I arrived in Costa Rica with a very basic understanding of written Spanish. I left having penned three newspaper articles in the language that would be shared in federal buildings, places of worship, libraries, and community centers across the country.
How did I get to enjoy such an experience? I had hoped to complete an internship during my semester in Heredia, Costa Rica to improve my Spanish. Because I study Mass Communication in the United States, USAC connected me with the Universidad Nacional’s “Oficina de Comunicación” (Office of Communication).
One of my most memorable experiences was getting to contribute three articles to CAMPUS, the official newspaper of the Universidad Nacional. In addition to offering CAMPUS across the Universidad Nacional’s six different campuses, the office distributes 5,000 copies of the publication each month in municipal offices and community meeting places across the country. After writing each article, I would sit down with our editor, Víctor, who always reviewed my work with me and taught me various Spanish grammatical and stylistic norms. My written Spanish improved dramatically thanks to his guidance, and I feel far more confident today as a writer in both Spanish and English.
During my internship, I attended and wrote about an on-campus event celebrating Día de las Culturas (Day of Cultures) for international students. There, I met people from six different countries.
I documented the experiences of American students at the Universidad Nacional and Costa Rican students in the United States. I also offered advice on studying abroad to Costa Rican natives, which I particularly enjoyed since studying in their country meant so much to me. My second article centered around an event the Universidad Nacional hosted to celebrate el Día de las Culturas (Day of Cultures). At the event, I met students from Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Colombia, and Germany, made friends from several of these countries, tried several international foods including Mexican tortillas and German pretzels, and practiced my Spanish with speakers from different parts of Latin America. As someone who loves learning about and experiencing other cultures, this was a very exciting event.
My final article proved to be my favorite. Víctor let me choose to write about any topic of interest. I love serving in my home community in the United States, so I decided to discuss the work of UNA Aventura, a volunteer group at the Universidad Nacional. I met and interviewed (in Spanish) Esteban and Marianela, two Costa Rican students who worked with the program to make service opportunities available on and off-campus for other students.
I valued the opportunity to join my work and my passion for serving those experiencing homelessness in Heredia. In my article, I encouraged students to print homelessness resource lists from the Costa Rican government to hand out along with healthy snacks, toiletries, socks, or other personal care items when seeing someone in need.* My church in the United States created a similar project where we make care packages for homeless individuals that also include “Street Cards”, which are printable information sheets that list the names, resources, and phone numbers of homeless shelters and resource centers. Getting to help Costa Ricans become better equipped to serve those in need in their country in the same way was very special and moving.
In addition to my work for the school paper, I also drafted several press releases, prepared media counts for the Office, attended two tapings of the national talk show UNA Mirada as well as one of the radio programs, UNA Voz, and toured the San José studios of Teletica, the largest television network in the country. The idea of interning abroad seemed intimidating at first, especially in another language. However, the support of my co-workers and the opportunities I enjoyed in “la Oficina” made my internship one of the highlights of my time in Costa Rica.
Lauren Savard is a student from Towson University. She studied abroad in Heredia, Costa Rica in Fall 2016.