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By Hannah Teplitsky, Pre-Business Junior

I remember I was in a yoga class a couple of days before I left for my trip to Costa Rica telling one of my friends that yes, I was going to be missing my weekly Vinyasa classes and no, I wasn’t planning on seeking out any yoga studios in San Jose (after all, I was going to be seriously studying various Costa Rican business ethics. When would I even have the time?). He then made the following comment: “Wow, well, Costa Rica. That’s like… the jungle.” I looked at him, stunned, and replied: “No, it IS the jungle.” Looking back on this small moment as I sit here and type this blog, I realize the absurdity of my own presumption and knowledge. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, I thought I knew just exactly where I was traveling to, and I thought I knew just what exactly I would be experiencing while I was here. However, I was shortsighted in my estimations of this country.

It is so much more than just a jungle.

The first and most lasting impression I had of this country is the warmth of its people. Costa Ricans, or “ticos” and “ticas” as they affectionately refer to each other, are willing, friendly, helpful, and extremely good-natured. They respond to all of your requests, small or big, with a simple and genial “Con mucho gusto,” and you get the feeling they truly, honestly mean it. They will go out of their way, literally, to help you get to where you need to go— I know this from personal experience when a student named Natalia personally escorted me and two of my friends on a thirty-minute expedition to find a pharmacy. Ticos are also unabashedly proud of their country. Between the lectures we have heard on CAFTA or Costa Rican history or simply the banter between locals and tourguides, I understand that small though Costa Rica may be, it is rich with culture, diversity, and tradition.

As for my day to day life here, my time is nearly almost filled with activities. Be it snorkeling, hiking during the nighttime in Manuel Antonio, lounging on the beach, or wandering San Jose, I am more than content and never bored. I feel legitimately enlightened on the difficult debate between pro- and anti-CAFTA proponents (don’t ask me my stance…I’m still figuring that out), and I also feel very well-rounded in terms of my exposure to a variety of people, places, food, and ideas. This program, though operating under the guise of a “study abroad” trip, is more of a two-week cultural immersion with some luxurious amenities on the side (read: delicious Casa food every day, snazzy bus transportation, and comfortable living arrangements wherever we go). With each passing day I am here, I want to give myself a pat on the back for discovering such a unique and special program such as the UA Maymester with CEA in Costa Rica, but I’d also like to thank the people who work tirelessly to organize it. To Lisa, our tour director, for her knowledge, expertise, and humor, and to Professor Paul Melendez, for the creation and perfection of this program. iPura Vida!