August 8, 2011

The Intersection of Learning & Fun: Studying Abroad

I don’t have many regrets in my academic career, but one that particularly stands out is my decision to not study abroad while I was in college. At the time, I reasoned that I only had four years at my alma mater, and therefore, I should take advantage of the limited time I had. What about summers? I always felt the need to work, take classes, or both.

Lucky for me, I have another opportunity to study abroad. It’s true that I could have spent this summer taking language classes in Los Angeles, but if there is anything I’ve learned from taking language classes in the past, it is virtually impossible (for me) to absorb a language unless I’m completely immersed in it. I’m embarrassed to say that even though I took four years of Spanish in high school, and one and half in college, I was barely able to hold a conversation. I can’t tell you enough how important it is for future social workers who plan to build a career in Los Angeles, or other cities densely populated with Hispanic populations, to speak Spanish. My inability to speak Spanish not only limited by ability to communicate with my patients at my internship, but it also restricted the number of internships I was qualified for in the second year internship process at UCLA. As a result of feeling embarrassed, and out of necessity to communicate with my fellow Angelinos, I decided to study abroad in Costa Rica for one month.

The name of the school I am studying at is called Centro Panamericano de Idiomas (CPI). The primary reason I chose CPI is that they have three campuses located throughout the country, including a location in Heredia (close to Costa Rica’s capital San Jose), in Monteverde, and in Playa Flamingo (Tamarindo region). Therefore, students can elect to study at multiple campuses during their stay (I am studying two weeks in Monteverde and two weeks in Playa Flamingo).

I’m currently in my second week of a four-week program, and I love every minute of it. Everything from my Spanish classes, to my home-stay, to the food, to the activities has surpassed my expectations. While I don’t anticipate being fluent by the end of my stay, I do hope that my ability to communicate to my future Spanish-speaking clients and their families increases dramatically. Additonally, CPI has numerous specialty programs, including one for social workers. The annual seminar lasts two weeks, and students take classes that are geared towards professionals that work in the social services field, attend discussion groups, and volunteer at local organizations.

Below are a few pictures of my adventures thus far.

A spiderweb on the way to class

A bridge in the Monteverde Forest Reserve

Gorgeous plant life in the forest

Arenal Volcano

Beautiful Flowers

A waterfall in Arenal

Rapelling down a waterfall

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