In a month and a week

If all goes according to plan, I will be leaving the United States for the first time on June 1st. I’m happy to say that my plan to go to Costa Rica has gone from: “I’ll just apply and see what happens” to: “I’m leaving in a month and a week.” At this point I’m mostly just looking forward to the experience, but there’s just a hint of nervousness too.

I imagine that nervousness will grow some once my passport arrives (hopefully a week before I leave).

Lately I’ve been thinking about how fast my first year at UW-Madison is going by. The first semester dragged by like an early morning power lecture—but it seems like I just got back from winter break and I can already count the weeks until finals on one hand. I think that noticing how fast that time went past was part of my motivation for applying to study abroad. I can’t pinpoint everything that I hope to gain from my experience abroad, but I think that I will at least have a better understanding of how much further I want to study Spanish, and clarifying goals like that will definitely be more useful to me as a sophomore next year than as a junior or senior.

Speaking of only a month and a week to go, I need to start practicing my Spanish. My biggest fear is that I will show up at the home of my future host family and find myself repeating: ‘My name is John. I am a student. I am happy to be in Costa Rica. Thank you for the food, it is tasty’ as a means of conversation. One benefit of studying abroad that I’m experiencing already is a refreshed motivation to study my Spanish. Class is a lot more engaging when I know that I’m going to have to use what I’m learning for more than just a grade on a test. It makes finally grasping a concept from class a little more rewarding, and is even helping me put some of my other classes in perspective. I think it’s important as a student to remind myself that the point of studying isn’t to get a good grade, it’s to be able to use what I learn (or just the apply that kind of critical thinking) to help accomplish some goal. I’m looking forward to living with ‘los ticos’ – what Costa Ricans call themselves (costarricenses is too long) and seeing what life in San Jose is like.