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Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

Notes from Abroad: Christopher in Costa Rica

Notes from Abroad is a new feature on the Off-Campus Programs website, in which we highlight small snippets of a student’s experience.  This week’s feature is from Christopher Lorenzi ’17, a major in International Relations and a minor in SOAN currently studying abroad in Costa Rica.

Christopher Lorenzi


Letters from Abroad

Costa Rica AIFS Veritas


Living La Pura Vida


Pura Vida! That’s what Costa Rica is all about. The literal translation means pure life; but, here it means so much more. Pura vida is about things being great, your day going well, about saying you’re welcome or about just being free. Its something integrated in the culture. Everything is pura vida here. Costa Rica is a beautiful tropical paradise where everything just different, yet not at all from the States. Structurally, the whole country functions very similarly. Driving is done on the right side of the road, government includes the president, congress etc., and food is available at any street whether it’s fast food, or a smaller family owned place. There are, of course, small differences: pedestrians do not have the right of way, saying “no” is considered rude, and Addresses are non-existent. That’s right! You want to get home? Well you’ll need to head to this neighborhood, make a right at the red building, a left at the church and stop across from the pharmacy. That’s the only way to get around, is to know landmarks. It’s something difficult to get used to.

That’s not the only confusing part, much of the entire education system is different. For example, I’m taking classes that have little to no structure. There is no schedule on the syllabus, the professor asks you individually what you want to get out of the class, and it’s not uncommon for a professor to spend the entire class entirely off subject. Moreover, the way class registration work is also different. If you want to take a certain class, you have one option with one professor. The room numbers also mean something different for example, If I’m in Room 3312 that means I’m in zone 3, 3rd floor, and in room 12. It’s interesting that they use zones instead of building names.

Overall, despite getting used to minor adjustments, I’m loving my time here! This country has so much beauty to be discovered. I’ve been fortunate enough to see many of them. From the beautiful and cold waters of La Paz waterfall, to the scolding hot water of the hot springs on the side of Volcan Arenal. There’s still so much to see and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my time here exploring every gem. It’ll be also interesting to leave this weather of 72 degrees every day to go back to an unforgiving Midwest winter, but I’m going to put those thoughts away until December. Until I see ya next time LFC, PURA VIDA!