The Countdown Dwindles & Adventure Begins

As I write this post, I am a mere 6 days away from departing on my flight for a semester-long journey in Granada, Spain. The excitement and anticipation are growing with each passing day, but so are the nerves, questions, and expectations. However, the emotion that best encompasses how I am feeling is alegría (joy)! I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to spend four months overseas in a country I have always dreamed of visiting. Now, not only do I get to visit, but I get to live in Spain and truly immerse myself in what I know will be a beautiful culture and all-around amazing country. Here are just three of the many aspects of this adventure that I am most anticipating.

1. Improving Spanish

I have been learning and studying Spanish since the second grade, but you wouldn’t believe that if you heard me speak. I am probably better at the language than I consider myself to be, but living in Spain will be the true test. I have always had a desire to become fluent in Spanish, but classroom learning simply doesn’t do it for me. I believe that immersion is the best teacher and I am looking forward to the improvements that will come, especially increasing confidence in myself and my speaking, writing, reading and listening abilities. One way that I will improve is through the housing that I’ve selected for the semester: I opted to live in a homestay with a Spanish family. I thought that this would be the best way to not only learn more about the culture and lifestyle of Spain, but also to essentially be forced to speak Spanish around the clock. It would be too easy for me to use my housing situation as an escape from speaking Spanish, so I chose the homestay as a catalyst for me to continue practicing, even when I am at the home, a place where I usually would let my guard down and relax into English speaking habits. That is why I chose to challenge myself in this way. I’m sure my expectations will be met!

2. Self-discovery and independent travel

I love traveling! If I could, I would make it my full-time job. I’m pumped for this semester in Europe where I will have the freedom to travel in addition to completing my coursework. This is the first time that I will be traveling outside of the United States alone. It’s intimidating, a little scary, but also exhilarating. I’ve heard from other solo travelers that this is an amazing way to really learn more about who you are. I don’t doubt that for a second! I have always been pretty sure of myself, but I am looking forward to learning more about who I am. There are things I haven’t yet discovered simply because I’ve never been in this situation before: I’ve never been away from my family for more than a few weeks at a time, never traveled abroad alone, and certainly have never lived my life using another language in every-day circumstances. All of these scenarios, and more, are sure to highlight many of my strengths (and weaknesses, also important to understand about oneself) that I had never realized I had. I fully expect to be stretched beyond my comfort zone, but I am embracing it. I know this semester will be a challenge, but I am up to the task, whatever Spain has for me!

3. The city, culture, and people

Okay, okay, I know that is three aspects in one post, but I can’t help it. How could I only choose three to discuss? I first fell in love with Granada when I read three simple words describing the city: eclectic, mountainous, historic. I read these descriptors in the International Studies Abroad (ISA) packet that contained all of the study abroad locations available to students. Surprisingly, I had never heard of Granada before researching where to study, but when I read those words I actually became misty-eyed. I felt so drawn to the city. For one, I love mountains. They are so majestic and they make me feel so small but in the best way. They seem to speak to me saying, “There is more in the world beyond yourself,” if mountains could speak, of course. My affinity for mountainous regions makes living in Missouri kind of a bummer, but that’s what traveling is for. Anyway, all that to say, I know this city, like most cities in Europe, will be lovely. I hear (and have seen through pictures) that the city of Granada is beautiful. Likewise, I hear that it is as beautiful as the people who inhabit it. Everyone I have talked with who has been to Spain raves about the kind and welcoming nature of Spaniards. Additionally, I love other cultures that are different from my own and I strive to experience them from the perspective of the locals. I am looking forward to experiencing the diversity that Granada has to offer by living in such an eclectic city with quite a rich history. I enjoy how traveling allows one to meet so many different people from all backgrounds, each with their own unique stories. I am excited to have the people of Spain as a resource to make my experience the best it can be. As a generally introverted and reserved person, I am not typically one to initiate conversations, especially with strangers. However, I want to use this experience to break that cycle since I desire to have an authentic Spanish semester.

Pictured is me wearing the only luggage I plan to bring: a 60 liter Osprey backpack (it’s much roomier than it looks)! I’m embracing simplicity this semester!

There is no telling whom I will meet,what I will discover, the experiences I will have, or the things I will see. The mystery and uncertainty going into this semester is what makes me so excited. All I know is that I will have breathtaking adventures, eat amazing food, meet incredible people, and walk A LOT (I really enjoy a good walk) all while gaining confidence in myself and my Spanish-speaking abilities. This is going to be a semester of learning and discovery. I may not know the details of all that I will encounter, but that is all part of the process. I have an open-mind, an open heart, and the flexibility I need to have a truly maravillosa (wonderful) adventure in Granada, Spain.

Camille Meeks is a senior at the University of Missouri- Kansas City studying Psychology and Languages & Literatures with an emphasis in Spanish. Camille will spend the fall semester studying in Granada, Spain through International Studies Abroad as a Truman Good Neighbor Scholar.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

The One Time I Try To Make a Plan

During a long four-day weekend off of classes in Buenos Aires, I decided to take advantage of the cheap flights to Santiago, Chile. This would be my first trip anywhere (let alone a new country) by myself as well as my first stay in a hostel. I booked my excursion with no plans besides my plane ticket and hostel reservation.

On Friday and Saturday, I had enjoyed simply wandering somewhat aimlessly about the city on my own during the day and then returning to the hostel at night for dinner and the (literally) daily fiesta. On Sunday morning, however, I wanted to do something more specific/planned, but less expensive than the tours most of my new hostel friends suggested. At breakfast, my new German friend Debbie told me about her plans to climb Cerro Pochoco, a “mini-mountain” accessible by Santiago public transit. This sounded perfectly accessible and affordable, so I did a little research while my phone recharged and then set off determined to climb a mountain.

