So far my life living abroad in Costa Rica has been very unpredictable. Within the first month, some of my classes had changed locations or times more than once. Sometimes classes were canceled to make room for program field trips. Because of those schedule changes, it was a little difficult to get into a routine. It’s safe to say that about two months in, I finally have one. There are still weeks when my schedule gets thrown off, but for the most part I have developed a routine. If you’re interested in applying for USAC’s program in Costa Rica, I hope my experience can help give you an idea of what you might expect. Every host family is different in how they do things, but after comparing routines with my classmates, there is a lot of overlap of what we do in a day.
Early to rise and a typical Costa Rican breakfast
Every day, I have a different class, so the order of my day can vary throughout the week. The majority of my classes are in the morning, which means I have to wake up early, sometimes as early as 6:30. I’m not a morning person, so I’m still getting used to the timing. If you’re like me in that way, it may help you to set various alarms before you need to wake up. When I do this, it helps me so I can be aware that I have to get up soon.
After showering and getting dressed, I enter the dining room to see that my host mom has already prepared breakfast for me. Typically I have eggs and bread with juice. Every so often she’ll make pancakes, which I like a lot. This is a pretty typical breakfast in Costa Rica. Other students have mentioned eating various fruits as well as gallo pinto, which is made up of rice and beans and sometimes eggs, cheese, or bread on the side.
Off to School
After breakfast, I walk to school. I lucked out with my host family’s location because it only takes me about 15 minutes to walk to class. Some of my other classmates live further away from our campus and have to take a bus. Once I arrive, I usually head straight to class, but if I’m a bit early I’ll sit outside and chat with my friends until we have to go inside. Twice a week, I have two classes in a day, so I stay on campus during lunch time. My host mom will pack me lunch to take so I can eat in between classes. Many other students do this as well for the same reason as me.
Breaks with friends
Depending on how long my break between classes is, sometimes my friends and I will go somewhere to do homework together, like a cafe, or get smoothies, or just sit and talk on campus. Even though the classes are three hours long each, there is still time for me to relax and hang out with my friends. Sometimes we’ll also try to practice speaking Spanish to each other, but it can get a bit tiring and stressful. There have been a few times when we’ve been approached by Costa Rican students that attend the university with us, and they speak to us in both Spanish and English to help us practice.
Evenings with my host mom
Once my second class has ended, if I have one that day, I walk home and often start on my homework after greeting my host family. I work until dinner, which is when most of the conversation happens. My host mom will ask me how my day was and once I respond, I ask about hers. This usually leads to other topics of conversation, and I get to practice my Spanish–she has told me herself that she thinks my speaking skills are improving. I’m still not fluent and talk fairly slowly, but I was happy to hear the compliment.
After dinner, sometimes I watch telenovelas with my host mom, who watches them every day before she goes to bed. I’ll join her for a little bit, which I think is a good way to spend time with her and also helps me develop my listening comprehension / language skills.
I think living with a host family is a beneficial aspect of studying abroad because you get to practice the language of the country, learn about a different culture, and experience how they live day to day. My daily routine isn’t too demanding since I have a decent amount of free time. On the weekends, I have plenty of time to make plans with my friends and go sightseeing. Like I mentioned before, everybody’s routine is different, but I hope my day-to-day experience can give you an idea of what to expect if you’re interested in this program.