One of the most exciting aspects of studying abroad is the various opportunities to immerse yourself in the culture. Making friends with locals is an irreplaceable experience that allows you to see a part of Costa Rica most people never have the chance to. It’s a way to practice your Spanish and get comfortable relying on it in social settings, find the best viewpoints, and understand the culture in a more personal environment. Below is a few of the many ways students this semester have made friends with Tico’s.
Tico Friends is a USAC organized day where students from the local university come to the USAC campus and we all participate in group activities. The local students are eager to practice their English and are exceptionally patient and helpful while we practice our Spanish. USAC provides food, drinks, music and games to help us get to know one another.
Participación de la Comunidad
Of the various ways to get involved in the community, the most popular is teaching English. Spanish Track 2 professor, Grettel Cortes, teaches English at the local university and twice a week welcomes USAC students to participate. This is an exceptional opportunity to meet locals our age! USAC students are also welcome to teach English to younger grades as well.
Música y Baile
Latin America has a rich culture commonly expressed through music and dancing. USAC offers a weekly dance class (& weekly Zumba!) that teaches you the basics of the most popular dances here in Costa Rica. While the class itself is fun, energetic and a great workout, it has also made it possible for us to participate in local events and dance competitions. The Salsa, Cha Cha Cha and the Merengue are a few examples of the many dances we learn a semester.
Every Tuesday USAC rents the fútbol field in Puntarenas for the USAC and Tico students. The field is not super big so teams normally consist of 6-7 players. The games are fun, lively, and require no prior skill or experience. Players show up for the simple fun-loving competitive nature of fútbol.
Without hesitation, the most effective way to meet locals and make friends is on the beach. It’s the meeting point for friends and family to sit back and enjoy the beauty of the ocean and surrounding islands. It’s a soccer field, volleyball court, swimming pool, pic nic spot and a beautiful walk all wrapped up in our front yard. If you’ve researched Costa Rica then you are familiar with the term “Tico Time”, aka the inability of a Tico to be on time. Now, this isn’t a discourteous or lazy attribute. Most Tico’s set out with intention to be on time, however they’re probably coming from the beach and conversing with every person they encounter along the way. They honestly can’t help it, it’s a cultural thing. Every local you pass you are guaranteed a “Hola, Pura Vida!”, and if you engage back the conversation can go on for hours.
Making friends in Costa Rica is an easy endeavor. The welcoming and friendly nature of the culture creates constant social opportunities. Simply be open to conversing with locals and don’t be afraid to make mistakes (after all, you probably will… often). Puntarenas is a small city and building relationships and familiarities makes it feel significantly less foreign. That being said, get yourself to Costa Rica, love the country (easy to do), and allow yourself the opportunity to adore its inhabitants.