The University of Iowa

Cockroaches and Friends

November 4th, 2014

By Maya Hendricks

Whenever you find yourself away from home for a while, it is easy to become homesick.

It could be a one-time moment of utter longing to be at home with your family and friends, or it can come in waves. My first experience with homesickness abroad was triggered by something very common in Costa Rica: cockroaches.

I had never seen a cockroach before coming to Costa Rica and I was beyond mortified when I first saw one. I used to think that spiders were the scariest things in the world, but I was wrong. Though I am terrified of all bugs in general, cockroaches definitely take the cake! I’ve mentioned in previous posts that it is currently rainy season in Costa Rica and, because of the cold weather, the cockroaches are looking for a warm place to stay. At least, that was how my host mom explained it to me after growing tired of me running away every time a cockroach entered the vicinity.

My friends and I on a hanging bridge in Monteverde.

Going back to what triggered my first bout of homesickness: one night I woke up to use the washroom. I turned on the small lamp near my bed and, through my blurred vision and the dim light, I saw the outline of a small cockroach.

I quickly smashed it with my shoe, only to have another come out of my closet which I killed just as swiftly as the first one. Slightly annoyed, I quickly walked out of my room to grab something to clean up the carcasses. After that, I finally made my way to the washroom, turned on the light, looked down, and there it was.

Swimming in La Fortuna waterfall.

Another cockroach.

My heart couldn’t take it anymore. I killed the cockroach as I sarcastically muttered to myself, “Welcome to the tropics!” – a saying every teacher and advisor had said to us students upon our arrival in Costa Rica.

“Welcome to the tropics!” – translation: welcome to a country with tons of terrifying, pesky bugs that you may or may have never seen before.

I was flustered. What started out as attempting to use the washroom in the middle of the night had turned into a slaughterfest. I went back to my room, tired and longing to go home to my cockroach-free life.

At that moment, I missed everything about back home: friends, family, pets, food, etc. It seems so stupid that something like cockroaches made me homesick, but I realized that one little thing that you miss about home or dislike about your host country can put you over the edge. However, I also realized the moment that homesickness takes over, it’s important to tell someone about it, especially a friend in your program, because they are probably feeling the same way.

Many study abroad programs aren’t very big. For example the USAC program I am currently in has about twenty-eight students. Out of those twenty-eight, I have made about 8 amazing friends. Everybody is from different schools, from different parts of the country/world, and has completely different personalities but somehow we all seem to click. I don’t know if my study abroad experience would be the same if I didn’t have them. We take trips almost every weekend to a different part of the country and they are currently constants in my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I have great friends back home, but I felt like I was somehow missing out on a lot of the things they were doing. Then I remembered that I have a whole other set of friends who I am making amazing memories with here. So when I became homesick for a day, it was easy to overcome because I have such a great support system in Costa Rica.

Homesickness is normal. Cockroaches are normal.

Making new friends who all get along so well… not so normal.

But I’m glad my friends and I do.

Maya Hendricks is junior from Chicago, IL majoring in interdepartmental business and Spanish at the University of Iowa. She is currently studying abroad in Heredia, Costa Rica on the USAC Heredia program.