Taking in San Jose for the first time felt like a warm breeze filled with promise and satisfaction. I arrived in the airport and stepped outside to first notice the warm and comforting sun that greeted me. In that moment, I realized that my decision to study abroad in San Jose had become real.
As I rode away from the airport, I first took in the clear, blue sky and how vibrant it made everything look. The next thing that caught my attention was the amount of rugged, colorful buildings that lined both sides if the street as I rode into San Jose. This was a stark contrast to the more neutral colored, structured buildings I was used to seeing back home. Also, with the country sitting on higher elevation, I had to brace myself for the steep roads ahead.
|A street in El Barrio Cordoba, where my home is located. It's been nice waking up to clear, blue skies like this.|
The rest of the first day was filled with a few surprises. After I arrived, instead of staying at a hotel the way I had planned, I was invited by a family friend's brother, who lives in San Jose, to spend the night with him and his family. After I met the family, we later went to a local theme park and watched New Year's fireworks. Watching the night sky fill with explosions of color felt like the perfect way to end my first day in Costa Rica.
The day after I arrived, I met my host family for the first time and settled into my new home. This day also held its own surprise, as after I settled down, my host mother decided to take me to an annual festival in the city of Zapote. I later experienced a fair in another country for the first time, with sights and sounds similar to what I was used to seeing back home, except now I was in the midst of tens of thousands of Ticos, an experience that made me take in my new country even more.
|The front of Veritas University where I've already become accustomed to going to class and intermingling with other students.|
The next two days were composed of orientation sessions with CEA and Veritas University, where I was able to intermingle with other students from the U.S. At first, we were given information about expectations and opportunities available while we were there and also a tour of San Jose. It was fun being able to walk around the downtown area, and we also took a mini field trip where we were able to see some of the rural parts of Costa Rica about an hour away from the city. While riding up winding roads, I was able to see lush green hills that seemed to stretch for eternity, some with beautiful Costa Rican homes and coffee plantations rested on them.
|Orientation Day at Veritas University, where students experienced a ¨culture shock¨ with a surprise Costa Rican dance session.|
Another surprise I found very welcoming was the amount of sweet stray animals that live in the city. In the neighborhood where I live, I’ve already become accustomed to running into the stray dog that lives on the street I take to school every day. Also on campus, students are always greeted by a friendly cat who loves to mingle with us whiles we eat our lunches. The presence of these animals brought a comfort that I can only describe as feeling as if I was still at home.
|A wandering dog I've ran into almost every day here.|
The days following have been a routine of me mainly going to classes and doing homework. Although the school routine has become normal for me, I'm still adjusting to my new environment overall. It's different being in a country where you don't understand what most people are saying, and people don't react to you the same way when they know you're not from there. Although the new sights and sounds have brought challenges, I take it in stride that it's what I wanted in the first place. I am now more aware of the world I live in and will be able to better communicate with people different from me in the future. Also, the friendliness of the locals I've met has made adjusting here easier. Coming here may not have been everything that I had expected, but it has left me with a sense of determination to grow and be more adventurous as a person, something I think we can all benefit from.
Lois Charm is the Spring 2016 CEA MOJO Blogger in San Jose, Costa Rica. She is currently a junior at the University of Memphis.
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