finally a blog post from costa rica!

After one week in Costa Rica I’m finally writing some blog posts! There’s a lot to say, so I think I’ll be writing three this weekend, with this post being the first!

As you already know, I got to San José safe and sound after my two flights last Thursday. I’m still not a huge fan of flying, but Dramamine is such a wonderful thing! Although I was still anxious about the whole flying experience, I wasn’t panicked and sick to my stomach about it like I usually am. I’ll have to remember to always have Dramamine when I fly from now on!

I was picked up at the San José airport by an ISA staff member. On the way to one of the two ISA offices in San José, I learned very quickly that driving in Costa Rica seems to be a free for all. My experiences since then have confirmed my first conclusion. It’s scary as a pedestrian and as a passenger in a vehicle! After finally getting to the ISA office, I met one of the directors, Seidy, and my host mom, or “mama tica” (Costa Rican mom). After getting the lowdown on the trip that I was signed up to take over the weekend, I left with Isabel, my mama tica. I then met Jorge, my papa tico, where he was waiting outside with their car to take me home.

Isabel and Jorge are very nice, and have a lot of experience hosting foreign students. They have room to host three students, but right now there are only two of us. Their home is set up so that the two bedrooms and a bathroom for students are on the second floor, so we kind of have our own little area. It’s nice to only have to share the bathroom with Shelby, instead of with the whole household. Isabel, Jorge, and their adult son Mauricio live here. They have another son, Alonso, who is married and has three little kids. Apparently Matias, who is six, is coming to visit today! He sounds super cute so I’m excited to meet him.

I really love the way my room is upstairs. there are lots of windows and there’s a skylight in the hall, so there is a lot of natural light in the daytime. When it’s not raining and the windows are open, there’s a lot of fresh air circulating, too!

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Here’s a view out of my bedroom window. You can see part of the neighborhood and also some mountains in the distance.

Isabel is a very good cook! She spends a lot of time preparing meals, and making healthy food with lots of vegetables, which is great. Lots of meals are accompanied by rice and beans, but we’ve really had a variety of food so far. One day she made stir fry! Two nights ago we had spaghetti with a very good homemade sauce. The most interesting thing I’ve had was last night, when we had green beans fried with eggs! It was actually really good! For breakfast we have lots of fruit (the pineapple here is soooo good), along with bread, and orange juice.

Here are a few different things about living in Costa Rica that I’ve noticed so far:

  • The houses here don’t have hot water, just cold water. For showers, they have these electric contraptions on the shower heads to heat the water. Like in Spain, when you take a shower you turn the water on to get wet, and off until you need it again. Except here it’s the electricity that’s expensive, not the hot water.
  • There are a LOT of American companies here. Fast food and otherwise. On the bus I’ve passed Walmart, Office Depot, and Payless. I’m sure there are even more than I’ve seen so far!
  • I actually think this is really cool: I’ve noticed that everyone who drives a motorcycle or moped has some sort of reflective gear on. Either a full out vest, similar to what construction workers often wear, or a sash sort of thing. I think that’s a great idea to keep people visible on the roads!

It’s fun to speak Spanish so much again! It’s a little frustrating sometimes, but definitely better than it was in Spain. People are always telling me that I speak Spanish very well, which is really encouraging.

That’s all for this post, but I’ll be working on posts about my first weekend here (quite an adventure!) and the first few days at my volunteer placement! Don’t forget to check my Twitter and Facebook pages, as well! I update them a lot more frequently than I do this. My Twitter feed should show up on right side of my blog, for those of you who don’t use Twitter!

Hasta luego!

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if walls could talk

I wrote this post on Sunday, June 16th, but for some reason it didn’t post from the WordPress app on my phone. So here it is (again!). My apologies to those of you who subscribe via email and receive notification about the same post twice!

I left another home behind yesterday. A two bedroom apartment with walls painted a welcoming shade of tan, instead of a stark white. A bit sketchy on the outside but comfortable and safe within.

If the walls of that apartment could tell you their secrets, they would tell you how this year challenged me. They would reveal just how many tears were shed into my pillow and the way I hold my two precious teddy bears tight to my chest when I’m lonely. They would remember the glimmers of hope and excitement that ran through me as I sat in the glow of the purple lamp at the foot of the bed late one November night and realized that pursuing a career in speech pathology was an attainable goal. They would smile at the memory of two sisters sitting close on the couch on Wednesday nights, in fits of uncontrollable laughter.

