Study Abroad and Domestic Study Away

Notes from Abroad: Alondra in Costa Rica

Costa Rica vs US soccer game Alondra '23 (far left) with friends at the Costa Rica vs. U.S. World Cup Qualifier game
April 01, 2022
Alondra Velazquez '23

Alondra '23, a double major in Biology and Visual Scientific Communication with a minor in Spanish, is studying abroad at Universidad Veritas in San José, Costa Rica.

I am Alondra, a senior at Lake Forest College majoring in Biology and Visual Scientific Communication, and minoring in Spanish. This 2022 spring semester I have had the opportunity to study abroad in Costa Rica within the city of San José. This has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had, and I can say for certain that it has allowed me to grow more than I could have imagined.

Academic-wise, I was able to take a variety of courses like Tropical Ecology, Mural Painting and Public Art, Cultural Photography, and Spanish for Health Professionals. The courses were presentation heavy and a few included quite a handful of field trips and hands-on activities ranging from trekking forests surveying birds, to painting a final mural as a class for my mural painting course. I’ve enjoyed this engaging aspect of the classes and appreciate having had these activities. 

Coming into the program, I was worried I’d be dealing with immediate homesickness, however, I have actually experienced quite the opposite; in fact, I have yet to feel a desire to go home yet. I think a huge part of this has been thanks to the homestay-style living that I was placed into. My host family has been incredibly inviting and loving, always making me feel at home. I appreciate having gotten the opportunity to actually indulge in Costa Rican culture not only through food and music, but also through shared meals, activities, and simple conversations that we tend to share every night at the dinner table. I will forever cherish these moments and am thankful for the hospitality that I have been given. 

In reflection, it is very hard to choose my favorite memory from this experience, however, some of the most memorable have been with my host family and the new friends I made along the way, and seeing wildlife. A few of the activities that I got to do included: ziplining, night tours, beach days, visiting the surrounding provinces, and hiking. In light of our upcoming goodbyes, the most recent bioluminescence kayaking tour my friends and I did during our final weekend will always stick out to me; it was very magical watching the plankton illuminate like tiny, speckling stars with every swipe we took at the water. I’ve also enjoyed living in the lively city of San José and walking down the bustling, mural adorned streets. I will miss my afternoon strolls to the downtown center.  

Thanks to this experience, I have become a lot more independent and comfortable with the uncertainty that comes with traveling and navigating new spaces on my own. I hope to continue to be able to do more of it in the near future. Thank you to the Smith Scholarship for making this experience possible!

Monteverde waterfall:

Monteverde waterfall

Mural painting for class:

mural painting

Jaco Beach at sunset:

Jaco Beach