What program did you attend and when?
I participated in the Sol Spanish immersion program in the fall semester of 2015 in Heredia, Costa Rica.
What did you study there?
I mostly took Spanish classes, and I took one psychology class because that is my major and I also took one drawing class for fun.
How were your classes different from the classes you would take at UK?
Well, usually my semesters at UK are mostly psychology and then one Spanish class so this was kind of flipped because it was mostly Spanish. And my psychology class was actually taught in Spanish which was very different for me. It was just a totally different style of teaching. In Costa Rica, I noticed that they were more likely to assign group work and activities in class instead of exams.
Did your Spanish improve a lot while you were there?
Yes, it got so much better. It improved more in that one semester than the past six years that I’ve been taking Spanish classes in KY.
How did your experience impact your future career plans?
I felt like my time in Costa Rica was a good time for me to step back and figure out what I wanted to do. I’ve always been premed but I couldn’t take my premed classes abroad, so I had a semester without them and I actually decided to drop premed and that it wasn’t really what I wanted to do. So now I want to continue in psychology and to keep studying Spanish to the point that I can say that I’m bilingual, because it’s such a useful skill.
In general, what did you learn about the culture, other than Spanish?
The culture there was not as different as I expected. It seemed pretty similar at first, but then I learned more and more about the cultural differences. For example, the culture was way more laid back. At first that was really frustrating because things were not always very well planned. There wasn’t any sense of urgency and there wasn’t this idea that it’s considerate to present accurate information. I would get told the wrong times, or wrong information all the time and it wasn’t a big deal, but it was really cool because it also forced me to realize how unimportant all of those details are. In the United States, all of those details are so important and time is so important. And just being right all the time is so important and there it’s just not a priority because they are focused on bigger things.
What resonates most from your time abroad?
I would say that what resonates most is this new sense of independence that I have. I truly feel like I can honestly do anything on my own now, and I’m not afraid of being weird or standing out. In Costa Rica, it’s not nearly as diverse as the U.S., so being Caucasian I really stood out and I was stared at all the time and it was the first time that I was a minority for a long period of time. I used to be afraid of doing things because I didn’t want to stand out or I didn’t want people to look at me and wonder what I was doing or think I was weird, but that was literally nonstop in Costa Rica, so I really got over that. And that really held me back from a lot of things, so I’m glad if happened.
Photo courtesy of Ravyn Tanner.
Michaela Wade is a junior at the University of Kentucky studying Spanish. She participated in a UK Partner program with SOL Education Abroad at the Latin University of Costa Rica in fall 2015.