In fall of 2019 I studied abroad in San Ramón, Costa Rica, a small town in the heart of the country.
I remember getting to the airport in Chicago to fly to Central America and really understanding for the first time that I wasn’t going to see anyone that I knew for 4 months. Touching down in Costa Rica I was obviously excited, but the stronger feeling inside me was fear. How was I doing this? Did I make the right decision? Are my friends at UA going to forget about me? But even with all of these doubts and fears, I put one foot in front of the other and took the bus to my host family’s home.
That first night was the absolute hardest of my entire study abroad. I couldn’t use my phone to call my mom and tell her how I was feeling or even that I had made it, I couldn’t find any of my things in my suitcases, I didn’t know the dynamic of where I fit in to this new family, and I couldn’t sleep because of the stray dogs barking and the motorcycles speeding by. I felt defeated and as I laid in bed that night I resolved that it would all be okay because tomorrow I was going to figure out how I was going to go back home. I had convinced myself that it was okay to give up.
But when I woke up the next morning I didn’t research flights home. Instead I mustered the courage to leave my room and go see my host family. When my host mom saw that I had come out to the living room she immediately smiled, asked me how I was, and told me to sit down so she could serve me breakfast. She then explained to me that she really wanted to take me for a tour of the city so I could become more accustomed to my surroundings. So that’s what we did. She took me to the local weekend market and had me try a bunch of fruits I had never seen before, she walked me to the University that I would be attending, and finally we walked past where she worked.
After that first day, every morning when I woke up I would ask Siri, “How many days has it been since August 23rd?” and, “How many days until December 13th?”, my arrival and departure dates. Everyday I got more and more comfortable in my new home and new town. Everyday I was more and more proud of myself that I was making it through this incredible experience. And then something happened; I stopped tracking my progress and counting down the days. I never purposely decided to stop, but it just happened.
I easily had gotten a Costa Rican SIM card for my phone to stay in contact with my mom and friends, I had unpacked all of my things into MY room at my host family’s house, I knew that my host mother cared so much about my well-being and safety, and lastly I knew my home friends would never forget about me and my new friends wouldn’t either.
By no means am I saying that studying abroad is easy. Of course it can be, but most people go through some stage of homesickness. But I do want to tell you that it passes and you become so much stronger because of it. Now, being back at UA, I feel homesickness for my family and friends in Costa Rica.