Author Archives: theunanchoredheart

My first impressions of Costa Rica and Zip-lining!

The anticipation was killing me. Here I was on a plane embarking on my very first adventure out of the country and I did not know whether to be terrified, nervous, or excited, but to be honest I was probably all of those things. I had never been to a foreign country in my life – the closest thing I had gotten to Costa Rica was Florida and that is still very far off in terms of culture and region.

At that moment, all I could do was wait. My back was killing me from the 5 hour flight and I had been up super early that morning (at 3am to be exact), but I could not sleep. So many things were running through my mind. What was the country going to look like? What was I going to see? What was my host family like? Are they friendly? What do they look like? Before I knew it, I had bitten my nails so far down that they hurt BAD.

Suddenly, the plane began to fall slowly and after the brief panic that we were about to crash, I realized that we were landing. We were finally there! When the plane landed, I was thankful just to be able to stand and stretch my legs. I could only see a small glimpse of the country’s landscape through the plane’s small windows and from what I could tell, it was already beautiful! I was also very much relieved to not see a speckle of snow in sight, since I’d left so much behind in South Bend!

When our group made it through immigration, I exchanged $60 in US currency for Costa Rican cash called colones, and we met up with the amazing Alberto, our guide and one of the many Spanish teachers at the school that we would be attending, Academia de Nicoya.

When we entered the bus, I was still in complete shock and denial that I was actually in Costa Rica. Nothing seemed to be real. While Alberto began his introduction and welcomed us to the beautiful country of Costa Rica, I could not help but to just stare contently out my window at the gorgeous scenery. It seemed that my camera had a mind of its own, as it could not stop taking photographs out the window! To my surprise, the landscape was not as green as I had thought it was going to be. The grass appeared to have a brown hue to it and the trees looked brown as well. I found out that this was because we had entered the country during the dry season. However, once we arrived in Monteverde to our hotel (our first stop for the night) we would be seeing much greener and wetter scenery; hence, the name Monteverde which means “green mountain”. Nonetheless, the scenery was still breathtaking.

When we finally were able to go outside to our bus, the sun finally hit my body and man was it warm – 95 degrees to be exact! And yet, it was not an unbearable heat like I had imagined. Unlike Indiana, Costa Rica’s heat feels more so like a dry heat opposed to a humid heat, and let me tell you I could get used to the dry heat!

When we arrived at our hotel (which by the way was after we had to go around and around and around a narrow road which spiraled up into the mountains where the hotel and the small town resided), I was exhausted, but I still did not want to sleep! I was too excited and I wanted to see and take in EVERYTHING. We ate dinner at the hotel, which served beyond amazing food! We were given a choice between casado (A traditional dish which must come with rice and beans) with beef, grilled chicken, or vegetarian. I chose grilled chicken, and here is a picture of the delicious meal:

chickenAfter dinner, we were able to go on a night hike where we saw many different animals and insects in their natural habitats. Soon after that it was time for bed, and by that time, around 10pm, I felt like a zombie and fell asleep as soon as my body reached the bed.

The following morning, after eating breakfast at the hotel came the most nerve-wracking day of my life because that afternoon was the day we would be zip-lining! Before we all had arrived to Costa Rica, I will be honest to say that I was extremely nervous and scared to zip-line and my mind told me absolutely, under no circumstances should I do it! When going on the trip, you have the option to either zip-line or experience a canopy hike tour of which you walk out onto suspended bridges and get the chance to visit nature buildings such as a butterfly house. For the longest time, I told myself that the hike was the way to go! However, when the rest of the group decided to zip-line, I decided that I did not want to hike by myself and that I needed to do something that was out of my comfort zone. I mean, let’s be honest: how cool would it be to say that I actually went zip-lining in Costa Rica? How many people can actually say that?
zipliningWell, to make the long story short, let me just say that I do not regret zip-lining at all! While I zipped along hundreds of feet up in the air, I felt so liberated and free! I told myself, “Wow I really can do anything, nothing can stop me now!” To be honest, I had never had so much fun in my whole life! It is a feeling that is beyond describing as you would have to experience it yourself! It was absolutely amazing and I could have zip-lined all day if I had the chance! When looking back at all of the things I was able to do in Costa Rica – zip-lining, nocturnal night tour, kayaking, river boat tour, going to the beach, seeing Arenal volcano, the La Fortuna waterfall, relaxing in the hot springs – zip-lining was definitely a highlight of the whole trip and it is something that I will never forget! If you have any hesitation toward zip-lining, I totally understand because I was there once too. But, trust me when I say you will not regret your decision if you decide to go for it! You will feel so free, so liberated, so accomplished for nothing feels as good until you conquer what you had originally thought you would be too scared to do!


