Lessons Learned

Suzanne Spalding (’13 Chemistry & Spanish) is coming back today from a great semester in Costa Rica with ISA. She has kindly allowed me to re-post her last post on ‘Lessons Learned.’ Interesting to note the similarities to Katie Meek’s (’15 Photojournalism) last post on her ‘Harlaxton Do’s and Don’ts.’

1) Be open to a new culture:
It is very easy here to continue with the same habits I get into in America; fast food, hanging out with American friends, etc. It is much better to make friends with the locals and truly get to know them and where they come from, eating what they eat and living with a host family. I have loved becoming a Tica 🙂

2) Let yourself be changed:
I feel as if I have definitely become a better person due to my 4.5 months here in Costa Rica. I have been completely uprooted from everything I know and placed in a very unfamiliar environment. It really has tested my character. I feel as a result, I have become more patient and at peace with myself and with what God’s plans are for my life. I’ve learned to worry less and set priorities. 

3) Don’t doubt yourself:
There have been so many times where I’ve felt completely hopeless in my learning of Spanish. I’ve gotten so frustrated when I have something to say and can’t muster up the words in Spanish to express myself. I have felt as if I’ve made zero progress. Though, this was all due to me doubting myself. I have learned more Spanish than imaginable and have been reminded of this several times by my dear tico family from August. I am forever grateful!

4) Get lost in nature:
It is so good to get out of the city. I have definitely taken life for granted in Kentucky. Just a short way out of San José, you can find all kinds of crazy types of wildlife. Costa Rica is literally the most biodiverse country in the world! It has been crazy being chased by monkeys, cornered by monkeys, seeing sloths just chillin’ in the trees, iguanas roaming around like cats, waterfalls everywhere, butterflies the size of my face, etc. It’s a dream. God has made so many beautiful creatures. 

5) It’s weird being a foreigner:
I get stared at, get double-takes, and worst of all, people on the street don’t even bother speaking Spanish with me….go straight to English without even hearing me utter a word. This has been really hard for me to deal with; I get super offended and immediately bristle up, trying to prove myself in Spanish. This is all super strange to me. Being a born-and-raised caucasian KY girl, I don’t get stared at in the States or questioned which country I am from. Being here has really made me see how immigrants to the US feel. 

6) Trust God:
The voice of God has been clear as a bell to me here in Costa Rica. I have more patience, more peace to listen to him. There have been many instances where I’ve heard his voice, telling me that everything will be fine, but have ignored it. And of course, he gives me the ever-so-loving “I told you so.” 
“I was told by Jesus all is well, so all must be well.” – Mumford and Sons.

7) Pura Vida
Pure living. 

And a few side notes….

1) NEVER leave the house without an umbrella.
Believe it or not, the capital city is still considered rain forest territory.

2) Crossing the street WILL put your life in danger.
For very patient people, the Costa Ricans are definitely not patient drivers.

3) Don’t look men in the eye whilst walking on the street.
Men on the streets can be super bold, whistling and shouting “beautiful” and “pretty”. I am not used to this.

4) Always ask the bus driver if he is going to your preferred destination.
It stinks to get lost on the bus system.

5) Coffee is good, coffee is realllll good.
I’m addicted to this magical bean. 

6) Planning is rarely necessary.
Too much of a hassle. Organic fun is awesome!

Wow, I’m gonna miss this place. Though I’m super pumped to share all of the awesomeness of Costa Rica with everyone at home. I’ve started saying goodbyes and it’s not fun. It was so hard saying goodbye to my host family from August! Also, went to the Bubble Teahouse for the last time today. I have spent many hours here…

Me and Kimberly … the super cool manager.


Last time we could worship with YWAM…

And….tomorrow night is our goodbye dinner with ISA. I don’t think I can handle it. I now know that I have friends in almost every state of the beautiful U.S.A. Can’t wait to visit!!

Chao for now…


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