Now that I’m home, I can write this. Now, I’m home. I’m home! I can write this. I can write this. I can write this. Can I write this?
On the Sol Education Abroad Alumni Page, there is a tab that talks about “Reentry”. Reverse culture shock, one of the sections on the webpage, is when someone who has lived abroad and adjusted to the foreign country’s way of life returns home, just to realize that they have to adjust back to the life they lived before, with a completely new outlook (if they let their time abroad change them). Among with other SOLmates, I have been experiencing re-entry issues, like missing Spanish and the rhythms, people, and life in Heredia, Costa Rica. (Also, I had to remind myself today that there are laws that are followed in the States when it comes to crossing the street. It is very bad form here, and significantly more dangerous, to cross the street as soon as there’s a gap in traffic. In Costa Rica, this is the way tico drivers expect pedestrians to move.)
I question if I can write this blog post because I realize that none of my experiences are going to be something I can share completely, no matter how attentive my listener or how similar an experience they themselves have lived. I question if I can write this because I know I am the only one that lived my time in Costa Rica, and I cannot make anyone else understand how I have been changed. I pray that the changes God has wrought in my heart are visible, and that I can continue living my newfound confidence, self-security, and international experience. Tendré que continuar con mi español, y no quiero perder la sabiduria que he logrado allá, en mi querido Costa Rica.
That being said, let me try to share what this time has meant to me, and forgive me if, when I see you, I have references to my time abroad for every possible subject you bring up. I promise I am conscious of how it may sound like bragging to throw Spanish into an English conversation, and I know that no matter how patient a friend or loved one you are, you can only handle so many stories and pictures. So forgive me if I tell you the same things over and over, and forgive me if I translate everything under my breath, and forgive me if I jump at the opportunity to speak Spanish again, and forgive me if my profile pictures rotate between Costa Rica selfies for the next few months.
As a friend, gently remind me when I get carried away that you don’t understand me when I speak Spanish, and if I’ve told you the story before, do your best to patiently hear me out. I want to be present to you, but I am scared I will go and forget what this time has been for me. I want to share these past four months with you, all my friends and loved ones, and because you could not be there with me, sharing my stories and my excitement seems to be the best way to share that joy.
Can I write this? Yes, but I must write this understanding that I lived these experiences alone, and only God, who searches me and knows me through and through, will ever understand the heart of my Costa Rican adventure.
And what is it that I am trying so hard to write? I think it is going to end up as a thank you. Yes, a thank you to God, to my family, to Costa Rica, to la familia tica, to my SOLmates, to myself, for every breath I’ve been gifted, every new morning opening my eyes to God’s glory.
Thank You first and always to God. If not for God, Who has a plan for my future, I would not have chosen Costa Rica and, before that, I would not have chosen CUA. It is through prayer and the grace of an openness to God’s will that I have chosen both my beloved college and my sweet Costa Rica, and if it were not for His faithful voice guiding me, I would be lost somewhere out in the world. I truly believe that God holds me in the palm of His hand, and though I may live in the world, my heart is hidden in Christ.
Thank you to my parents, who are sitting nearby now. Thank you for always encouraging me and having faith that I can do whatever I choose to do, with a strong work ethic and focused goal-setting. Thank you for encouraging me to pursue Spanish, that for which I have a true passion. Thank you for all the times in high school going through flashcards and trying to read questions in Spanish to quiz me. Thank you for the spiritual and monetary support too. If it weren’t for your constant prayers and well-wishing, I wouldn’t be the confident young woman I am today.
Thank you to my familia tica. Mil gracias. Ustedes me han apoyado por todo, aunque pensaron las primeras semanas que yo iba a regresar a los EEUU. Deben saber que siempre lloro, a veces sin razón, y que estoy endeudada a usted más que todo, mamá tica, porque me ha confortado mil veces con la sabiduría que “es bueno llorar”. Me ha dado el amor de una madre para sus hijas, y por eso estoy agradecida. Gracias por recibirme como su propia hija, y ya sabe que siempre tiene una hija extrañándole de los EEUU. A Meli y Angie, han sido las hermanas que nunca tenía, y ha sido un verdadero placer. Felicitaciones con sus graduaciones en noviembre, y nos vemos algún día. (Meli, lo siento que le ataqué con mis horquilla mientras nos estábamos despidiendo!! Ojalá que su mejilla esté bien) Óscar, gracias por ser mi papí tico, por enseñarme mucho, y por asistir a la Misa con nosotros mi último día. Significa mucho para mi que vino.
A mis SOLmates: Guys, thank you for everything. We have made a lot of connections that will last a life time, and some of the most important ones have been within our group. I cannot wait to take a train from DC to Kentucky and/or Wisconsin and/or wherever else to see you all, and I feel so very blessed that I’ve been given the chance to know all you crazies. Thanks for the memories, and I look forward to running into you some day in another Spanish speaking country!
To my friends and loved ones at home, in Flagstaff, DC, Baltimore, Florida, New York, Rome, wherever you may be: Thank you for helping to turn me into the sort of young woman who has the confidence to go live abroad for four months. Without the incredible web of support that God has blessed me with, I may have never been brave enough to send in my application. Thank you, each of you, because you are the ones I lean on, the ones who encourage me and support me, the ones I hold closest in my heart and remember most often in my prayers. Thank you for loving me!
To myself. I want to thank myself for being so awesome. No, just kidding. But I am thankful that I chose to take a chance. I am thankful to all who have made me who I am, though I could not possibly list you all here, because it is all of you who have instilled in me the confidence that I needed to take a chance and make the choice to live in Costa Rica for four long/short months.
To anyone who is considering study abroad, please, do it! Pray about it…think hard about where you want to go (or don’t think hard, if that’s your style)…regardless, just go. Study abroad has changed me. I am so grateful.
I do not know if that’s what I set out to write in the beginning, but I know that there is at least one more thank you I need to give: Costa Rica. Land of marvelous geography, diverse biodiversity, incredible flora and fauna. Land of pura vida, full to bursting with ticos, land I have come to love. It is true what they say about Costa Rica: the people are incredibly welcoming. They are, for the most part, honest people. Loving people. Open people. Costa Rica has flaws, of course, as does any country, but if you are wondering if your time there would be worth it, I can only say “yes”. I hope some day to return, maybe someday when I have a family, maybe as a missionary or a religious sister. It is all in God’s hands, but until then, I will carry Costa Rica in my heart. Pura vida, mis amigos!