Each home I’ve had serves as a small compartment in my memory. Each contains a piece of my life. Memories of the past four years are spread between seven compartments of varying sizes. Each compartment has a special place in my heart.

In a couple months I’ll get settled into a new home with new walls to observe my joys and keep my secrets. Sometimes it’s hard for me to be happy with moving so often and having so many different places I’ve called home in the past few years. But this move will be different because I’ll be moving into a house where I’ll live with my sister like I haven’t since high school.

It will be a home filled with love and laughter. And that’s the best kind, isn’t it?

“life is a result of intentional habits”

This morning as I was scrolling through my Facebook News Feed, I came across the link to an article called “Why You Should Travel Young.” I was sure I had read a version of this article before (in the form of this blog post), but I clicked on it anyway. I’m glad I did, because it gave me some perspective and encouragement that I’ve been needing in my life.

While the emphasis of the article is on the importance of travel, author Jeff Goins drives another point home as well: the habits you form as a young adult will follow you and shape you for the rest of your life. “Life is a result of intentional habits,” he points out, and if you’re not careful it will be your bad habits that will mold you.

Youth is a time of total empowerment. You get to do what you want. As you mature and gain new responsibilities, you have to be very intentional about making sure you don’t lose sight of what’s important.

This past year has been full of struggles for me in that department. I was so ready to be “grown-up” and done with college that I was pushing through to an end that didn’t feel right for me anymore. It was a year of cycles of losing sight of who I am and who I strive to be due to impatience or disbelief in the ability to make a difference in the world while sitting in class or at my mundane job every week.

But there were moments filled with hope, too. The decision to stay in school longer and pursue a career in speech pathology was an empowered one. It was a conscious decision to take control of where I would take the rest of my life. Deciding to go to Costa Rica was the same way, pushing away the fear and accepting that the greatest experiences are sometimes the most challenging ones.

It’s not like this is a new idea to me. I’ve known that living intentionally is important for a long time. But there’s a difference between telling yourself, “I want to make a difference in the lives of others,” and waking up every morning and asking, “How will I love someone today? How will I serve someone today? How can I take care of my own growth and well-being today?”

One of the reasons Goins (rightfully) says that young people don’t travel is because they are concerned about other “responsibilities” that their life may have. They recognize the importance of it but their response is “Yeah, but…” followed by whatever reason they deem reasonable whether it be money, relationships, or anything else really.

In his blog post Goins says:

Yeah, but… is pernicious. Because it makes it sound like we have the best of intentions when really we are just too scared to do what we should.

Be careful of the yeah-but. The yeah-but will kill your dreams.

I don’t think that could be any more true, and it doesn’t apply to just the decision to travel. It applies to any decision that might make your life better, but you’re just a little too scared to see it through. I know I’m guilty of that.

But I’m tired of being the killer of my own dreams. I’m ready to live intentionally and authentically and see where my life can take me.

grad school application blues

Here’s what I’ve learned about grad school so far: It’s a huge pain.

I’ve been researching graduate schools for a few months now, so I knew in my heart of hearts that applying would be a pain. (There have been more than a couple instances of remembering the nightmare that applying to undergrad was. So many deadlines, so many requirements, so many attempts to sell yourself as spectacular). But now that I’m starting to really get into the nitty gritty details of the application process, the reality of the pain that applying will be is becoming clear. 

Today I’ve spent a lot of time studying for the GRE and working on a personal statement. Both are challenging and frustrating in their own ways.

Here’s why:

The GRE is a test that is supposed to assess how well you would do as a graduate student. You’re supposedly being tested on your critical thinking, reasoning, problem solving, and analytical writing skills, which definitely makes sense, given the nature of graduate studies. There are many study materials available for the test, and I’ve been trying to spend time with them. However, I think there comes a point where you know what you know and you can’t do anything else to prepare. When it comes down to it, I’ll either know the words on the Verbal Reasoning section or I won’t. Not to mention that I haven’t taken a math class since my senior year of high school and I’ll be tested on algebra, geometry, and statistics in the Quantitative Reasoning section. (Can you tell that I’m bitter? I’m not looking forward to taking this test next week).

Personal statements are a whole different kind of overwhelming.  A personal statement is your only chance to provide the schools you’re applying to with something other than test scores and letter grades about you. Sometimes you only get as few as 500 words to convey your goals, your interests, and what drives you to pursue admission to whatever program you’re applying for. It’s such a challenge, especially for me. As someone who likes to consider herself a writer, I agonize over each and every word, wondering if the one I’ve used is the best choice. My personal statement is the one chance I have to give the faculty of the programs I’m applying to a glimpse into who I really am. 

