By Maya Hendricks
Getting off the plane at O’Hare was surreal. Was I really back in Chicago? Costa Rica felt like a dream and I had just suddenly awoken to the brisk winter of the Windy City. To be honest I wasn’t excited to be back, not as excited as I should have been or excited as my friends were. I had found a sense of happiness in Costa Rica that I was scared I would lose the moment I stepped back on to U.S. territory.
One last night with the friends I made in Costa Rica.
But as I walked through the airport, I promised myself I would hold on to that happiness and optimism I had gained in Costa Rica and carry it with me wherever I went.
Fast-forward six weeks – I am back in Iowa City. My daily uniform of tank tops and sandals have been replaced with crew neck sweaters and winter boots, along with my knee length parka and earmuffs to boot. I sometimes find myself longing for Costa Rica.
I think about my host family and my little host dog Bobby and how much I miss them. I think of all the friends I made there and all the adventures we had together. The thin layer of sand that once lined my backpack from all of my weekend beach trips has faded and has been replaced with my laptop and statistics notes.
It’s sad. I know.
The change of climate and daily routine wasn’t as hard as the transition back into my friend circles. I have a plethora of new stories and things I have experienced that I want to tell them in full detail, but I realized that where I find excitement and funny moments in my stories they can’t seem to relate. I guess all my memories from Costa Rica have turned into “you had to be there to understand” kind of moments.
Saying goodbye to my host mom and brothers.
At first I took it to heart when my friends didn’t react the same way as I did or find my stories as interesting as I thought they were, but then I had to remind myself that for almost four months we led completely different lives. While they were out at bars or studying on the weekends, I was exploring small beach towns and hiking to see waterfalls and dormant volcanoes. They went home for breaks; on my break I got to go to Cuba for a week!
When I told my stories about things I experienced it wasn’t to brag or to act like I’m some really sophisticated well-travelled person, because I’m not. I just wanted to be able to share all my adventures with them, for them to be happy for me and for them to know that during every beautiful moment I encountered I wished my friends and family could be there with me to share it.
Now I can say I am glad to be back in Iowa City, back to regular life, and able to make new memories with my friends this semester. I have learned a lot from my time in Costa Rica. I learned to try new things, to be more optimistic, and that sometimes just having the bare basics and good company is all you need to be happy and have a good time. I am far from being a worldly traveler, but I did gain a lot of wisdom about the world and my place in it. I hope I can carry those lessons with me wherever life may take me.
Maya Hendricks is junior from Chicago, IL majoring in interdepartmental business and Spanish at the University of Iowa. She recently returned from the USAC Heredia program in Heredia, Costa Rica.