Bustling nightlife. Amazing culture. Tropical beaches. Beautiful scenery.
Sounds like the perfect summer vacation, right?
For Tatum Vondra and 10 other University of Nebraska at Kearney students, it definitely was. They visited Costa Rica through a study abroad program organized by the UNK Department of Modern Languages. Seven of the students were there for a month and four participated in a two-week program.
The group took classes at the Costa Rican Language Academy during the week and spent their weekends exploring the Central American country known for its beaches, volcanoes and biodiversity.
We asked Vondra, a senior studying business administration with a marketing emphasis and minors in Spanish and event management, a few questions about this awesome experience.
Tell us about the trip. What things were you able to do?
The first weekend we traveled to Monteverde and La Fortuna. In Monteverde, we went zip lining and spent time exploring the area. In La Fortuna, we stayed at a hostel, ventured to a waterfall with a rope swing, went swimming at a resort near the volcano and enjoyed time in this beautiful town.
The second weekend we traveled to Jaco and Manuel Antonio, two cities on the Pacific Coast. We spent most of our time here lounging on the beach and soaking in the sun. San Jose (where we lived) is in the middle of the country and we stayed during the rainy season, so it was nice to experience the coast as well.
The third weekend we spent time visiting the local artisan markets and checking out the nightlife. My 21st birthday was on June 19 so we celebrated with friends and our host families!
Why did you choose this study abroad trip?
I had heard great things about the program and was aware of the welcoming culture the native Costa Ricans have toward Americans. I had been planning to attend this trip following my freshman year; however, the trip was not possible for the past two years due to COVID. The people of Costa Rica are so kind, and the school was a phenomenal place to practice my Spanish skills.
What was your favorite part?
It’s so hard to choose just one. The day Costa Rica qualified for the World Cup was definitely a favorite. The entire city of San Jose was a party, and everyone was so inclusive in letting us partake in the festivities. Another cool part of the program was being able to meet students from other states and countries. Our group grew close to students from North Carolina, Illinois, Texas and Louisiana and I became friends with two students from Belgium.
As a college student, how valuable was this experience?
This experience was invaluable. I gained independence as I navigated through a new city and it was an exceptional way to improve my Spanish skills. My classes were 1:1 with a teacher and we became very close over the course of four weeks. I have continued to stay in touch with my host mom and teacher.
Why should other students study abroad?
I would recommend study abroad to other students for a long list of reasons. Studying abroad forces you to get outside your comfort zone and learn new things about other cultures, as well as yourself. Exploring a new country enabled me to see life in a new perspective, better my professional and communication skills and make memories that will last a lifetime.