One of the most common fears I hear from students considering studying abroad is being homesick, and believe me, it can get lonely at times. I’m a little over halfway through my semester in Costa Rica, coming here directly from a semester in Spain. Without having family visit or returning home for the holidays, I can whole heartedly contest that homesickness exists and can kind of suck at times. However, it is a minuscule factor of studying abroad, and I am amazed at the lengths the USAC staff has gone through to make me feel at home here.
The USAC building in Puntarenas is directly across the street from the ocean. All of the classrooms are air conditioned and always immaculate. The common area has a full kitchen that students are welcome to use, along with complimentary coffee and tea. On the other side of the building there’s a gym, pool, pool/ ping pong tables, and another fully equipped kitchen (for the cooking class). There’s two computer labs and another common area with couches, board games, books and movies as well. Overall the campus is an inviting, safe and a great place to hang out and escape the heat.
From the first day we arrived to Puntarenas the USAC staff has been exceptionally engaged and caring. In my entire educational career I’ve never had professors as passionate and invested in my success as my professors here.
Studying abroad is intense. After all, you’re in another country, living with strangers, starting with no friends, and you’re learning another language at what feels like an impossible rate. The USAC staff isn’t ignorant to this. They’re understanding, sensitive, and will do anything in their power to ensure you become acclimated to the customs and learn to strive in them.
Throughout the week USAC provides different evening activities to bring us all together in a fun environment. Movie nights, Zumba, making dinners together, and anything that gets staff and students involved. Of course these evenings are optional, but man do they help with homesickness. This semester USAC paid for our entire class to go zip lining in Jaco (including transportation and lunch) and an overnight field trip to the Arenal Volcano.
There’s roughly 30 of us here and we’ve come together as a little family. Everyone has come from different backgrounds and has overcome different obstacles to get here. As we all sit together, watching the sun set, it’s crazy to believe only months’ prior we were absolute strangers. Life goes on back home and here we rely on each other to get through the hardships. Here, we watch baby turtles hatch and make their way to sea together, we stand under waterfalls together, we eat exotic foods together, and share some of our most treasured memories together. While I completely support engaging with locals and making friends everywhere you go, I have to admit that some of my dearest friends that I made abroad were in the USAC program.