After two hours navigating the Metro (subway) and colectivos (buses) to the outer limits of the city, I arrived at the end of my Google directions. Looking around, I did not see the parking lot and trailhead I had read about online. After wandering about for a bit and receiving confused, contradictory directions from two different locals (I did not have data to search the Internet for answers), I noticed a street sign labeled Calle Cerro Pochoco. I double-checked my phone and realized that Google Maps had directed me to a street named after Cerro Pochoco instead of the actual Cerro Pochoco. I was on the wrong side of the city.

A little dismayed, I began walking back towards the Metro station when lo and behold I ran into Debbie and her two friends. They had made the same mistake I had. Her friend Servi, who could use data on her phone, set a course for a new cerro to climb and invited me to come along. I agreed and we set off on the Metro together.

Through the train windows, the bright canopies of a féria caught my attention, so I left my new friends and hopped off the train at the next station. This féria was very different than those I had visited in Buenos Aires. The férias in Buenos Aires were full of artists and vendors selling crafts and homemade goods, whereas this was more like an open-air Walmart, with everything from fruits and vegetables to toilet paper, clothing and books to small electrical appliances. The best difference of all was that it was not intended for tourists. I was the only white person (and probably the only foreigner) there. Instead of tourists looking for souvenirs, I met Chileans doing their grocery shopping.

After walking about absorbing the authentic Chilean culture, I enjoyed a hearty lunch of whatever the amicable waitress recommended because I didn’t recognize anything on the menu. It was an excellent opportunity to talk to some more locals, eat affordably for the first time that weekend, and enjoy the sun and the heat after three weeks of cold in Buenos Aires.

I had noticed I small cerro in the distance and started walking off my lunch in that direction. I noticed some families and dogs climbing around and found the entrance to a rough trail. Once I reached the top, I realized just how far from downtown and how close to the Andes mountains I had wandered. Even from such a small cerro, the views were breathtaking. After catching my breath, soaking up the moment, and taking some obligatory selfies, I started heading back “home” to my hostel, completely satisfied with “lost” day.

The one time I tried to make a plan, it failed. But that mistake created my favorite day in Chile (and one of my favorites all summer) and provided an opportunity to experience a side of authentic Chilean culture far from the city center.

Amber Litteken is a freshman at the University of Missouri-Kansas City majoring in Instrumental Music Education and minoring in Spanish Language and Literature. Amber will spend six weeks of the summer abroad with the UMKC Faculty-Led Spanish Language Summer in Buenos Aires, Argentina as a Gilman Scholar. Amber is from Breese, Illinois and plays bassoon.

Disclaimer: Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

The Secret to the Pura Vida Life

Si has estado siguiendo mis últimos aportes, ya has notado probablemente que siempre firmo con “Pura Vida mis amigos”. Esta frase pegadiza es muy popular dentro y fuera de Costa Rica y durante las últimas cinco semanas, he estado tratando de descubrir el significado de Pura Vida para mí. Dentro y fuera del aula, la vida familiar y la cultura local, he empezado a abrazar y amar el estilo de vida costarricense.

Dentro y más allá del aula
Tomé dos clases de español en la Universidad Veritas: conversación avanzada y las escritoras costarricenses. Aunque tener que pensar y responder de inmediato en español fue un desafío al principio, pero realmente, disfruté de nuestra clase de conversación porque tuvimos la oportunidad de expresar nuestras opiniones sobre cualquier tema que nos interesaban. Nuestras presentaciones abordaron muchos temas sociales importantes – aunque controvertidos a veces – que oscilaron desde la legalización de drogas hasta la desigualdad en la educación femenina hasta la sociedad capitalista hasta la inmigración de refugiados y más. Mi parte favorita era cuando, inevitablemente, alguien diría algo sin relación con el tema, porque fue cuando se iniciaron las discusiones profundas. Aprendí mucha perspicacia de mis compañeros y mi profesor era una fuente de sabiduría y narrativas históricas. Esta clase fue reveladora con respecto a expandir mi perspectiva del mundo y ser desafiada a considerar las posibles soluciones que podrían combatir los problemas universales de la sociedad hoy en día.

El aprendizaje también estaba fuera del aula en forma de excursiones de clase. Visitamos una exposición de chocolate en el centro de la ciudad donde no sólo probamos dulces de chocolate, sino aprendimos sobre la historia del cacao y su papel esencial en la economía del país también. Otra salida de clase incluyó las clases de cocina que estaban en la casa de nuestra profesora donde aprendimos a hacer empanadas llenas de chiverre a mano y arroz con leche justo en la cocina – son recetas deliciosas que espero cocinarlas cuando vuelva a los Estados Unidos.

Nuestra vida familiar
Me considero afortunada porque creo que tenía la mejor familia de anfitrión. Mi compañera de piso, Katy, y yo nos referimos  a Giselle y Sergio cariñosamente como “Mamatica” y “Papatico” porque se llaman los locales en Costa Rica “ticos” y “ticas” típicamente. Nos recibieron con amabilidad genuina y amor incondicional que nos hizo sentir bastante cómodos como uno de sus hijos. Se sirven el desayuno y la cena a las 7am y 7pm cada día, así que puedes imaginar qué momentos del día que estaba emocionada. Nuestros padres iban al mercado de productores cada fin de semana para comprar productos  agrícolas y ingredientes frescos para nuestras comidas y siempre les decía que cuando cocinaban juntos, formaban el mejor equipo. Sin duda, voy a extrañar estos tiempos debido a la comida rica y las conversaciones que compartimos sobre la mesa, pero les hizo una promesa de que sería una de las primeras personas en la línea cuando abren su restaurante en el futuro y entonces, ya estoy esperando a esa reunión.

