been to downtown San José, which has a central market where all of these fruits can be found. 

A paper plate full of slices of various pieces of fruit

Manzana de agua, mango, oranges, starfruit, mangosteen, guanabana, and caimito. 

A group of study abroad students standing behind a table full of fruit

All the Medical Spanish classes trying fruits native to Costa Rica. 

A plate of food on a table, featuring steak, French fries, rice, and beans

Steak, fries, cucumbers, beans, and rice. 

A native dish in Costa Rica for lunch and dinner is casado which consists of rice, beans, a protein, salad, and vegetables. I really enjoy the food here. I feel like I always receive a well-balanced meal.  

A plate of food featuring chicken and plantains

Traditional Costa Rican dish: casado for dinner. 

Also while being here, I have explored so many places, like Manuel Antonio, Monte Verde, and La Fortuna. I’ve been on class field trips to the first tuberculosis hospital, to Carlos Duran Museum, Miravalles Volcano, and Irazú Volcano. I’ve been to a lot of farms and have seen horses, goats, sheep, cows, peacocks, pigs, and bulls.  

A group of people in a market near a large stand full of produce

Downtown San José Central Market with my Spanish professora. 


Two study abroad students using large implements to crush shells in a container

Helena and I crushing the shells of the coca at a chocolate and dairy farm. 

I have also explored the San Pedro mall, which has a fitness gym I attend. They have many stores, a movie theater, and an arcade. Plus they have many restaurants in their food court.  


A group of study abroad students sitting at a table taking a selfie

My friends and I explored Mall San Pedro with ice cream! 

I was also able to experience my first fútbol game! It was the Costa Rica team, Saprissa, against my home city team Philadelphia Union, and it was a unique and fun experience. Every week I continue to explore San José and Costa Rica as a whole.  

A group of study abroad students taking a selfie

Friends and I went to our first fútbol game. We won! 



Ebony Owens-Kennedy is the Content Creator - Photographer in San José, Costa Rica, and is currently studying at Thomas Jefferson University.
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