Each winter and spring, a group of Proctor sophomores spends a term studying at The Cloud Forest School in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Living with host families, navigating the small city of Monteverde independently, and taking a full academic load is no easy task, but this winter's group is thriving. At the core of the study abroad experience in Costa Rica is the home stay where our students are immersed in the Spanish language and develop relationships that last a lifetime. Read more about the power of the home stay experience below.
Today is the beginning of our fifth week here in Monteverde. So far I have loved every minute of it, especially my host family. My host mother and father are Felix Mata and Maribel Herrera. In total they have four children, three of whom are older and do not live with them anymore. Their youngest, Wanda, lives with me and her parents at home. They have done nothing but welcome me with open arms and I am already beginning to feel like another member of their family. Almost every night after dinner we play many rounds of a card game called “Run”. The first day they brought me home, Wanda and her close friend taught me how the play. Since then I feel like I am slowly, but surely becoming a master at Run. This is just one of the many ways this family has made Costa Rica feel like my home away from home.
The first two days here were challenging for me since I was homesick and worried that my host family would be mean or that they just would not like me. I would hide in my room and try not to think about my parents or my bed at home. What helped me the most was that Wanda would ask me to play card games with her or her parents would invite me to go drink coffee in the backyard with them. This truly made me feel like I was part of the family and not just some girl staying in their home. So far I have loved being at home and just hanging out with my host family has exposed me to a different way of life. These past weeks have been an amazing experience for me and I am very excited for the next month here in MonteVerde.
The past five weeks I have spent in Costa Rica have been beyond incredible. The small town of Monteverde has been so welcoming and kind. Everyone you pass is full of smiles and "Pura Vida's!". At first, living with a host family was a challenge. It takes some adjusting adapting to the routine down here, however, my family was so happy to meet me and welcomed me with arms wide open. At times the language barrier between my family and me is a little nerve-wracking but I've come to learn that all the awkward moments are truly benefiting me and my Spanish speaking skills. During the school day, the PA kids and I take a variety of classes with and without the local kids. My favorite part of the day is English class because I love hanging out with the five other 10th grade kids at the school. Most all the students speak incredible amounts of English and they tend to correct our Spanish and help us out. All the high school students here are so kind and we have been getting to know them on our weekend adventures around the town! Time is flying by here, it's going to be a hard goodbye!
It's been four weeks and a day since I arrived in the touristy mountain town of Monteverde. At first I was quite afraid of meeting my host family. What would they think of me? Would they speak a lick of English? Those worries were quickly washed away as my family turned out to be an incredibly nice group of people. My host mom and dad don't speak any English, but my two host siblings speak the language almost perfectly. The mix of languages in my house is very comfortable, at dinner, I speak Spanish, when hanging out with my host brother, I speak English.
One thing I've noticed about living here compared to the US is absence (at least for me) of stress. There is a saying here, Pura Vida, this saying can mean many different things and can be used as a reply to basically any question that you're taxi driver will ask you, besides your destination. Pura Vida basically translates to “no worries”, it's the hakuna matata of Costa Rica, and for the last three weeks I've been living by that saying. It's amazing how much better everyday life can become when you stop worrying about grades or what people think of you. In a month I'll be back in the US where I'll go back to my everyday stresses and worries, but for the remainder of the trip, I'm living that Pura Vida life, baby!
Before coming to Costa Rica I was told you could see the ocean from the school we attend. Personally I find that an understatement. You can see the layers of mountains and the harbor with the island and the long plateau of flat land down the mountain and on clear days you can even make out the houses and roads. However, the most important thing is the lifestyle that our host families and friends are so gracefully including us in. It is very easily summarized as pura vida. While the phrase is very popular with tourist merchandise, it has a deeper and cemented meaning with the local community, and even Costa Rica as a whole. As the CEC school director Dan, translated it for us into simple words, “it means you can worry, but at least you can be chill about it.” The way the people walk and talk so perfectly reflects that quote. There is a different air that people breathe here and they all radiate the calmness of the pure life mantra.
The kindness and selflessness of the people is almost overwhelming at times. The honking in the street isn’t hostile or impatient but rather a calm and casual hello as friends pass each other in their cars on there way through their day, similar to another greeting which was otherworldly to us Proctor students when we first arrived. The simple act of a hug or a kiss on the cheek to any American would be seen as too close or over personal, but the greeting is becoming just as normal as a handshake or a head nod, it just allows people to feel as though they are seen and recognized. There is no such thing as strangers here, every person is just a human waiting to become a friend. No one goes through their day alone because it feels as though everyone is with them, it’s a community and one where everyone knows everyone and family is as broad a term as water or air. The people of Monteverde are life changing and the experience is eye opening. There is nothing more different than what we are so acclimated to at home. There is nothing so amazing as to feel you are building another home in country so far away to the original. Pura vida and buen día.
We are starting the 6th week of the trip and everything is starting to come together. I’m getting really close with all the other kids at the school and we’re starting to do stuff with them after school. It’s nice to be in the warm weather and to have good food all the time. My house has a beautiful view of the sunset and it’s nice to sit out there every day and watch it. It’s cool getting to know the other kids because of how far away they live from me and just the chances of us ever meeting are kind of crazy. Being outside every day and seeing the sun all the time are a huge factor because everyone seems happier here.