My last hours abroad

My last breakfast. I will really miss the food and the fact that I never had to cook!

My last breakfast. I will really miss the food and the fact that I never had to cook!

I just left my home away from home. I woke up the last day of my program. I admittedly had been pretending this morning would never have to come. I had 24 hours to immerse myself as far as I can in the beauty of what is San Ramon Costa Rica. I stand up and put my swimsuit on immediately, comb my hair, while the smell of gallo pinto (my weakness and favorite breakfast food) seeps through my closed door and fills my room. I looked around. I haven’t even opened a suitcase to begin to pack up my life here. And not one cell in my body was prepared to begin to that process any time soon. As I lumber into the kitchen, my beautiful Costa Rican mom has a plate sitting on the counter. I sat down and slowly savored the fried queso blanco, the eggs, the deep orange colored mangos, and lastly (because I actually save the best for last) the gallo pinto. All of which I knew would never be the same once I crossed the border into my homeland. This would be the first time I cried; knowing the end of such an engaging experience was near.

Sitting on top of a waterfall, looking downstream at the Costa Rican forest.  One of the many waterfalls that I fell in love with near my city of San Ramon.

Sitting on top of a waterfall, looking downstream at the Costa Rican forest. One of the many waterfalls that I fell in love with near my city of San Ramon.

I packed a day pack and went off to meet one of my best friends from the USAC program at the local bus station. Every week, I would go to the waterfalls. Waterfalls that we, the gringos studying abroad, stumbled upon. Unnamed, unmarked and virtually unvisited by the masses. I looked out the window of the bus and attempt to take mental photos of the mountains I’ve been tucked away in for the past four months. They fill me with excitement as we slow to our stop. While sitting on an extremely uncomfortable rock, overlooking a 25-foot waterfall, monkeys come down to chatter among us. The streams are swollen with water from the rainy season and the river pushes its way through the midst of a Costa Rican rainforest. Butterflies, of colors that I didn’t know nature could make, fly around us as if they are giving us a goodbye. This is a moment I’m thankful I had before I left the country I fell in love with.

My friend from my program and I looking down at San Ramon from a viewpoint.

My friend from my program and I look down at San Ramon from a viewpoint.

Upon returning to town, I decide to stop at a restaurant that I would have easily gained frequent flyer miles at. The waitress looks at me and without asking prepares my drink. It is moments like this that showed me how much I made San Ramon my home. I would come here at least once a week, if not twice or three times, to watch a soccer game on TV. The game is already blaring on all 7 televisions, and the other usual customers greet me. The culture of soccer molded this country and evokes emotions that became contagious. I become entranced in my mixture of feelings and the action of the game. When I look down at my watch, it reads 6:07 pm. My bus would leave at 4 am the following morning. I had less than 10 hours.

I take a cab home and rip open my bags. In the most unorganized and dramatic way possible, I pack my things in an hour and a half. My Costa Rican mom knocks on my door and right away we begin to cry.

My mom and I giving cheers to the past four months.

My mom and I give cheers to the past four months. 

She was my best friend during my stay, my confidant, and one of the most loving souls I’ve met. I go towards the kitchen and eat my last meal of Chifrijo, a traditional Costa Rican dish. Of course, my mom’s talents of cooking overwhelm me and I inhale the bowl of food. My mom and dad sit around me and pour drinks. We have a conversation of goodbyes, memories and future plans to reunite for hours. I made the mistake of wearing eye makeup because the waterworks were turned on at full force. After the hardest of good byes to my family, I carried my luggage to the park in the center of town. All 45 of the students in my program, along with all of our Costa Rican friends gathered to pull an all-nighter. We wanted to enjoy every second San Ramon had to offer us. We hugged, cried, and danced, and hugged some more until the final bus pulled up. Teachers, program directors, families, and friends waved us goodbye. I’ve never felt so connected in my life. I can thank only studying abroad and the people who chose to be a part of my study abroad experience for that strong of an emotion. If I have any advice for ANY student at the University of Iowa, it is to go to the study abroad office, pick up a folder, get an advisor and start planning the best thing that will happen to you today.

Showing some Hawkeye pride at the top of a cloud forest mountain with a furry friend.

Showing some Hawkeye pride at the top of a cloud forest mountain with a furry friend.

*Quinn Terrill is a junior studying health and human physiology at the University of Iowa. The Iowa City, IA. native will be spending her semester abroad on the USAC San Ramón program in Costa Rica. 

Student blog entries posted to this International Accents page may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UI Study Abroad and International Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

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