Rural lifestyle took some getting used to

I learned to appreciate a slower lifestyle, and to be accountable for my impact on the environment.

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Published: Wednesday, 20 Dec 2023 Author: Hazel von Maur

Hazel sitting on large boulder along a stream in Costa RicaSpending three months in Costa Rica was a valuable experience that changed my life for the better. I was excited to see all of the new animals, go sightseeing, and spend time in nature. Even so, I still felt anxious before starting this adventure. We’re often told that other countries are vastly different from our own, and that we should be prepared to experience culture shock. To be fair, there are a lot of aspects that are different, such as diet, societal expectations, etc. I was worried that this change would be too much for me. What a lot of people forget is that there are more similarities than differences between countries, and it really depends on if you’ll be living in a rural or urban community.

Hazel walking on a trail in the rain forestI grew up living in the city, so I’m used to the constant sound of traffic, having access to different styles of food, and always having somewhere new to explore. Living in a city is going to look pretty much the same wherever you go. We spent a few days visiting the capital, San José, and I felt right at home. However, for the majority of the program, we lived in rural communities along the mountains. Your experience while living rurally can vary greatly, depending on factors like the climate, location, and people around you. It was a bit of an adjustment for me, but it taught me a lot. I learned to appreciate a slower lifestyle, and to be accountable for my impact on the environment.

My Spanish-speaking abilities also improved quite a bit! Sunrise over the mountains of Costa RicaSpeaking Spanish in class, with my host family, and while exploring the town all helped me build confidence. I encountered new vocabulary, polished my grammar, and learned a lot about Costa Rican culture.

I also found my independence while abroad, and I had to quickly figure out how to speak confidently to strangers, ask for the help I needed both in and out of the classroom, and get along with a new group of classmates, professors, and families.

Name: Hazel von Maur
Status: Senior
Majors: Spanish and Nursing
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Program: Sustainability and Civic Engagement in Costa Rica