When you’re going abroad, the biggest question is, “WHAT THE HECK DO I PACK?” A lot of this, of course, has to do with the fact that you have no idea what to wear in another country, climate, and culture. While I can’t help you figure out how to get it all in your suitcase, I can share my experiences with fashion—what is typical, what is expected, and what is appropriate.
Test the Waters
Even though you may have made it through the packing part of the journey, you will find yourself with a new struggle of not knowing exactly what is acceptable or expected from your attire every day. When you go to a new place for the first time, whether it is school, a dance club, or a walk through the city, test the waters first. My best advice is to not overthink it, wear a simple or casual outfit your first time and try to understand the cultural norms for dressing in that situation for the next time. The longer you spend in your new environment, the better you will get at preparing yourself for it.
The best way I can describe fashion in San Jose is that it is a simpler version of clothing from home. Clothing is extremely expensive here (Ladies, Forever 21 isn’t even cheap). Because of this, most people don’t wear name brands or flashy clothing. Have no fear, fashionistas, style still exists here but, in my opinion, there are not as many variations of styles or as strong of a distinction between popular trends here as in the States.
Sorry big fish, this is NOT your pond.
Keep culture in mind
The most important thing to keep in mind when preparing to dress yourself is that you are in a new city with different cultural norms. While the “Dress Code” may not be normal for you, it is an aspect of your host-culture that you need to be both aware of and respectful of.
Like many of the other Central American nations, Costa Rica has a historically male-dominated culture. This is a part of my host culture that I had to work to get used to. The main thing to consider with a typically machismo society is that the more provocatively you dress, the more attention you will receive. Simply being aware of this when packing and planning your attire for the day or evening can prevent unwanted attention and help you feel more comfortable in your host country.
With spontaneously changing weather and inconsistent air conditioning, dressing comfortably is the easiest way to breeze through the school day. I have found that dressing for class here is very similar to dressing for class at home. In the same week I will wear shorts or jeans with nice shirts, “athleisure” clothing (or as I like to call it “gym clothes”), sundresses, and more
|Necessity: comfortable shoes!|
When planning for weekend trips or excursions away from school, it is most helpful to think ahead. Consider the activities, weather, transportation, and other circumstnces that may affect how you dress.
| Chaco’s are a brand of hiking sandals that
I recently discovered and highly recommend.
You Can Stand Under My Umbrella (Aye, Aye, Aye)
Welcome to the tropics, where, for half of the year, rainy season dominates the climate. The “Fall semester” occurs right in the midst of Costa Rica’s rainy season and, because of this, you can expect rain pretty much every day. Thankfully, it only usually rains for a couple hours, but it is still best to be prepared each day. There is always a way to squeeze an umbrella and rain jacket into your backpack. This is the easiest way to be prepared for spontaneous rain. Consider wearing shoes that are waterproof or ones that dry easily, I wear flip-flops or sandals to class and carry my sneakers for the gym in my backpack. This prevents mushy sneaker days.
Remember that if you are going abroad it is going to be one of the greatest experiences of your life. There is no need to spend a ton of time preoccupying yourself with clothes and fashion. Do your best to be as prepared as you can and...Happy Packing!
Amanda V. is the Fall 2016 CEA MOJO in San José, Costa Rica. She is currently a junior studying to be a Physician Assistant at Philadelphia University
Amanda Vecchio is the Fall 2016 CEA MOJO Blogger in San Jose, Costa Rica, and is currently studying at Philadelphia University.