La cultura local
Como en cualquier lugar que viaje, siempre habrá diferencias culturales que necesitan tiempo para distinguirlas y adaptarse en consecuencia. Se considera Costa Rica que tiene una cultura de clima caliente, la que significa que hay un enfoque fuerte en la creación de un medio ambiente basado en las relaciones y donde “sentirse bien”, así como con la comunicación indirecta en la que las preguntas se expresan de otro modo para no ofender a nadie. Para mí, “el tiempo tico” significa tener un sentido n más relajada del tiempo, ya que la gente llega a una reunión o evento hasta 15-30 minutos. Una cosa que todavía tenía problemas para acostumbrarme a las condiciones de la calle – me parece que la filosofía es quien llegue a la calle primero la domine. En otras palabras, no exise la parada para peatones allí y hubo veces que tuve que mantener mis ojos en cualquier cosa menos la carretera durante mis viajes en Uber para evitar los ataques al corazón. Creo que la única vez que verá un lado agresivo de los locales está en la calle, pero aparte de eso, los costarricenses son personas relajados en la mayor parte.

Hay tantas facetas de la cultura aquí – es imposible señalar todos, pero para mí, el aspecto cultural que aprecio más era la iniciativa para promover la sostenibilidad ambiental en todo el país. Por ejemplo, había signos por todas partes para recordarte que debes tirar el papel higiénico en la basura y no en el inodoro. También, he oído de ciertas placas que indican un día en el que no se puede conducir – afortunadamente, el transporte público es un sistema económico y eficiente. Los botes de basura designados siempre vienen en colecciones de cuatro: desechos orgánicos, vidrio, papel y plástico. Aunque todavía hay mucho para mejorar, me siento orgullosa de que Costa Rica sea un líder global en este esfuerzo nacional. Este es el modo de vida pura vida aquí – ¿qué hay para no ser feliz?

Como siempre, muchas gracias por leer y nos vemos!

Pura Vida mis amigos,
Rebecca Yang


If you have been following my past posts, you’ve probably already noticed that I always sign off with “Pura Vida my friends”. This catchy saying is extremely popular both within and outside of Costa Rica, and for the past five weeks, I have been trying to discover what Pura Vida means to me. Inside and beyond the classroom, through family life, and the local culture, I have come to embrace and love the Costa Rican lifestyle.

Inside and Beyond the Classroom

I took two Spanish classes at Universidad Veritas: advanced conversation and Costa Rican female writers. Although having to think and respond on the spot in Spanish was a bit daunting at first, I really enjoyed our conversation class because we had the opportunity to express our opinions on any topic that interested us. Our presentations addressed important social issues – albeit controversial, at times – ranging from drug legalization to inequality in female education to a capitalistic society to refugee immigration, and so much more. My favorite part was whenever we would, inevitably, go off-topic because that was when deep discussions were sparked. I gained so much insight from my peers, and my professor was a fountain of wisdom and historical narratives. This class was eye-opening in terms of expanding my world perspective and being challenged to consider what possible solutions could combat the pervasive problems of society today.

Learning also took place outside the classroom in the form of class field trips. We visited a chocolate exposition downtown, where we not only tasted some chocolate goodies, but also learned about the history of cacao and its vital role within the country’s economy. Another class outing turned out to be cooking classes that took place at our professor’s house, where we learned to make empanadas filled with chiverre by hand and rice pudding right in her kitchen – delicious recipes that I hope to try and make back at home in the States.

Empanadas de chiverre
Love free chocolate samples YUM






Our Family Life
I consider myself lucky because I believe I got placed with the best host family ever. My roommate, Katy, and I affectionately referred to Giselle and Sergio as “Mamatica” and “Papatico” because locals in Costa Rica are commonly called “ticos” and “ticas”. They received us with such genuine warmth and unconditional love that made us feel right at home like one of their own. Breakfast and dinner was served at 7am and 7pm every day, so you can imagine what times of the day I was particularly excited for. Our host parents would go down to the farmer’s market every weekend to pick up fresh produce and other ingredients our meals, and I would always tell them that, when cooking together, they made the best team. I will definitely miss meal times due to the food and the conversations we shared over the table, but I made them a promise that I would be one of the first people in the line when they open their restaurant in the future, so I am already looking forward to that reunion.

Mamatica y Papatico

The Local Culture
Like anywhere you travel, there will always be some cultural differences that may take time to distinguish and adapt to accordingly. Costa Rica is considered to have a hot climate culture, meaning there is a strong focus on creating a relationship-based, “feel-good” environment, as well with indirect communication, in which questions are rephrased in a way as to not offend whoever you are talking to. For me, running on “tico time” means having a more relaxed sense of time, as people show up 15-30 minutes late to a gathering or event. One thing I still had trouble getting used to was the road conditions – it seems like the philosophy is whoever gets to the road first gets to rule it. In other words, stopping for pedestrians is not a thing there, and there were times I had to keep my eyes on anything but the road during my Uber rides to avoid having multiple heart attacks. I think the only time you will ever see an aggressive side from the locals is out on the road, but other than that, Costa Ricans are relatively laid-back for the most part.

Every decision makes a small difference.

There are so many facets to the culture here – it’s impossible to touch on all of them, but for me, the cultural aspect I appreciated the most was the drive to promote environmental sustainability throughout the country. For example, there were signs everywhere to remind you that toilet paper was to be thrown away in the trash can, not flushed down the toilet. I also heard about certain license plates denote a day where you cannot drive – luckily, public transportation is an affordable and efficient system. Designated trash cans always come in sets of four: organic waste, glass, paper, and plastic. Although there is much room for improvement, I am proud that Costa Rica is a global leader in this national effort. This is the pura vida way of life here – what is there not to be happy about?

