I’m Jamie, a Sophomore Business student at Drake University. I am living and studying for the next 3 1/2 months in Heredia, Costa Rica! This is my first ever blog so don’t expect too much and please do not expect perfect grammar… haha. Sometimes I may write just a little and other times I may ramble on and on because I am good at that. I hope my posts can give you a glimpse of my experiences in Costa Rica! Even while I was in high school, I knew I wanted to spend a semester abroad, I just didn’t know where yet. I feel college is one of the few times in a person’s life when you can pretty easily just pick up and immerse yourself in a new culture for several months. I have spent very little time outside the United States up to this point, and so I think this will be a great place to start!

Why Costa Rica? I started by narrowing it down to countries that speak Spanish. I have been studying it for years and finally really want be able to speak it. I spent a lot of time looking at programs in different countries and let me tell you – it was hard to make a decision because of the countless amazing places in the world. But I figure I have to start somewhere. I chose Costa Rica because it feels like a good fit for me: 1) They have so much natural beauty: waterfalls, rain forests, volcanoes, and more 2) good education system – 97% literacy rate in Costa Rica 3) The dates of their school year fit well with Drake. 4) Gives me the ability to live with a host family. I hope this will provide an authentic experience because I will be living and eating with the locals and learning from them about the culture firsthand. 5) I have been told they have a relaxed lifestyle and the locals are very kind. They are known to use the phrase “Pura Vida” a lot. This translates to “Pure Life”. 6) Warm weather! An average of 78 degrees sounds glorious compared to another Minnesota/Iowa winter. (Not that I don’t love the Midwest)

I have only been here a couple days but it is incredible! Here is some basic info about my trip:

My new home city is Heredia, which is a city about 12 km north of the capital San Jose. The population is about 42,500. It is home to a few universities, so there are lots of college students around!

Basic Info about my host family: There is a mom with 2 sons- age 23 and 29. One is in college and one is a Physical Therapist! My friend Samantha from Drake is staying in the same home stay as me. My mamá tica (Costa Rican mother) is a truly wonderful lady. I think I am going to improve my Spanish most from speaking with her.


That is the view from where I live for the next few months!^

Classes: You may be thinking this just sounds like an extensive vacation in a tropical destination! But I will be taking four classes while I am here.

Business Spanish, Latin American History, and Latin American Film (with students from the U.S.) and Painting (with local students)

All of my classes will be taught in Spanish which is a little scary… It will definitely be difficult, but I am hoping it is worth it. I could have taken some of my classes in English, but I figured my goal is to improve my Spanish so I might as well jump in all the way! Looks like I’ll just need to make friends with the local student so I can study with them!

Service Learning: In addition to my classes, I will be volunteering between five and 10 hours a week at an organization called Fundación Rahab. “Their mission is to empower survivors of sexual violence and the sexual commerce industry in order to reestablish themselves in society by providing counseling, literacy classes and vocational training. They strive to contribute to the psychological, medical, spiritual, and legal success of each of the women they serve” I am not exactly sure what I will do, but I look forward to be able to support these women and the community as a whole. This organization is in San Jose, the capital, so I will be taking the bus there a few times a week. I will be writing reflective essays and having group discussions through this program.

Goals for the trip

1. Improve my Spanish and feel more comfortable speaking it

2. As a college student in the United States, it is go go go all the time. I want to learn to relax and be okay with a little slower pace of life.

3. I have loved to dance for a long time, so now it is time to learn a new style- whatever is most popular there!

4. Learn to adapt to a new environment and try new things (possibly white water raft or zipline!)

5. Make local friends!

I am so excited to travel and see new things. It is hard to describe my excitement and anticipation for all I will do and learn during this semester! I can hardly believe that I am actually here. It will be hard to know what to expect from this trip but I am ready to take it as it comes. I feel so blessed to have these experience and look forward to sharing what I learn. Please keep me in your prayers! Muchas gracias por leer! (Thanks for reading!)

Jamie Zaine
Heredia, Costa Rica