This previous summer I spent 11 weeks studying in Costa Rica. When I left the states in May, I was extremely nervous to be traveling by myself, but, I had my family, friends, and boyfriend of 5.5 years supporting me. In August, I returned to the states with the confidence and desire to travel internationally, and still, the support of my friends and family behind me. But I returned with a new accessory: an ex-boyfriend. It was through the experience of an international breakup that I reconnected with myself, created new, rich connections with beautiful people, and had to learn to fall back in love with life. That’s my USAC love story.
During my study abroad my boyfriend was studying abroad in France and shortly after arriving in Costa Rica I learned he had met someone and found myself single again for the first time in 5.5 years. I had two distinct options; I could let it ruin the rest of my summer in the most beautiful country on earth, or, I could not.
I had to tell my host mom, brother, and sister what had happened because I could not hide such a large emotional event from them. Before that morning, my family and I had been happily cordial and had gotten along just fine— but being a private person, I had kept to myself to some degree. That morning, I stood crying in front of a beautiful family that had only known me for a few weeks— and I felt completely broken and vulnerable. They wrapped me in a hug and said things that will stick with me forever. There was so much love. From that point on, my relationship with them became very real, and consequently, became so much richer. I truly regard them as my family now; they showed me unconditional love and support when I needed family the most.
I experienced the same deepening of my friendships with the other students that semester. We spent all of our time together— there was no way I could hide being sad from them, so instead of hiding it, I openly talked about it. The sheer outpouring of love and support from all of my classmates – and professors too – shocked me. These people had just met me and worrying about my sob story was definitely not their problem— but these beautiful souls reached out to me, listened to me cry, assured me that I had made the right decision, talked to me about their own similar experiences, and more. They invited me on afternoon trips with them, planned me into their weekend excursions, and helped me start to laugh it off. My friends pushed me out of my comfort zone more times than I can count and we made memories that I will laugh about for the rest of my life. They even convinced me to stay in Costa Rica longer by enrolling in summer session two (I was initially only enrolled in the first session). I love all of them for everything that they did for me and for how meaningfully we connected; I wouldn’t go back and trade that love for anything, or anyone.
Experiencing betrayal can easily put bad thoughts in your head about your worth and take a hit on your self-confidence. But because of the overwhelming amount of love from friends new and old, family near and far, those thoughts had no room to stick around. My host family and friends’ love made me feel validated, supported, appreciated, and strong. Even in the wake of heartbreak, they made me feel happy. And because they did that for me, I was in a position to fall in love with the sites, sounds, culture, and people of Costa Rica. I essentially rebuilt myself to be less private, more open, and more adventurous. I stood in the front row of dance class, voluntarily free fell from a platform up in the air, jumped off of cliff-sides into the water, hung off the sides of boats, and felt a sense of freedom and inner peace that words cannot even begin to express. That was the point, I think, that I had truly fallen back in love with life.
So, my whole experience with USAC this summer was centered on love. I loved myself enough to call it quits with someone who didn’t appreciate my worth. My host family, my biological family, my USAC friends, and my friends back at home celebrated that act of self-care, and flooded me with more love than I could have ever anticipated! That then allowed me to move forward and have one of the most rewarding, happy, and breathtaking summers of my life!! I am so grateful for the way it all worked out. This Valentine’s Day… that is what I am celebrating.
To my host family & friends from this summer – thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for everything!
To everyone reading this – remember in the face of adversity to put self-love first, even when it feels like doing so will rip your heart out. You only live once. When it comes to other people, you deserve love that is “as light as air, effortless, and not steeped in doubt”.
Lauren Nye attends Ohio Northern University. She studied abroad in Puntarenas, Costa Rica in Summer 2017.