As always, thank you for reading and see you on the next post!

Pura Vida my friends,
Rebecca Yang

Rebecca Yang is currently a third-year undergraduate student studying Chemistry and Spanish, with an emphasis in Pre-Medicine, at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, but after spending three years in Kansas City, she is proud to call this place home. She is studying abroad for one month over the summer with ISA in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

A Guide to Hiking the Highest Mountain in Costa Rica

Mi tiempo en estudiar en el extranjero estaba terminando, y solo tenía un fin de semana más aquí en Costa Rica. Caminando por la montaña más alta de este país nunca estaba en mi lista de cosas más importantes para hacer, sin embargo, mi amiga Mackenzie que había caminado el fin de semana anterior me convenció de que debería tomar la oportunidad de – lo que descubriría más tarde – un único viaje en la vida.

Consejo #1: Reserve el viaje a Cerro Chirripó como mínimo dos semanas con antelación. Las agencias de viajes recomiendan prepararse para el viaje por lo menos tres meses antes, pero en realidad no me comprometí a subir Chirripó hasta tres días antes de ir con mis dos amigos, Michael y Jackson. Te sugiero que no se encuentre en una situación similar porque entregar la documentación y los pagos necesarios en poco tiempo, además de planear un viaje del fin de semana de tres días, no fue la mejor idea. Así que minimizar el estrés innecesario de hacer una decisión de última hora y reservar su posición tan pronto como sea posible.

Consejo #2: Reserve con una agencia de viaje. Para escalar Cerro Chirripó, necesitarás comprar permisos de parque para cada día que estés allí, junto con la comida y el alojamiento en el campamento base. Las agencias de viajes harán tu vida más fácil, y el costo de la reserva con una agencia no sobrepasaría mucho lo que estarías pagando si hubieras comprado todo individualmente. Recomiendo Caminatas al Chirripó que era una agencia increíble que lograron asegurar nuestras reservas en poca antelación y siempre estaban disponsibles en el teléfono si teníamos cualquier pregunta.

Salimos a las 9am de la mañana del viernes desde la terminal del MUSOC que fue tres horas en autobús de San José a San Isidro del General. Desde allí, tuvimos que tomar otro autobús de Terminal Municipal que nos llevó de San Isidro a San Gerardo de Rivas en media hora.

Consejo #3: Compre los billetes de autobús un día antes, o llegar temprano a la estación de autobus al menos una hora antes de la salida porque se venden los billetes rápidamente.

Tuvimos que registrarnos en las oficinas del MINAE y del Consorcio  antes de las 4pm porque el parque requiere que todos se registre un día antes de sus caminatas. Luego nos registramos en la oficina de nuestra agencia de viaje para llegar a nuestra hostal de Cabaña Ojos Claros y encontrarse con su anfitrión, Laura. Una chica de Holanda que acababa de subir al Cerro Chirripó el día anterior estaba allí esa noche y nos dio consejos útiles sobre las expectativas de nuestra subida. Porque teníamos una mañana temprano al día siguiente, nos acostamos después de cenar, y recuerdo tener algunos problemas para dormirse debido a los nervios de anticipación y entusiasmo de la aventura por venir.

Consejo #4: Traiga una lámpara (un faro sería óptimo) o asegúrete de comprar una de una tienda en el pueblo antes de empezar tu caminata. Busca un bastón robusto es una buena idea, también – será tu mejor amigo durante este viaje.

El sábado por la mañana, nos despertamos a las 4:30am y Laura nos llevó a la entrada donde el signo de 0 km marcó el comienzo de nuestro ascenso oficialmente. La flora y fauna del paisaje cambia cada km drásticamente, así que no te olvides de mirar hacia arriba y alrededor porque las vistas diversas no defraudan. La caminata hasta el campamento base es de 15 km y hay una parada al punto medio del camino en el km 7 donde tienen baños, una tienda de alimento y una estación para llenar tus botellas de agua. No fue hasta el km 13, con un nombre apropiado de Los Arrepentidos, donde comencé a preguntarme qué estaba pensando en subir al Cerro Chirripó y cuestionar la vida en general. Milagrosamente, llegamos al km 15 en 11 horas y fue como encontrar un oasis en el medio del desierto – fue probablemente porque pudimos ver que el campamento base estaba en pendiente desde allí.

Consejo #5: Asegúrete de que estás en buena forma porque la caminata es de 40 km (25 millas) en total y puede ser muy duro físicamente en el cuerpo con el tiempo.

En el campamento base, nos quedamos en nuestra habitación que tenía las literas, cada una con una almohada y un saco de dormir o una cobija. Durante la cena, pasamos tiempo con otras senderistas que vinieron de todo el mundo, incluyendo un irlandés y un italiano  que decidieron acompañarnos en la caminata hasta la cima.

Consejo #6: Hazte un favor y tomar el chocolate caliente con las comidas – cada sorbo se calienta su alma.

Consejo #7: Empaca las capas de ropa porque aunque sudarás en la subida, la temperatura en la cima del Cerro Chirripó puede bajar a 0°C (32°F) con mucha sensación térmica.

Para ver el amanecer a las 5 am de la mañana del domingo, salimos a las 2:30am para empezar el viaje de 5 km a la cima de la montaña. Esto es cuando se utiliza la lámpara porque era oscuro completamente y no se desea perderse en el camino. En km 4, había una parte empinada donde las senderistas tenían que dejan sus bastones y subir la montaña con sus manos y rodillas. El signo de Cerro Chirripó y la bandera costarricense nos dieron la bienvenida en la cima y yo vi asombrada el sol que pintaba colores brillantes en el lienzo del cielo.

