During high school I always dreamed about studying abroad in college, so when I started at UA I made it a top priority to plan ahead and make sure I could fit it in/ take classes that worked for my major. Through talking to an amazing study abroad advisor, I narrowed down my choices and, after hours and hours of research on my own, chose to study abroad in San Ramón, Costa Rica.
This decision did not come easily to me at first because I had previously thought that Spain was where everyone who wanted to study Spanish went, but after researching Spain and the type of Spanish they speak, it didn’t make sense for me personally to learn the language there. Costa Rica is known for it’s Spanish; people believe it’s a good dialect of Spanish to learn. So that narrowed down the country, but I still had to pick a program and a town. So I did even more research and found a program that allowed me to have an internship in a hospital and take a Spanish for health care professionals course. I’m pre-PA here at UA, so that pair of classes really sold me because I knew I would be getting so much more out of my experience than just learning Spanish at a school. The hardest part to accept was the fact that this amazing program was in a small town in the center of the country (no beach!!!!), but I figured that going to a small town might help me learn Spanish even more because less people would know English.
The last part of my decision process was a hard one. I had found this amazing program in a beautiful country, but if I did it I would have to live with a host family. This scared me more than anything. I didn’t trust my abilities to be able to communicate with them. I didn’t know if I would like them or if they would like me. Would I have host siblings? Would the family be strict? But all of the worries that seemed to consume me before I left the states immediately dissipated after spending just one afternoon with my host mom. She showed me around San Ramón and spoke slowly to me at first while I was still getting acclimated to putting my brain in Spanish-mode.
I’ve been home for 2 months and she still communicates with me through what’s-app and comments on my facebook posts.
Deciding where to study abroad is so overwhelming because it’s a ton of research and decision making that you have to do on your own; no one can tell you where YOU should study abroad besides yourself. My advise to you is to take your time and start early so you aren’t rushing to meet deadlines. Communicate with the advisors here so you don’t get surprised by anything (classes transferring or not, making sure your transcript gets sent, going to the study abroad pre-departure meeting, etc.). Follow where your heart and brain want you to go. And lastly, just take the plunge.