Author Archives: Juan in Costa Rica

About Juan in Costa Rica

Hi, I'm Juan. I am an undergraduate senior at Florida State University, majoring in Political Science and Psychology. I am originally from Colombia, having moved to the U.S. almost eight years ago. I am in Costa Rica volunteering as a teacher for a local school by the name of "La Paz", while also working on my honors thesis as my independent study. Follow me on this awesome journey!

Feeling Off Balance

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese

“You are constantly off balance”. Indeed, I am.

Let’s be honest here. In the first few weeks of studying abroad I have encountered obstacles I never imagined stumbling across. I had been preparing to travel to India for the past six months. India?! I thought this post was about Costa Rica, you might ask. Well, it is. Let me catch you up:

I had just landed in Leh, India, in the northern region of the Himalayan country side. Thrilled, nervous, but most importantly, excited about the opportunity of being able to volunteer for a non-profit organization.

Well, dreams sometimes are shattered faster than they’re created.

Culture shock, jetlag, and altitude sickness did not come as a surprise to me. I was mentally prepared for what this novel country was going to throw at me, I think. Those things did not affect me whatsoever. However, it was rather the level of carelessness, unprofessionalism, and lack of respect, not from the country, not from its people, but from the individual who I had gladly agreed to travel halfway across the world to volunteer for. That’s what shook me up the most.

 

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I stayed on the rooftop of a slightly unsafe hostel. The view of the mountains in the background was amazing though.

Landing In Leh, India

It is an indescribable feeling seeing the highest mountain peaks in the world AND knowing your plane is going to be landing in between them…

 

I will deviate from upsetting you with the negative, and I will tell you that even negative experiences provide positive learning lessons. Being completely alone (and I mean that literally) in a country I had never traveled to before, with a language I had no understanding of, with no family, friends, communication, or even someone to guide me through the unknown, made me feel completely vulnerable, completely striped down to just me and my ability to survive. It made me appreciate not the materialistic things in life, but rather the spiritual and the emotional. It made me appreciate the love and the care I received from my friends, from my family, my teachers, and my mentors. It opened my eyes to the power of benevolence, of selflessness, and of compassion that I received from my loved ones.

Cesar Pavese is right.

Now, 16 days later, I am in a new country, experiencing a new culture, savoring delicious local food, dancing to the rhythm of music played in the street, and overall enjoying the little things I never thought I’d miss; the love and the warmth from the people I encounter. I must note, India is an incredible country. The cultural differences present make you see your current life in the United States as something from another world. It is a shame that I had to depart, but I am confident I will be able to return sometime soon in the future. But for now, it is time to focus on the present, and make the most out of every experience here in Costa Rica. My video blogs will provide more of an insight of what I am doing, make sure to check them out 🙂

 

Yummy Costa Rican Fish

Yummy Costa Rican fish. The eye is the best part 😉

Interviewing Gerardo Acosta (Manos Abiertas [NGO] founder) for my Honors Thesis

Gerardo is the founder of a non-profit called Manos Abiertas (Open Hands), which provides food, education, and health services to individuals living in high poverty neighborhoods. We traveled two hours to meet with him and spent 45 minutes talking about the incredible work he is doing. He will be part of my “Humans of Guanacaste” honors thesis exhibition, where I hope to raise money for organizations like his.

My Awesome Host Family X2

My awesome host family: Roy (host dad) and Samuel (he is a year old).

My Awesome Host Family

My awesome host family: Noily (host mom) and Camila (who I promise was smiling two seconds earlier). They have welcomed me with open arms and are pretty much like a second family to me now.

 

With Love,

Juan

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The Challenges of Studying Abroad

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A Day in the Life of Juan in Costa Rica

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Meet Gilman Scholar Juan Barco

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