Gracias al sol, no pude dejar de admirar el paisaje envolvente que estaba escondido en la oscuridad antes. Regresamos el mismo día y fue una locura ver cómo escalmos estos senderos rocosos en algunas partes. No subestimes el descenso porque aunque toma mucho menos tiempo, los caminos lodoso son resbaladizos así que nos caímos mucho. Después, no podía caminar bien por dos días, pero la vista desde 3.820 metros valió la pena sin duda y nunca olvidaré esta experiencia increíble.

Como siempre, muchas gracias por leer y nos vemos!

Pura Vida mis amigos,
Rebecca Yang


My time in studying abroad was winding down, and I only had one more free weekend left here in Costa Rica. Hiking the highest mountain in this country was never on my list of top things to do, yet my friend, Mackenzie, had hiked it the weekend before and somehow convinced me that I should just take the chance of – what I would later find out to be – a trip-of-a-lifetime.

Tip #1: Book the trip to Cerro Chirripó at least two weeks beforehand. Tour agencies recommend preparing for the trip at least three MONTHS in advance, but I did not actually commit to climbing Chirripó with two of my friends, Michael and Jackson, until three DAYS right before the weekend. I highly suggest that you do not find yourself in a similar situation because turning in all the required paperwork and payments in such a short period of time, on top of planning for a three-day weekend trip, was not the best idea. So save yourself some unnecessary stress from making a last-minute decision and reserve your spots as soon as possible.

Tip #2: Book with a tour agency. In order to hike Cerro Chirripó, you will need to purchase park permits for every day you are there, along with food and lodging at the base camp. Tour agencies will make your life a lot easier, and the cost of booking with an agency would not greatly exceed what you would be paying had you bought everything individually. I recommend Walks to Chirripó, which was an amazing agency that managed to secure our reservations at such a short notice and were always a phone call away if we had any questions.

We left around 9am on Friday morning from MUSOC terminal, which was a three-hour bus ride from San José to San Isidro del General. From there, we had to catch another bus from Terminal Municipal that took us from San Isidro to San Gerardo de Rivas in half an hour.

Tip #3: Buy bus tickets a day ahead, or arrive early at the bus station at least an hour before departure, because bus tickets do sell out quickly.

We had to check into the Park and the Crestones Basecamp lodging offices before 4pm, because the park requires that you register there a day before your hike. We then stopped by the office of our tour agency to get situated at our hostel Cabaña Ojos Claros, run by our lovely host, Laura. A girl from the Netherlands, who had just hiked Cerro Chirripó the day before, was also staying there that night and gave us helpful tips on what to expect our climb. Since we had an early morning the next day, we headed to bed right after dinner, and I remember having some trouble falling asleep due to nerves of anticipation and excitement of what was to come.

View from our hostel’s back porch
The base camp office next to the soccer field

Tip #4: Bring a flashlight (a headlamp would be optimal), or make sure you buy one from a shop in town before starting your hike. Finding a sturdy walking stick is also a good idea – trust me, it’ll be your best friend on this trip.




On Saturday morning, we woke up at 4:30am and Laura dropped us off at the entrance, where the 0 km sign officially marked the beginning of our ascent. The flora and fauna of the landscape drastically changes at every km, so do not forget to look up and around you because the diverse views do not disappoint. The hike up to base camp is 15 km, and there is a rest stop at the halfway point around km 7, where they have restrooms, a snack shop and a station to refill your water bottles. It was not until km 13 (with a fitting name of The Repentants) where I started to ask myself what in the world was I thinking in climbing Cerro Chirripó, and just questioning life in general. Miraculously, we made to km 15 eleven hours later, and it was like finding an oasis in the middle of the desert – mostly because we could see that the base camp was all downhill from there.


Started from the bottom…
…Now we’re here.

Tip #5: Make sure you are in adequate shape because the hike is approximately 40km (25 miles) altogether and can be physically grueling on the body over time.


At the base camp, we got situated into our room that had a bunk-bed setup, furnished with a pillow and a sleeping bag/blanket. At dinnertime, we got to meet and hang out with other hikers who came from all over the world, including an Irishman and an Italian fellow, who decided to join our group for the hike up to the summit.

Drink of the day

Tip #6: Do yourself a favor and get the hot chocolate during meal times – every sip will warm your soul to the core.

Tip #7: Pack layers to wear because even though you will sweat on the hike up, the temperature at the top of Cerro Chirripó can drop to as low as 0°C (32°F) with heavy wind chill.

In order to catch the sunrise at 5am on Sunday morning, we departed at 2:30am to begin the 5km trip to the summit of the mountain. This is when the flashlight comes in handy because it was completely pitch-black, and you do not want to wander off the trail. At around km 4, there was a steep part where people had to ditch their hiking sticks and climb up the mountain on their hands and knees. The Cerro Chirripó sign and the Costa Rican flag welcomed us at the top, and I was just in complete awe as I watched the sunrise paint breath-taking colors across the canvas of the sky.




We came, we conquered.

With the sun coming up, I couldn’t help admiring the landscape, which was previously hidden in the darkness, surrounding us from all sides. We made our way back down the same day, and it was shocking to see how we even made it up some of these rocky trails that were all uphill at some points. Don’t underestimate the descent down because although it takes a lot less time, the muddy trails are slippery so we took some falls here and there. Afterwards, I literally could not walk properly for two days, but the view from 3,820 meters up was undoubtedly worth it, and I will never forget this incredible experience.

As always, thank you for reading and see you on the next post!