I’m so much more than a test score or a 500 word essay. And so is each and every other person that’s applying to grad school (or undergrad, med school, or professional school, for that matter). 

But here’s the good news: When it’s all said and done, I’ll be one step closer to pursuing the perfect career path. So despite all the trouble it is to apply, it will be worth it in the end. I just have to keep reminding myself of that. 

“you must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do. (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Fear is a funny thing. Sometimes I fear things I have never experienced: for all of my childhood and adolescence I told myself I was afraid of flying, despite the fact that I had only flown once in my life and was only two years old so I don’t remember the experience at all. That kind of fear is big and intimidating, but only because I’m facing the unknown.  Sometimes I fear things that I have experienced: I’m still afraid of flying, even after multiple travels in planes. These are the fears that really get me. They seem so much stronger. They pack a bigger punch when you’re about to face the same thing that overwhelmed you the first time you experienced it. You want to shy away and avoid the possibility of getting hurt.

I am afraid to go to Costa Rica later this summer. And it’s not really for any qualities of the trip itself. Sure, I’m nervous about the experiences and challenges that await me there, but that’s not where this fear is based. I’m afraid to go to Costa Rica because of the crippling homesickness that I experienced when I studied abroad in Spain.  In 56 days, I’ll be boarding a plane that will take me to San José, and I’m terrified that I will experience the same homesickness that I did when I was in Spain.

Here’s the good news. The more I think about that fear, the more I realize just how unfounded it is. Yes, I was homesick when I was in Spain, and it wasn’t one of my favorite parts of my experience there. But because I was homesick I learned how to deal with those emotions. If I begin to feel homesick while I’m in Costa Rica I know how to cope.  I can find a favorite spot in the city to sit and journal, or go discover some tasty treats. Homesickness is a disease that can be cured, if you know the right remedies.

And so excitement is starting to overwhelm my fear. In two months, I’ll be working that Fernando Centeno Guell Center for Special Education in San José. There are three divisions of the center, one for the hearing/language impaired, one for the visually impaired, and one for the mentally impaired. I’ll have the opportunity to work alongside speech therapists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists, and to interact with the students at the center, who range in age from 1 to 21 years old.

I’ll be living in a beautiful country for six weeks with a Costa Rican family. I’ll get to speak Spanish on a daily basis again. I’ll get to visit a volcano! I’m going to learn so much. And all because I’m facing the fears that I had of being abroad again, instead of running away from them.

thoughts from a would-be graduate

Sometimes it seems like only yesterday that I was moving into my dorm room freshman year.  I remember wondering how my things were going to fit in the small space that had been allotted to me. I remember wishing for my parents to stay, just a little while longer. I remember thinking that I already had my whole life planned out, although I was nervous as to what the next four years would bring.

And here I am, four years later. Last Tuesday I completed four years of undergraduate coursework. It’s hard to believe that those years are behind me. Over the past week or so I’ve spent a lot of time looking back on those years. There are things I wish I would have done differently. There are moments I wish I could go back to, take myself by the shoulders, and remind myself that I am stronger than I think I am. But I think what’s really important is that I can see that I’ve moved forward from the place I was in those first days of being a college student. Sometimes it feels as though I’ve only taken a few small steps, but other times I feel as if I’ve grown by leaps and bounds.

In many ways, I think my decision to pursue a career as a bilingual speech-language pathologist is a hallmark of almost all the ways I have grown in the past four years:

  • It forced me swallow my pride. I was always the person who knew exactly what she was going to do with her life, and changing my mind meant admitting that I had been wrong. Not to mention the fact that my decision meant adding more semesters on to my undergraduate career, so I didn’t graduate with my class.
  • It allowed me to recognize my own strength (something that I struggle with often). Deciding to pursue a career as a bilingual speech-language pathologist means delving into graduate school in a field that I have very little background in. It means pushing myself out of my comfort-zone and opening myself up to the fact that I will be unable to attend graduate school in Ohio.
  • It means that I’m learning to truly embrace who I am and who I strive to be. This career is perfect for me, combining language, teaching, and helping others. To me, dedicating myself to this career means dedicating myself to the people (hopefully children!) I will eventually work with in therapy sessions. I hope I’ll be able to serve them in any way I can to help them improve.

So even though I don’t have the diploma in my hand just yet to officially document my growth and achievement, I know I’m on the right path. And that’s what really counts.