Natalie Schisler's Story Abroad

Current Class Level: Sophomore
Major: Interdisciplinary Studies (Exercise Science, Spanish, Pre-PT)
Country of Study: Costa Rica
Term Abroad: Summer 2017

What has been your most rewarding experience abroad so far?
My most rewarding experiences were the times I was able to volunteer at a local grade school. The study abroad program I was with (SOL) set up some times when we were able to go to the school and help with an English lesson for first and second graders. Those sweet kids were so excited to learn, and it was fun to put my Spanish skills to good use.
What has been your favorite part about your host culture?
I love that the people are generally really chill and easy-going. I also loved how much fresh fruit was available all the time. I’m already missing having a fresco (a fresh fruit drink usually made with milk or water) every day with breakfast.
What has been your favorite trip you’ve taken?
My favorite trip was the weekend that we went to La Fortuna waterfall. We walked down 500 steps to the bottom of the falls and swam at the bottom. It was breathtakingly beautiful. After that we went to a hotel with hot springs at the base of Arenal volcano. When we got there it was cloudy, but the next morning I got up at 6 and the clouds were lighter, birds were singing, and I could see all the way up the volcano and down into the valley as well. I will never forget that morning as long as I live.
What will you miss the most when you leave?
I think I will miss the constant adventures. It was amazing to be in a place where I could try new things every day and never run out of places to explore. Every weekend was a new experience with lots of interesting things to discover.
What has been most challenging living in your host country/culture?
I think figuring out transportation has been the most challenging thing. There is no unified bus system in Costa Rica (or even in the San Jose area). The so-called “public” buses are all run by different private companies, so it’s impossible to see on a map all the different routes, fares, and stops that you might need. That being said, I think I did start to get the hang of it eventually. The last day I was there, some friends and I took two different buses to and from an amusement park in a suburb of San Jose, and we didn’t get lost. I considered that a victory.
What is your best advice for a future study abroad student?
Swallow your pride as fast as you can and just accept the fact that you’re going to make mistakes and embarrass yourself sometimes. This is especially true if you’re working on a foreign language. You will make funny mistakes. It’s fine. If you get laughed at, then at least you put a smile on somebody’s face. Laugh at yourself and move on.
Anything else you would like to tell us?
If you have the chance to study abroad, do it. Do it because it will help you grow. Do it because even if you never become fluent, it’s great to know a bit of another language. Do it because college is one of the easiest times in life to just go. Do it because it will force you out of your comfort zone. Do it because it’s hard to spend time learning in another culture and not leave the experience a little kinder, a little braver, and a little more open-minded. Do it because it’s fun. Do it because your new adventures may be some of the best experiences of your entire life. Do it.

One evening I went with some friends to a celebratory pep rally after Heredia’s soccer team won the Costa Rica National Championship. There was extra excitement because they beat their main rivals, San Jose, to win the championship.

This picture was taken by a friend of mine while we were at Manuel Antonio National Park on the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica

The view of Arenal Volcano from the front step of my hotel room.

Emma and I at La Fortuna waterfall.

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