Pura Vida my friends,
Rebecca Yang

Rebecca Yang is currently a third-year undergraduate student studying Chemistry and Spanish, with an emphasis in Pre-Medicine, at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, but after spending three years in Kansas City, she is proud to call this place home. She is studying abroad for one month over the summer with ISA in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

The Next Hottest Destination

Ya que mi estudio en el extranjero es un programa intensivo de cinco semanas, los estudiantes están tomando hasta 28-30 horas de clases cada semana en la Universidad Veritas. Combinado con una gran cantidad de tarea y proyectos cada noche, hay poco tiempo libre durante todo los días de la semana – por eso, TGIF resuena fuertemente con todos cuando llega el fin de semana.

Nuestro primer viaje con el grupo de ISA estaba en el Volcán Arenal, un viaje de cuatro horas en coche hacia el norte a través del campo, que era un respiro de aire fresco desde el bullicio del centro de San José. Nos quedamos en el hotel Los Lagos, donde podíamos ver el Volcán Arenal fuera de nuestra habitación cada mañana. Durante la noche del viernes, exploramos las exposiciones de vida silvestre del hotel que incluía un jardín de mariposas, granja de hormigas, establos de caballos y un estanque de cocodrilo. También, el hotel tenía aguas termales naturales que nos hicieron sudar en unos pocos minutos, pero mi cuerpo nunca se ha sentido más rejuvenecido después.

Me registró para una excursión de tirolina y montar a caballo por sábado en la mañana, así que el transporte nos recogió en el hotel al sitio de tirolina. Según nuestro conductor, una de sus líneas de cable fue la segunda más larga en el país con 0.65 millas de adrenalina. Volando a través de la selva con el Volcán Arenal en el fondo y Catarata La Fortuna debajo de nosotros fue una experiencia extraordinaria. En algunos puntos, viajaba tan rápido que no podía abrir mis ojos, mientras que en otros cables, casi no llegaba al otro lado (a lo que los instructores de tirolina bromearon y diciendo que necesitaba comer más arroz y frijoles).

Después de doce líneas de cable, tuvimos la oportunidad de visitar la Reserva Indígena Maleku, que está representada por una comunidad indígena pequeñita. Aprendimos sobre su dialecto nativo, la ropa hecha a mano, sus creencias y costumbres culturales, y cómo su obra de arte y artesanía intrincada contribuyen a sus ingresos principales. Terminamos nuestro viaje montando en caballos que fue un desafío a veces. Cuando un caballo comenzaba un trote rápido, otros lo seguían en una carrera loca – necesitabas tener cuidado de evitar las piernas apretadas por los caballos que pasaban mientras agarrabas por la vida.

Por la tarde, nuestro grupo de ISA visitó una granja sostenible, donde proporcionaron generosamente un almuerzo saludable hecho de sus propias cosechas. También, hubo una demostración degustación de caña de azúcar, donde algunos estudiantes giraron a mano una máquina para extraer el jugo del tallo de la caña de azúcar. Gracias a esta experiencia, gané un aprecio más profundo por los beneficios ambientales y de salud de la agricultura orgánica y sostenible.

Como siempre, muchas gracias por leer y nos vemos!

Pura Vida mis amigos,
Rebecca Yang


Since my study abroad is a five-week intensive program, students are taking up to 28-30 hours of classes each week at Universidad Veritas. Combined with a heavy workload of school assignments and projects every night, there is little free time left throughout the week days – which is why TGIF resonates strongly with everyone once the weekend rolls around.

Arenal Volcano

Our first group trip with ISA took us to Arenal Volcano, a four-hour drive up north through the countryside, which was such a breath of fresh air from the hustle and bustle of downtown San Jose. We stayed at Hotel Los Lagos, where we could step outside our room and catch a view of the Arenal Volcano every morning. We had Friday night to explore the hotel’s many wildlife exhibitions that included a butterfly garden, ant farm, horse stables, and even a crocodile pond. The hotel also had natural hot springs that worked up quite a sweat in a matter of a few minutes, but my body has never felt more rejuvenated afterwards.

Natural hot springs


I had signed up for a canopying and horse-back riding tour for Saturday morning, so transportation picked us up from the hotel to the zip-line site. According to our driver, one of their cable lines was the second longest in the country, coming out to 0.65 miles worth of an adrenaline rush. Flying through the jungle with Arenal Volcano in the background and La Fortuna Waterfall right below us was a surreal experience. At some points, I was traveling so fast that I could barely keep my eyes open, while at other cables, I almost did not make it to the other side (to which the zip-line instructors joked that I needed to eat more rice and beans).

Zip-lining over La Fortuna Waterfall

Twelve cable lines later, we had the opportunity to visit the Maleku Village, which is comprised of a very small indigenous community. We were able to learn about their native dialect, hand-made clothing, cultural beliefs and customs, and how their intricate art work and craftsmanship makes up a main source of their income. We ended our tour by riding on horses on the way back, which proved to be quite a challenge at times. When one horse would start a quick trot, others would follow in a mad rush – you had to watch out from getting your legs crushed by passing horses as you held on for dear life.

Organic always tastes better!
Raw sugar cane demo

Later that afternoon, our ISA group visited a sustainable farm, where they generously provided a hearty lunch made from their own homegrown crops. They also had a sugar cane demonstration and tasting, where some of the students hand-cranked a machine to extract the juice from the sugar cane. Through this experience, I gained a more profound appreciation for the environmental and health benefits achieved through sustainable and organic agriculture.

As always, thank you for reading and see you on the next post!

Pura Vida my friends,
Rebecca Yang

Rebecca Yang is currently a third-year undergraduate student studying Chemistry and Spanish, with an emphasis in Pre-Medicine, at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, but after spending three years in Kansas City, she is proud to call this place home. She is studying abroad for one month over the summer with ISA in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.


Goodbye Spain!