Why Go to Costa Rica?

I recently returned from IU South Bend’s Spring in Costa Rica program, and I’m so glad I went! Here is why YOU should study abroad in Costa Rica…or anywhere else!

Why go to Costa Rica? The real question should be, why NOT go to Costa Rica? Many of you may have much hesitation when thinking about signing up for a study abroad trip. The most popular reason being financial issues: how does one pay $2500 for a trip overseas? Many individuals will think, man, that is just too much money to save. However, I am here to say that I thought the same exact thing when I signed up for this trip. I was hesitant and I told myself there would be a slim chance that I would be able to pay for the trip on time. But before I knew it, I was on the plane going to Costa Rica, and I thought to myself wow…that wasn’t so hard after all! The truth is that I paid for the whole trip through loans and scholarships. Loans and scholarships are always great options that will help individuals who cannot save up all of the money so that they can still have a chance to experience and learn abroad. Sure, it does not hurt to save up some money here and there, but money issues should not hinder your dreams and your desire to study abroad! You cannot put a price on this experience!

1) The $2500 is all inclusive. Therefore, it includes all transportation including air fare, all of your meals (besides the snack here and there), and all of the activities that you will be doing, some of which include zip-lining, kayaking, river boat tour, visiting Arenal volcano, the La Fortuna waterfall, the hot springs, the two hotel stays before going to your homestay, literally everything! If you were to bring extra cash along, this would be for souvenirs and small snacks only! You cannot beat that!

2) You will learn so much about yourself and you will meet so many new friends along the way. When first arriving to Costa Rica, I was pretty quiet and reserved for a day or two, however when I began talking to other IUSB students that were on the trip as well, I came out of my shell and have developed so many amazing friendships! Our group was amazing and everyone got along so well, and having friends definitely helps you adjust to being in a different country. You are definitely not alone!

3) You have the opportunity to be able to learn so much about a different culture and the wonderful people who live in the beautiful country of Costa Rica! Believe me when I say that Costa Ricans are extremely hospitable and friendly, which made me breath a sigh of relief. I feel people for the most part keep to themselves in our country. When walking down the streets of Nicoya do not be surprised to find that Costa Ricans will smile and greet you as much as possible. When visiting this country, you will find that a great majority of Costa Ricans will sit outside on their porches for hours on end enjoying the weather and the company of others. Upon meeting people for the first time, I have experienced that they will not hesitate to give you a big hug and a smile. Although you may not understand a word of Spanish, you will definitely hear their sincerity in their voices and it will be written all over their face.

4) This will be an experience you will never forget. Being back in the states for exactly a week, I will say that I definitely miss Costa Rica so much already! Thinking back on it now, it all seems like a dream and I would give away everything that I owned if that meant that I could go back to experience it longer! Sometimes, we forget that there is a world out there beyond our backyards. There is a world out there with so many amazing people and so many amazing things just waiting for you to discover them! After coming back from Costa Rica, I am already planning on going on a study abroad trip to Florence, Italy for Street Photography in 2015 for my next adventure! Being in Costa Rica has validated what I want to do with my life. I want to travel the world and experience all sorts of people, all sorts of cultures and languages. I want to take photographs of my discoveries and learn as much as I can. Traveling to a foreign country is a learning experience that you just cannot get in a classroom. Trust me when I say that the financial expenses are COMPLETELY worth it and I am so glad that the financial expenses did not take away my desire to discover the amazing and beautiful country of Costa Rica! You will NOT regret your experiences! These memories will stay with you forever!