Sydney Johnson, a Chicago native and graduated senior from Hampshire High School, is the inaugural winner of GLA’s STA Flight Voucher Contest.
Costa Rica is a tiny country about the size of West Virginia in the United States. Because of that, it may not really even be on your radar when you think of places to study Spanish. You might be gravitating toward more conventional choices like Spain or Mexico, but Costa Rica is an amazing place to study as well. Here’s why you might want to consider studying abroad, and especially in Costa Rica.
The Power of Immersion
There are a lot of drawbacks to learning in a tiny little classroom in the comfort of your own hometown. Mainly, you lack the opportunity to use the language you’ve practiced in real situations.
School classroom situations are carefully manufactured and while useful, they are no substitute for the real thing. Also, in a lot of cases, you simply can’t go outside and use the language that you’ve learned, meaning you’re likely to forget it. We call that being in “the bubble.” You learn the language in your little bubble and then go outside and speak English the rest of the day (or week in some cases), popping that little Spanish bubble.
In a place like Costa Rica, where the language is spoken naturally, you can reinforce what you learn in class by going out among the people and using the language, further cementing it in your mind. You also get the chance to experience real language, which is often vastly different from the language being used in the textbook. Face it, how many times have you used “This is a pen” or “Hello, how do you do?” in your daily life speaking English? Well, that’s a downfall of the language learning industry. That’s why you need to get out there and experience “real language” how the locals use it. And that’s why taking Spanish classes in Costa Rica that combine immersion in the community with teachable moments in class is an ideal learning method.
Costa Rica is a country rich in natural beauty and a great place to go to experience something truly different and amazing.
The country is known for its beautiful natural hot springs, supplied by the country’s volcanic landscape, and its astonishing wildlife and scenery. Among the things to see include waterfalls, volcanoes, and the expansive rainforest.
Arenal Volcano, for instance, is a gorgeous hike that can be supplemented with an amazing zip lining or rafting experience. There are also an abundance of national parks, both inland and seaside, that allow you to take in the beautiful sights, see amazing animals like the famous sea turtles, and just relax. The natural beauty of Costa Rica is unmatched, and is definitely a very attractive point to studying abroad there.
The Experience of a Lifetime
Studying abroad is an experience you will carry with you for a lifetime. It will shape you in more ways than you can possibly even imagine as you sit reading this blog post.
Take it from a seasoned language learner and study abroad aficionado, a chance to immerse yourself in a vastly different culture will change for perspective and alter your life and your way of looking at the world for the better. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start your new adventure in Costa Rica. It’ll be an experience to treasure for a lifetime.
Contributed by Nick Bartholomew
Traveling is not only the gateway to adventure, it is the passport to personal development.
I never had the pleasure (yet) to travel abroad, unless Google maps and reading an assortment of world literature counts (sometimes it does!). However, I have traveled through the vast majority of the United States. One particular trip that lead me to the path of personal development was my first trip to Mississippi. I was about twelve years old and it was my first trip out of my home state of California.
I had never physically met my grandma on my father’s side, but I grew to know her through many phone calls and letters (yes, letters). My father decided it was time for me to see his childhood stomping grounds and to finally put a face to the voice. Talk about a major culture shock. A born-and-raised California girl spending her whole summer down South. Basically, I was trading sun and palm trees for mosquitoes and humidity.
Tunica, Mississippi is a small town thirty minutes from Memphis, Tennessee. Once known as the poverty-stricken “Sugar Ditch Alley,” Tunica is known as a prosperous casino town today.
Open land and a galore of stars scattered across the sky. That was my positive perspective of Tunica. Otherwise, I was not a fan of southern living (especially when it came to the food). I thought I kept my feelings hidden, but you can’t fool the wise.
I remember my grandma telling a neighbor that she knew I was not enjoying myself and I HATED being here. Hated? Hate was too strong of a word to describe how I felt, but that is how she felt. It was at that moment that I decided to change my negative attitude into a positive one.
I started eating the foods that I once found strange and foreign. Big-boned buffalo fish, goat, deer, and other delicacies of the South that turned out to be delicious (this was during my pre-vegertarain days). I began spending more and more time outside exploring the beautiful scenery of Tunica and the surrounding communities. I saw the continuous action found on Beale Street and the uninterrupted movement of the animals and people at the Memphis Zoo. The best part of all during my first time there was I made a friend and confidant, my grandma.
My grandma, Bertha Lee Liddell, and Tunica became a familiar face and place I tremendously enjoyed seeing until the day my grandma died. I haven’t been back since but I do plan to visit again (with an open mind of course.
Take my advice: Embrace the culture. Embracing is the first step to a memorable experience. Close-mindedness will prevent you from seeing what the culture has to offer. Explore all you can and make memories every minute you are there; that is how the fondest memories are created.
Contributed by Courtney Liddell
I was 12 the first time I traveled abroad to visit my uncle in South Africa. During my two-month stay, I swam in the Indian Ocean, experienced an exciting new culture first-hand, learned Afrikaans (one of the native languages), met so many amazing people, and even had my 13th birthday in the wilds of Africa, with lions roaring in the distance and hyenas eying my campfire-fried cake. It was incredible! But it was also terrifying, at times.
