Valpo Voyager

Student Stories from Around the World

Tag: Costa Rica (page 1 of 2)

An Open Letter to my Homestay Families Abroad


10153777_10202732077600829_3644390842330758777_nTo Ma Chanza, Mama Bene, Visau, Kali, Damien, Valvuca, !Othema, Watson, Mama Catherine, and all of the other individuals who lovingly opened their homes to a foreign stranger, to those who fed me (usually too much!), to he who took me driving late at night around the township, to those who waited up for me to come home, to she who taught me how to bake fat cakes in the sun, to the small boy who jumped into my bed at 6am ready to play, to those who were patient with my awkward nature and unintentionally offensive behavior: I owe you (another) big fat thank you.


206036_1007396782959_9223_nThe words “Xie xie,” “Vinaka vaka levu,” “Eio,” “Asante sana,” or “Tangi unene” do not express the immense gratitude I feel towards you for calling me daughter.


I loved how content each of you were. I loved that when the sky was clear, you were all together, running outside or relaxing under the shade of a tree. I loved that the land you live on is meant to be walked on with bare feet. I loved the boisterous sounds of the school children. I loved the fresh fruit – mangoes, bananas, avocadoes – best enjoyed in the company of others, fruit juice dripping down your forearms. I loved the fragrant frangipane you wove in your hair. I loved the fireworks you watched as a family after overindulging on dumplings.


I did NOT love the roosters’ early morning cock-a-doodle-doo’s, though I suppose nothing is perfect.


But above all else, the feeling that sticks with me in my heart of hearts, the 200185_1007830593804_9836_nlesson I’m continuing to unpack even years later is this: the tangible, thick sense of community that hung in every corner of your home, and the doors that were always open to company, including mine. This idea of togetherness transcended the borders that divided the families that welcomed me.


Studying abroad is for learning by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. It’s for being exposed to different ways of living. It’s for challenging your notions of self, for questioning our own culture, for growing your compassion. Thank you for giving me that and more.



Megan, “Meihua,” “Luvequ,” “Meggie”


>> I anticipated learning a lot while studying abroad – but severely underestimated how much I would learn while doing my homestay. From the quiet pleasure of sitting in silence with my family to effective techniques for hand washing my clothes, no experience during my semester abroad was as impactful, confusing, uncomfortable, rewarding, or insightful as the few weeks living with my homestay family.


251007_1896280484496_7552402_nI won’t say that a homestay is a cake walk. It’s tough. It’s awkward. You feel FOMO from your other friends in their homestays. You milk goats (seriously, goats). You ride in donkey carts in the high noon heat. You are forced to eat first while your family members sit idly by and watch. You sit on the floor all the time. You run out of things to say. There are bugs, rats, cats, donkeys, puppies, chickens laying eggs in your bed.
It ain’t always pretty, but I’ll be darned if it wasn’t entirely worth it. Trust me: you’ll know what I’m talking about when you have your first “Is this my life?” moment when your family (and heart) grows despite being thousands of miles away from Valpo.

Traveling Around the Country

Costa Rica is known for its beautiful beaches and volcanos, so while we are here studying we decided to make the most of our free time by traveling around the country and visiting some of the more famous sights.


Yesterday we went to Volcán Poás, an active volcano located just a few hours away from our home city.  The large leafy plant in the foreground of the above photograph is called a “poor man’s umbrella,” which would have come in handy in the afternoon.  These gorgeous views disappeared quickly when the clouds came rolling in!


Needless to say, we stayed there longer than 20 minutes.


The National Park also has a short hike to Lake Bogos, which used to be the secondary crater of the volcano.  It is currently inactive, so the water is cold but very acidic.


 Our quick trip up the mountain made for a nice break from studying.  The views were simply spectacular and we hope to visit more volcanos before the semester comes to an end!

Walking through Monteverde

As a reunion trip, us Valpo chicas went on a trip to La Fortuna, Arenal Volcano and the Cloud Forest of Monteverde, which is one of the most biodiverse beautiful places on earth. We had the opportunity to walk across the hanging bridges that look over of miles of lush forests full of chattering monkeys, colourful plants, and endangered species such as Kinkajous and some types of tropical birds. Walking through Monteverde

Reunion in the Caribe: Manzanillo

After being separated by our different internships, some of our Valpo group went on a very eventful camping trip on the Souther Caribbean Coast in Punta Uva and Manzanillo. It was amazing to be around such amazing people in such a beautiful and exotic place. Great memories!

Somewhere in the Caribbean

to Bribri

On the way to my internship in a rural area of Costa Rica in Bribri, Limon, there are many picturesque views with tropical vegetation and fresh breeze from the Atlantic Ocean.

The Satisfaction of Stamps

ViajandoOne simple joy of traveling, is the getting the beautiful, unique stamps you receive at customs when crossing international borders. Pictured here is the filled-up passport of one of the study center directors, Alfonso Meléndez who is from El Salvador, which has this intricately colored and culturally-relevant designs. Here in the Valpo Costa Rica program, we have finished up our two classes of Spanish, culture, history and social justice and are getting prepared to start our internships in different areas and organizations in the country. We are also excited to welcome the group of nursing students who are coming to work in clinics for underserved populations in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Right now I’m making sure I have my bilingual medical terms down as I’m translating this week!

Chilling in Granada, Nicaragua

Chilling in GranadaThis past week, our group visited Managua, Granada and Ometepe Island, Nicaragua. Here are sophomores Jennifer Carpenter and Jasmine Lopez taking a break after touring around the colonial and colorful city of Granada.


Costa Rican Coffee!

Costa Rican Coffee

When someone from the United States hears “Costa Rica”, a buzz word that often comes to mind is coffee. After living here for about 4 weeks, I’ve learned that coffee is no joke. Similar to Valpo students during finals week, I am going on about three cups of coffee per day-but because its so amazing! It’s rich, strong and local, and there is little to no need for milk and sugar. It’s something I don’t feel guilty about because I’m supporting local economy and I have more energy to explore and learn about this vibrant country!

Pura Vida: Exploring Puriscal!

This weekend, my Costa Rican professor invited our class to explore her hometown of Puriscal, Costa Rica. We went along a river that winds through the mountains, and we got to swim through the lagoons and in the waterfalls. We learned how to make empanadas, tortillas and traditional coffee and we had the privilege of learning traditional Costa Rica dance. Here is a short video of the experience. All thinks to Gina Torres Calderón! ¡Que profa!

Horseback Riding to a Waterfall in Puriscal


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