Currently, I’m sitting in a very uncomfortable chair in the Madrid Airport waiting for my plane to arrive. I’m going home ya’ll! As amazing as this trip to Spain was, I am so ready to be home and eat chipotle in air conditioning. I feel like living in a different country should have been tougher than it was, but I think I had such a good support group in both my host family and friends that I never really got too homesick. And thanks to Facetime I could talk to my boyfriend whenever I wanted! As far as my Spanish goes, I would say that I definitely understand better and I can get by in conversations with a few key phrases. Personally, I think I learned more at my host family’s house and walking around Granada than I did at school. In class everything is structured and organized, but when you’re having dinner with your family there is no outline or slideshow. You jump around and make jokes. The dinner table was where my Spanish was tested the most.

I finished off my month and a half stay with a trip to Valencia with some friends. We took the overnight bus on the last day of classes and stayed for the past 4 days. There, we visited 2 vineyards, went to the beach, and walked around downtown. It was a perfect way to end the summer!

I would 100% recommend that everyone study abroad in college. Is there any other time in your future that you think you could live in a foreign country for a semester long? Eventually, we’re all going to get “real” jobs and only be able to travel for a week or 2 at a time. So pick up a few extra shifts, cut back on the Starbucks, make it work, and take the leap. No one ever regrets the adventures they take. I sure don’t.

Megan Schwindler is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying English Literature and Spanish. Megan is spending the summer abroad with the UMKC Spanish Program in Granada, Spain.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

Happiest Country in the World?

¿Por qué Costa Rica?
Algunos dicen que es el país más feliz del mundo. Para mí,la primera vez que oí sobre Costa Rica fue durante una de las primeras clases de español que tomé en UMKC. Profesor Hidalgo-Johnson estaba hablando sobre su experiencia del paracaidismo y urigió a todos sus estudiantes a intentarlo mientras todavía somos “jóvenes y sanos”. Mezclada con un trasfondo de nostalgia, su entusiasmo por su patria de Costa Rica incluyó a este país a mi lista de lugares para estudiar en el extranjero al final. Su paisaje diverso que abarca desde las selvas a las montañas hasta los volcanes la hace una huella irresistible en mi corazón por la naturaleza y mi espíritu de aventura.

Durante esta experiencia intercultural, espero tomar parte en la cultura como un modo de vida compartido. Estaba emocionada de descubrir sobre el aspecto del programa ISA de vivir con una familia ya que allí no hay nada más personal que compartir la comida y la conversación debajo el mismo techo.

Traeré un poco de amor local de Kansas City (en la forma de una taza como un regalo pequeño para mi familia anfitrióna) a la tabla porque en mi opinión, las charlas del café son una de las bendiciones más especiales en vida. En toda su simplicidad, hay las oportunidades de descubrimientos que definen la vida y una cierta profundidad de vulnerabilidad dentro de un intercambio que se parece ordinario y cotidiano. Así como los granos de café vienen de una región específica de origen con su sabor y infusión distinta, espero celebrar la diversidad de la vida con personas de orígenes, valores y creencias varias y tal vez, con una taza de café.

Como siempre, muchas gracias por leer y nos vemos!

Pura Vida mis amigos,
Rebecca Yang


Why Costa Rica?
Some say it’s the happiest country in the world. For me, the first time Costa Rica came under my radar was during one of the first Spanish classes I took at UMKC. Professor Hidalgo-Johnson was sharing about her skydiving-experience and encouraged all of her students to try it out while we are still “young and able-bodied”. Mixed with an underlying hint of nostalgia, her enthusiasm about her homeland of Costa Rica ultimately put this country at the top of my list of places to study abroad. Its diverse landscape, spanning from jungles to mountains to volcanoes, makes an irresistible mark on my heart for nature and spirit for adventure.

Throughout this cross-cultural experience, I look forward to taking part in the culture as a shared way of life. I was excited to find out about the home-stay aspect of the ISA program, as there is nothing more personal than sharing food and conversation under one roof.


I will be bringing some local Kansas City love (in the form of a mug as a small gift for my host family) to the table because in my humble opinion, coffee talks are one of the biggest blessings in life. In all of its simplicity, they provide opportunities for life-defining discoveries and a certain depth of vulnerability within a seemingly ordinary, everyday exchange. Just as coffee beans hail from a specific region of origin with their distinctive taste and brew, I hope to celebrate the diversity of life with people of different backgrounds, values and beliefs — and perhaps, even over a cup of coffee.

As always, thank you for reading and see you on the next post!

Pura Vida my friends,
Rebecca Yang

Rebecca Yang is currently a third-year undergraduate student studying Chemistry and Spanish, with an emphasis in Pre-Medicine, at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, but after spending three years in Kansas City, she is proud to call this place home. She is studying abroad for one month over the summer with ISA in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

This Natural Phenomenon Will Surprise You

A las 3:19pm (una hora más o menos), voy a salir del aeropuerto de San Luis a San José, Costa Rica, con escalas en Atlanta, Georgia y Cuidad de México, México. Espero que las horas entre mis vuelos me dé tiempo suficiente para que todo lo decanta: ha pasado mucho tiempo esperando, pero está aquí y está ocurriendo finalmente.

¿Por qué estudiar en el extranjero?
Decidí seguir otro grado en español, porque no sólo funcionará como una ventaja invaluable para facilitar la comunicación con respecto al campo médico, sino que me enamoré del misterio lingüístico que se conoce como el lenguaje. Octavio Paz, un escritor que ganó el Premio Nobel, describió el fenómeno paradójico del lenguaje para incluir tanto la continuidad como la permanencia, la diversidad y la unidad, la variación y la universalidad, todo simultáneamente. Estando en otro país que tiene sus propias características lingüísticas, geográficas y culturales, la primera manera de establecer los puntos en común con alguien es a través del lenguaje. Y nunca deja de fascinarme la cantidad de interacción sensorial y percepción de la mente involucrada en el proceso de aprender un nuevo idioma. Escuchar una conversación en español y descifrarla automáticamente en fragmentos es un paso hacia la transición de la traducción directa a la fluidez del lenguaje.

