Last-First Week of Undergrad and First Week of Class in Costa Rica

This blog post is going up late as a result of the following:

  1. Being super busy Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
  2. Having no Internet at my house on Monday.
  3. Taking a long nap/going to bed early. Trying to absorb a language that is not your own is tiring!

My last first week of undergrad and my first week of school in Costa Rica can be summed up as challenging. Luckily for me, the way the Sol Study Abroad program is structured, I only take one class at a time in 3 or 4 week increments. This means I have the same class for 3 hours each day and I can invest my energy in one specific area. However, the downfall is quizzes and exams occur really quickly!

On Monday last week, class began with a written placement exam and an oral examination. I had major anxiety about both because I have not had a Spanish class for 8 months as a result of studying abroad in England in the spring. During the summer, I reviewed via Duolingo and going through my old Spanish college textbooks. However, both of those can only do so much.

For the written exam, some exercises I was able to easily fill in answers, while others I had absolutely no idea what I needed to write. I finished and felt like I had tried my best. I ended up receiving a 69% in case you were wondering.

After a short, 15-minute break, the oral examination began. Students were called out into the hallway and the professors asked a variety of questions. For me, this portion did not go well. I struggled to understand what my professor asked me. In my head, I tried my hardest to figure out what vocabulary I needed to use and the correct conjugation of the verb(s). In the end, my professor informed me of what I needed to work on which consisted of verbs and vocabulary. Go figure!

At 11:00 am, class dismissed and I did an on campus scavenger hunt with the other Sol students to learn more about campus.

On of the challenges consisted of building a human pyramid (left to right): Audrey, Tyler, Madi, and myself on top

Tuesday, consisted of learning and relearning material. If the professor asked me a question, I looked at him dumbly or stumbled over my words.
After lunch at my host house, Sheri and I went back to campus in the afternoon to observe a Costa Rican cooking demonstration with other Sol students. The chef doing the cooking made Costa Rican dips. I never knew so much sour cream could be used with a variety of ingredients.

Ready to learn about Costa Rican cooking (left to right): Madi, Sheri, Maria, myself, Audrey, and Hannah

Upon returning back to my house after class, I felt unbelievably frustrated and emotional. My mamá tica told me “It’s only the first week, it will get better.” A therapeutic text session with my sister, Delaney, helped ease my stress and frustration and I went to bed exhausted, but feeling better.
Wednesday I was left feeling frustrated yet again after class. In my head I told myself, “It is and will get better!”

In the afternoon, I had a second class for the first time: gym class with local tico (nickname for Costa Rican) students. Originally, I had hoped to take soccer, but the class filled up. I was given the option of some other local classes, but ended up choosing gym. How else am I supposed to burn off the rice and beans? Half of the class consisted of Sol students and other half locals. The professor is super nice and he took the time to reexplain parts of the course that went over our heads.

Thursday happened to be a day I had been dreading all week: oral activity day. Each student in my class (a whopping 6 people) had to draw a philosophical quote out of a bag. We then had to say if we agreed/disagreed with the quote and why for 5 minutes. To those of you reading this, you maybe think this is easy. For some gals in my class it certainly is, but for me an absolute nightmare. I stumbled my way through the exercise with some major awkward pauses. I breathed a sigh of relief when the whole thing was over.

To round out the week, I had a short quiz on Friday that went mediocre. My professor had to leave early, so a substitute filled in for the duration of the class. We ended up making questions and had to go and interview tico students in the cafeteria. Terrifying, but ended up being really fun. Then, to round out class, the Sol students gathered together and we decorated caterras, traditional Costa Rican carts, for Independence Day which was on Sunday.

The craziest part about school I found is the fact that I struggle a lot to understand my professor. At home, I can understand/get the gist of what my family members say and the Sol program directors. Perhaps it’s his accent or deepness of his voice. No idea!
I survived my last first week. There is a long way for me to go in my oral, writing, and vocabulary, but I’m up for the challenge! In the near future, I’ll be embracing the tears/frustration of not understanding virtually anything and the early bedtimes and power naps.

There is no exhaustion like learning a foreign language. I commend immigrants and refugees who must learn a new language and culture to survive, exchange students who study abroad in high school/college, or students who attend college in another country where their first language isn’t spoken. You are SO brave!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

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