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Arthur and Marcel study in Costa Rica for a semester
Marcel, 24 years old, and Arthur, 28 years old, both study Business Administration in Germany. But this spring semester, they are studying in Costa Rica. They have been in Costa Rica for two weeks now. Currently, they stay in Samara on the Pacific Coast. We had the chance to ask them some questions!
How did you get to know each other? Are you studying at the same university?
Marcel: No, we are not studying at the same university. But I am here with two friends from my university. This WhatsApp group is open to all Costa Rican students enrolled in the spring semester. So, we asked if anyone would like to share accommodations and travel the country together. That’s how we met Arthur! Now we are traveling in a group of four.
Have you ever been to Central America before?
Marcel: Yes, my two friends and I visited Mexico. We stayed there for almost four weeks just before our semester in Costa Rica started.
Arthur: No, I haven’t been to Central America.
Why did you decide to study in Costa Rica? And why did you do it with Asia Exchange?
Arthur: We were looking for a beautiful place to study abroad. But since COVID-19, most countries are closed. Then, we have heard that Asia Exchange was offering a brand-new study abroad program at one of the best private universities in Costa Rica. And we knew “We have to do it!”. Now we are here, and it was the best decision! It’s great we love it!
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How was the application process with Asia Exchange for you?
Marcel: It was pretty easy. You need to go to Asia Exchange’s website, click the “now apply” bottom and fill out some personal information in the application form. You also need a few documents, like a copy of your passport and a transcript of records from your home university, that’s it! A day later, we received the confirmation – pretty easy and pretty fast.
How was your experience of travelling to Costa Rica during COVID-19?
Marcel: I felt safe. You only need an international health insurance and a confirmation of it, a (flight-)ticket that shows that you will leave the country again, a health pass that you need to fill out and a QR code that you will receive two days before the flight. You don’t need a PCR test or do a quarantine. That was another reason why we have decided to study here.
Was it complicated to get a visa?
Arthur: No, it was easy as well! You can get a student visa. But we have decided to get a tourist visa, which is valid for 90 days. As we arrived before the semester start, we will do a visa run when the visa expires. If you want, you can leave the country for an hour. However, we will travel to the Dominican Republic for two weeks. A little vacation – even though we will have online lectures.
Have you planned to visit any other neighbouring countries?
Marcel: Yes, we have planned some weekend trips like Nicaragua or Panama.
How do you feel about being in Costa Rica right now?
Marcel: It’s pretty nice. Although, it’s rainy season.
Arthur: If you check the weather forecast, it says it will rain the entire day for a week in a row. But don’t believe that, because that’s most likely not the case! Most of the time, it will rain heavily for only 20-30 minutes. Afterwards, it will be sunny again.
Where do you live at the moment?
Marcel: Currently, we stay at an Airbnb here in Samara for six weeks. It is relatively cheap – 900€ for four people (approx. 220€/person). That’s even cheaper than most hostels and we have a pool, a chill area with hammocks, a barbecue and all of that only 5 minutes from the beach. Also, we have an own car for the whole semester and are very flexible.
Arthur: Usually, we would have stayed in the centre, San José, where the Latin American University of Science and Technology is located. But since the lectures are online, we will travel through Costa Rica. A disadvantage is that we don’t get that much in contact with locals as we would with on-site lectures. However, ULACIT is organizing student groups for all internationals so you can still connect with others. An advantage is that we can travel Costa Rica as much as we can. After the six weeks here, we will live for a few weeks at the Caribbean site. Even if we wouldn’t live through a pandemic right now, San José is very central, and you can easily explore Costa Rica during the weekends.
Will you meet up with the other Asia Exchange students?
Marcel: Yes, we have a Whatsapp group where we are all in contact with each other. We will meet up during the semester. Right now, we are spread all over Costa Rica. Some are in San José, some in Tamarindo and others in Santa Teresa. Moreover, ULACIT is planning student activities as well.
Have you already experienced the “Pura Vida” lifestyle?
Arthur: The locals are so friendly, calm and polite. Everyone is smiling at you and saying “hello”. That’s so different from home! If I would smile at a stranger in Germany and say “hello”, it would be so weird, but here it’s completely normal.
What are you looking forward to the most?
Arthur: We want to travel as much as possible, meet some locals or learn how to dance Salsa. There is just so much to do! We would love to see some volcanos, hot springs, waterfalls, and national parks. One semester is not even enough to see it all.
What is one piece of advice you would give someone who thinks about studying in Costa Rica?
Both: Don’t be scared and just do it! We are not regretting it at all. We are having the time of our life even though it is COVID-19. So, do it, you won’t regret it!
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This interview was conducted by Nele!