It’s no small thing, traveling to another country, but it’s even more complicated when you’re young and doing it for the first time. There’s tons to prepare for and consider, from getting your passport and packing appropriately to dealing with language barriers and embracing cultural differences. Your parents can help you, but here’s some advice, one international adventurer to another, that you will definitely want to keep in mind.
1. Take Packing Seriously but Not Too Seriously
Packing is important, but forgetting something isn’t the end of the world. The truth is you can usually buy what you need at most places you visit, or borrow from a friend. The only exceptions are things like medications, glasses, and other items specifically prescribed to you. While you certainly don’t want to forget anything, fixating on the possibility of leaving something behind can cause undue stress and anxiety and ultimately detract from your overall experience. Don’t get so wrapped up worrying about your luggage that it overshadows your excitement for travel.
2. Be Ready for Seasonal Differences
My trip took place in May while the weather here in the United States was beautiful, but the nights in South Africa were freezing. Luckily, I checked before I traveled and knew to take some warmer clothes. I literally wore my Under Armour Cold Gear every evening and most mornings I was outside. It can be tempting to bring all your favorite clothes to show off during your trip, but you’ll have a lot more fun if you dress according to the weather.
3. Beware of Culture Shock
I had absolutely no idea what culture shock was. It wasn’t until years after my trip that I realized I had suffered from it. Culture shock is basically when someone struggles to adapt to new cultural surroundings. For me, it resulted in homesickness, but it can also cause anxiety and other unpleasant emotions that can detract from your trip. Just knowing about culture shock, however, can help prevent it. If you go in expecting cultural differences, you’re less likely to get homesick and more likely to enjoy your travels.
4. Journal about Everything
I actually had to journal about my trip for school, but I can’t tell you how glad I am that I did. In the moment, it may seem like you could never forget about all the amazing things you’re doing and seeing but, take it from someone who knows, those impressions can fade overtime. You don’t have to start journaling full-time, but writing your travel adventures down will help keep the memories alive, especially when it comes to remembering how the experience made you feel. It’s well worth getting those thoughts and emotions on paper so you can revisit them again and again.
I learned a lot during my two months in South Africa but, most importantly, I found out there’s no better way to discover the world than to dive in and see it up close. Sure, it might be intimidating, but the experience is one you’ll never forget.
Contributed by Amanda Vosloh Bowyer
Travel for teens isn’t always easy to plan. With spring break approaching and the lazy days of summer beginning to get into focus, you are probably already imagining your days filled with waking up past 7 am, going to the beach, or working a bit with that cute boy or girl you have a crush on to score a relationship and some much needed cash.
But when the thought of just another summer hanging around town doesn’t excite you too much, here are 4 options for a teen tour you might want to take that will not only wake up the adventurer in you but might be a nice boost to your college resume as well.
Are you an adrenaline junkie? Does the idea of traveling around North America and going to theme parks all day everyday make you want to jump off your coach right now? Then if so, Thrill Coasters is the tour for you. With this year’s tours hitting the American South in July and parts of the Northeast, Ohio, and Canada in August, there will be plenty of opportunities to ride your favorite coasters again and again without a nagging parent who says once is enough.
American Trails West (ATW):
With a company that has been around for over 50 years, you can assume that by now ATW is a well-oiled machine when it comes to curating trips to challenge the soul and excite the mind in the American West (and Canada, Hawaii, Alaska and Europe). With 9 tours running over a series of 2-5 weeks, there are bound to be plenty of options to hit that spot you have always dreamed of be it hiking Yellowstone National Park, at an authentic luau in Hawaii, or discovering the history and culture of Western Europe.
If the idea of discovering your career passions or getting a head start on college sounds like more of your thing, then the Summer Discovery program might just be the right place for you. With programs from coast to coast and with a few options in between, having the chance to learn from top professors in your field of interest at Penn, Johns Hopkins, Michigan and UCLA, to name just a few schools, will not only make you super prepared to take on that tough AP class you signed up for in September but will give you a glimpse of what college life is like for when you attend. But don’t think that taking a Summer Discovery course means that it is all work and no play, you will get a chance to enjoy the local culture, food and sports teams of wherever you are staying with your newfound classmates and friends for a summer you will never forget.
Global Leadership Adventures (GLA):
If combining a bit of world travel, a pinch of international culture and a touch of volunteering looks more like your ideal summer then GLA summer teen tours are the perfect match. The range of possibilities on a GLA tour are endless as you could be spending your summer helping to conserve Thai elephants or volunteering with Mayan children in Guatemala by day and taking in archaeological ruins in the afternoon . With programs ranging around the world from 10 to 21 days, you have the opportunity if you want to double up on programs and spend time in two completely different places all in one summer. No matter where you go on a GLA program, you will have a lot of food for thought to chew on once you get back to your hometown.
A teen travel tour doesn’t have to be your only option this summer, but it can certainly fit into your schedule and give you a break from the summer monotony!
Contributed by Matt Zonis