Experiencing Pura Vida in Costa Rica

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Kati from Finland studied abroad in Costa Rica for one semester

Kati is 24 years old, from Finland, and studies tourism research back home at the University of Lapland. She decided to pursue a semester abroad in the beautiful and diverse Costa Rica at the Latin American University of Science and Technology (ULACIT) with Beyond Abroad. We had the chance to interview her and hear all about her experience studying abroad in Costa Rica!

Why did you choose Costa Rica?

Firstly, I chose Costa Rica because I wanted to live in a new country I had never been to before. The European Destinations didn’t seem as exciting to me since I like to travel and have already been to many countries in Europe. Furthermore, I always wanted to explore Latin America and improve my Spanish. I saw it as a wonderful opportunity to use this exchange program and easily move to Costa Rica, which wouldn’t have been so simple otherwise. But with Beyond Abroad’s help, the whole process became easy and smooth!

How did you find a balance between academic obligations and adventure?

At my university, classes were scheduled from Monday to Friday. I selected my courses in International Communication, Quality Management, and Spanish, ensuring my study load was concentrated between Monday and Wednesday. On Monday, for example, I had a long day of eight hours of school. But I liked it that way. It encouraged me to focus on university these three days. I was doing my homework and getting my academic work done before Wednesday because I preferred not to carry my laptop during our travels. I felt a bit uneasy about carrying my MacBook on public transport in Costa Rica. It also felt better to leave the university stuff at home and enjoy the days off completely.

Usually, we left the city on Thursday for our weekend trips and came back on Sunday. So it was always four days of beach life if you wanted to. As a piece of advice, I found it crucial to manage my time efficiently, as the workload was manageable and didn’t require extensive hours. While the academic standards in Costa Rica differed from those in Finland, proper time management allowed me to fulfill my university obligations effectively. Besides our weekend trips, we managed to make a trip to Panama and another one to Colombia during the semester.

Here are some more insights of the student life in Costa Rica.

Which highlights did you experience in Costa Rica?

My time in Costa Rica was packed with unforgettable adventures! I would say my highlights were the destinations and the people I met while living in Costa Rica. Costa Rican people are very nice and very helpful! Not to mention the stunning beaches and the enchanting rainforests.

This one gem called Manuel Antonio was definitely a highlight as well. It’s like an incredible blend of a jungle and a beach. I’ve explored numerous beaches before, but this one was truly something special! The nature of Costa Rica has just so much to offer, and there is so much to see. We went snorkeling as well and saw sharks, octopuses, fishes, starfish, and anything you can imagine underwater. It’s also about these little moments. When you’re having a coffee somewhere in the jungle and a toucan, this bird with the big, colorful beak just flies by. It was one of many magical moments!

What did you learn outside the classroom?

Well, there is so much… I would say I learned a lot about the culture and cultural differences. In Costa Rica, the people are so warm, welcoming, and always ready to lend a hand. It’s different from my culture back home. And, of course, not to forget the language. My Spanish teacher at university was really nice. She only spoke Spanish to us, which was very helpful. I learned a lot, and the classes were fun! I already knew a little bit of Spanish before I went. But when I lived in Costa Rica, I had to talk in Spanish with local people. I think that’s how you learn it the best way. Now, I can proudly say that I can speak Spanish fluently.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned during my time abroad was that not every day is sunshine and rainbows. Not every day can be great. There will be days and time periods where things go wrong, and you wish you were back home. But those bad days are part of the process. I learned from it how you’re capable of so much more than you think. It wasn’t, for example, always easy taking the local bus to a place where you’ve never been before. But facing these challenges head-on helped me grow as an individual. You’ll gain lots of confidence and courage.

Click here to get more information about what to know before studying in Costa Rica.

How did you meet other exchange students and make friends in Costa Rica?

One thing to mention is how easy it is to make friends abroad. While it might vary depending on the individual, the shared experience of being in a new environment brings people together naturally. There’s no need to worry about ending up alone. When I first arrived in Costa Rica, I didn’t even have a place to stay for the entire four months. I simply booked a hostel for the initial two weeks, thinking I’d find a place within that time frame. With little knowledge about the country or the city, it seemed like a better idea to go there, explore a bit, and then make a decision.

As students began arriving in Costa Rica, we all connected through the WhatsApp groups that were already created for us. And so a community was quickly formed among us students, and we all found accommodation together. Consequently, we managed to secure accommodation together through a fellow student who arranged for us to stay with a local host and his grandmother. Surprisingly, all nine of us exchange students ended up living in a spacious house, which was fantastic because each of us had our own room. This setup provided the option for privacy if desired, yet we never felt isolated when we wanted company.

At the university, we typically had two-hour breaks between lectures, during which we often discussed our upcoming travel plans and how to get to our desired destinations. We planned our next trips together and also met so many people in all these different destinations.

What advice would you give further students who want to go to Costa Rica?

I would say do it!  You’re not going to regret it, I’m sure! It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And if you ever think of, like I said in the beginning, moving abroad, going for an exchange is the easiest way to do it! With assistance throughout the process and on-site support, you’ll have the best conditions and opportunities to adjust and feel at home in a new country. My advice is simple: just go for it. You won’t regret it, for sure!

Discover the Latin American University of Science and Technology

Explore the vibrant realm of higher education at the Latin American University of Science and Technology (ULACIT), a premier destination among Beyond Abroad host universities. Renowned for its exceptional student support and unparalleled experiences, ULACIT stands out as a top choice for your study abroad adventure. As the only bilingual university in Costa Rica, it has earned its place as the best private university in the country. With a global perspective, ULACIT ranks among the top 5% of universities worldwide, reflecting its commitment to academic excellence. Notably, it boasts the #1 reputation with employers in Costa Rica, underlining its dedication to preparing students for successful careers. Whether you’re an undergraduate or a gap year student, ULACIT offers the opportunity to immerse yourself in a variety of fields, including Economics, Business Management, Latin American culture and history, International Relations, Political Science, Social Sciences, Humanities, and Spanish language. Elevate your education and broaden your horizons with a transformative experience at ULACIT.

Have you already heard of our new opportunity to study in Costa Rica as well as Bali within one semester? Check out our Around the World Program!

Asia Exchange is a Finnish company providing study abroad opportunities in Asia Pacific for students from all around the world. Want to get travel tips and new blog posts straight to your inbox? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter! If you have any questions about studying abroad, feel free to contact us! We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.