Poder interactuar con mis compañeros de clase que son hablantes nativos de español ha hecho un gran impacto en mi aprendizaje, pero estar inmerso completamente en un ambiente donde el lenguaje se expresa más allá del aula a través de aplicaciones prácticas será un punto de inflexión. Uno de mis objetivos es dejar de lado el miedo a la incompetencia o el juicio a favor de ver el crecimiento de mis errores y ganar confianza en mis habilidades de hablar en español. Propongo a todos participar en el desafío de toda la vida y la alegría de aprender un idioma nuevo: el espacio para mejorar es sin límites, y lo que es más importante, el lenguaje es algo que nunca se puede robar de ti.

Mis estudias en el extranjero empieza aquí. ¡Muchas gracias por leer y nos vemos!

Pura Vida mis amigos,
Rebecca Yang


I’ll be staying in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica.

At 3:19PM (give-or-take an hour), I will be departing from the St. Louis Airport Lambert Airport to San Jose, Costa Rica, with layovers in Atlanta, Georgia and Mexico City, Mexico. Hopefully, the handful of hours in-between flights will give me enough time to let this all sink in: it has been a long time waiting, but it’s finally here and happening.

Why study abroad?
I decided to pursue another degree in Spanish because not only will it become in invaluable asset in facilitating communication within the health field, I fell in love with the linguistic mystery that is otherwise known as language. Octavio Paz, a writer that was awarded the Nobel Prize, described the paradoxical phenomenon of language to encompass both continuity and permanence, diversity and unity, variation and universality – all simultaneously. Being in another country that harbors its own distinct language, geographic and cultural features, the first point of establishing common ground with someone is through language itself. And it never ceases to fascinate me the amount of sensory engagement and perception of the mind involved in the process of learning a new language. Overhearing a conversation in Spanish and automatically deciphering it into bits and pieces is a step toward transitioning from direct translation to language fluency.

The Costa Rican flag: blue stands for the sky and its many opportunities, as well as perseverance; white stands for peace, wisdom and happiness; red stands for the warmth and generosity of the people.

Being able to interact with fellow classmates who are native Spanish-speakers has made a tremendous impact on my learning, but being fully immersed in an environment where language is conveyed beyond the classroom setting through practical means will be a complete game-changer. One of my goals is to put aside the fear of inadequacy or judgement in favor of seeing growth from mistakes and gaining confidence in my Spanish-speaking skills. I highly encourage everyone to take part in the lifelong challenge and joy of learning a new language: the room for improvement is essentially limitless, and more importantly, language is something that can never be taken away from you.

My study abroad starts here. Thank you for reading and see you soon!

Pura Vida my friends,
Rebecca Yang

Rebecca Yang is currently a third-year undergraduate student studying Chemistry and Spanish, with an emphasis in Pre-Medicine, at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, but after spending three years in Kansas City, she is proud to call this place home. She is studying abroad for one month over the summer with ISA in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

What’s in a name? A LOT!!!

Mientras he viajado por Iberia, he encontrado muchos nombres, más complejos que justo de la nacionalidad. Por supuesto, hay adjetivos como Portugués, Español, y Francés pero mis viajes por España me han aprendido mucho. España es un país muy regional – como los Estados Unidos. Se existen términos muy básicos para referir a alguien y de donde viene esa persona, como Estadounidense o Español; ellos son términos extensos que faltan una descripción verdadera. Creo que términos como ¨Nueva yorquino¨ o “Misurense” funcionen mejor para describir a alguien. Se describe mejor el personaje de la persona. ¡Vamos a mirar a unos pocos de los términos que he encontrado! (Por supuesto, las forms masculinas y femeninas)

While I’ve traveled through Iberia, I have found many names, more complex than just of nationality. Of course, there are adjectives like Portuguese, Spanish, and French but my travels through Spain have taught me a lot. Spain is a very regional country – like the USA. There are very basic terms to refer to someone and where they come, like American or Spanish; they are broad terms that lack a true description. I think that terms like “New Yorker” or “Missourian” work better to describe someone. The personality of the person is best described. Let’s look at a few of the terms that I’ve found! (Of course, the masculine and feminine forms)

Términos extensos / vast terms

  • Spanish – español, española (from Spain)
  • Portuguese – portugués, portuguesa (from Portugal)
  • French – francés, francesa (from France)
  • German – alemán, alemana (from Germany)
  • Italian – italiano, italiana (from Italy)

Nombres regionales / regional names

  • Castilian – castellano, castellana (from Castile)
  • Catalan – catalán, catalana (from Catalonia)
  • Basque – vasco, vasca (from Basque country)
  • Valencian – valenciano, valenciana (from Valencia)
    • [from the city Alicante – alicantino, alicantina <3]
  • Andalusian – andaluz, andaluza (from Andalusia)
  • Galician – gallego, gallega (from Galicia)

Me interesa saber por que algunos de estos términos (de rojo) faltan las vocales finales de las formas masculinas si todas las formas femeninas tienen las finales A’s. ¡Yo supongo que más estudios vengan!

I’m interested to know why some of these terms (in red) lack the final vowels in the masculine forms if all the feminine forms have the final A’s. I guess more studies are coming!

Hasta pronto / Until soon,

Natagnél / Nate

Feliz Julio / Happy July

Natagnél Frisella is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, studying Spanish Language & Literature. Natagnél is traveling through Spain this summer 2017, concluding with the UMKC Spanish Program based at the University of Granada in Southern Spain.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.