Travel Tales

Experiencing “PURA VIDA” in Costa Rica
By Hannah Lockhart, 2016 Study Abroad Grant Recipient

Studying abroad with Sol Education Abroad is one of the best decisions I made during myhl-1 undergraduate studies. Throughout this past semester, I have not only gained a better understanding of my own culture but how my culture affects other people groups throughout the world. I can now say that I have been welcomed into a warm, loving Central American home, and I can profess the difficulty of bridging language barriers. However, every moment of understanding and misunderstanding has been a beautiful life-shaping adventure.

Through Sol Education Abroad, I was able to do volunteer work in a local elementary school, Miraflores. I was on a leadership team with four other students where we designed lesson plans and led trainings for other study abroad volunteers. I experienced close camaraderie with two Costa Rican kindergarten teachers, or who the students call Niñas. Our study abroad group focused on teaching vocabulary through the use of kinesthetic and visual aids. We played games, such as “Duck, Duck, Goose” (Pato, Pato, Ganso) and “Simon Says” (Simon dice). Also, we drew facial features to teach students how to say facial features in English. This was a great opportunity for me to continue expanding my horizons as a future elementary educator. I learned a great deal about what it means to forge relationships with students in a diverse setting.

hl-2Along with volunteering, I received great course instruction, as I actively participated in four Spanish language courses. Within each Spanish class, my professors and classmates discussed controversial issues that affect the United States and Costa Rica. This was an interesting experience, as I listened and debated with my American classmates and Costa Rican professors on various topics. This provided me with an opportunity to apply the Spanish language skills I had acquired in authentic, critical-thinking conversations. In addition, I enrolled in a painting elective where I was able to explore various artistic aspects of Costa Rican culture. The painting professor taught me not only how to paint but how to live within a “Pura Vida” culture.

Ultimately, I had the experience of a lifetime. I now have Solmates, who I can depend upon for any trial I face in the future. These are the “amigos” I met during studying abroad. They are the people who have seen me stretched outside of my comfort zone. They are the friends who held my hands during dangerous hiking adventures, and they are the people who encouraged me to make local friends. My Solmates are the friends that have loved me and taught me more than I could have ever learned within a classroom. My local friends in Costa Rica, “amigo ticos” showed me a kind of hospitality I did not realize existed. I want to carry their spirit of selflessness with me, as I begin working within a community in the United States.

In conclusion, I cannot thank Phi Kappa Phi enough for the opportunity to study abroad with Sol Education Abroad. Without your support, this life-changing trip would not have been possible. Therefore, by lending your assistance, you made my dreams a reality. I have learned more Spanish in three and a half months than I have learned in five years. However, I have learned more than Spanish; I have gained the ability to possess an open mind, as I interact with diverse people. Once again, thank you for this scholarly opportunity to practice leadership and attain wisdom. I hope to teach others the valuable lessons that I have gained from this experience. I want the gifts of this excursion to carry on into the future, so that others may be blessed as I have been blessed.