Student Reflections on Race and Ethnicity: Learning to speak like a local

UI Study Abroad Diversity Ambassador 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. Maya was also a 2014 UI Study Abroad blogger. You can read more about her Costa Rican adventures here.

Dear Prospective Student,

 
Hiking in Costa Rica        
New friends in Costa Rica

My name is Maya Hendricks and I am currently a junior and am double majoring in Spanish and Interdepartmental Business.  Studying abroad in college was something I had always wanted to do since I was a very young age and last semester I finally got the opportunity to do so.  I wanted to go to a country where I could utilize my Spanish but I did not want to go to Spain. So I spent my fall semester in Heredia, Costa Rica. 

I had a flood of emotions as the weeks led up to my departure date.  I was excited and nervous at the same time.  It was going to be my first time leaving the Midwest, the country, and my first time on a plane and I was going to be doing it alone.  I was worried about a lot of things but one thing that I worried about a lot was how would my host family react to me or how I would be perceived in my host community. 

Looking back, my worries now seem silly because my host family was very friendly and welcoming and Costa Rica is somewhat diverse, especially on the Caribbean side of the country. It was surprising and somewhat of a relief to see that I could blend in with the Costa Ricans, that is until I opened my mouth. It was only then I would get the question of where are you from.

I had taken a couple of college Spanish courses but it wasn’t until I arrived in Costa Rica that I realized I had much more to learn.  I had never been fully immersed in an area where they spoke a language other than English but I slowly got the hang of my surroundings. My host mom didn’t speak any English but she kept an English-Spanish dictionary on the counter where we ate, so whenever we spoke and I didn’t know a word I would be able to look it up. My speaking was one of the biggest things that improved while I was abroad and that was something I was really proud of. 

Learning how to travel around the country without the use of a smart phone was also a learning curve I was proud to overcome.  My group of friends and I would travel to different part of the country almost every weekend and not only did we get to learn more about the country and see some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen, each weekend was different and we were able to make amazing memories together on our weekend adventures.

Studying abroad was one of the best experiences of my life and I am so happy I got the chance to do it.  Costa Rica taught me to look at things from a positive perspective and to appreciate the little things and it forced me to live out of my comfort zone and I found out that life outside of your comfort zone can be pretty amazing.  I know I will take all the lessons I learned while I was there wherever I go in life.  So if you have the slightest desire to study abroad, just do it because you will not regret it.

Sincerely,

Maya B. Hendricks 

Learn more about the Diversity Ambassador Scholarship

Keywords: 

Author: