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To Study or To Travel? That is the Question.

King Henry III’s round table replica found in Winchester Great Hall.
Winchester Cathedral

I think I’ll only get to take four books home– weight restrictions and all that. But I’ve made up for my disappointment by buying a wooden sword and tiny catapult/pencil sharpener. The second week of the program we were able to take an amazing tour of Jane Austen’s house, and Winchester Cathedral and Great Hall! I technically should’ve brought my homework along, but how could I write an essay surrounded by so much history?

The tutorial system of education, however, does NOT disappoint. It is amazing to have a class with just three other students and one faculty member. While I am beginning to adore my tutor, I’m still quite biased toward UMKC professors (shout out to Doc and DJ)! I can only imagine what kind of learning I’d be able to achieve if I had access to this system in the states. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to learn about myself and grow my study habits by finding a new system that works well for me. I can’t wait to implement some of the teaching style when I’m a professor.

Jane Austen’s House in Chawton
The idyllic English country side near Chawton Manor

I may be a literature student, but there are yet words I’ve not encountered. I believe those are the ones I’d need to accurately describe the beauty of this place. For now, I think I will go with: My heart is full and my head dreams for more.

 

 

 


Ashley Silver is a senior at the University of Missouri — Kansas City studying English Literature. Ashley will spend the summer semester abroad with the IFSA-Butler program in Oxford, England.

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.

Small City Dreams

Ye gods but Oxford is beautiful. I’ve been here for one whole hour and I am already in love. I’m staying in the dorms in Magdalen College; it’s the one with its own deer park. Can you imagine UMKC having a deer park in the middle of Kansas City? That would be wild. Don’t get me wrong, I love our quad, but there’s a distinct lack of deer. 

London’s West End has some great shows!

It is SO much quieter here than in central London. I had to stay at a hotel near Tottenham Court Road for the first couple days, just to get situated with my IFSA program. London is BUSY BUSY BUSY GO GO GO!!! There’s a constant flow and irregular heartbeat to the city that was very new to me. I can completely understand why people choose to make it their home. The tall buildings and narrow winding streets hid treasures around every corner. We took a VERY long walking tour and I got to see things I’d only read about in Dumas books. But, as I’ve lived in Kansas City for most of my life, it was a bit too much close quarters for me. I’m VERY glad to have learned that about myself before I committed to living in London or a similar big city. 

The deer get right up close to my window!

Oxford, on the other hand, is so far exactly what I wanted it to be. The buildings are shorter, the birds are louder, and there is grass to lay in. Also, some castles and the Hogwarts dining hall. But, I’m really ready to just settle into school here. The tutorial system of education is new to me and I am greatly looking forward to experiencing it. I have also brought a half empty suitcase that I’m looking forward to filling with books!

 

 


Ashley Silver is a senior at the University of Missouri — Kansas City studying English Literature. Ashley will spend the summer semester abroad with the IFSA-Butler program in Oxford, England.

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 Even is Time?

I have no idea how long a month is. I mean, I know how long a month is. But I don’t know how long a month is. Time is weird and it doesn’t make sense to me. There are only three times: right now, the far off future, and never. Hence why I’m sitting in the airport writing this blog post like I should’ve done a week ago. My friends keep telling me a month is a really long time, that I’ll have SO much time to see EVERYTHING in England. I just keep telling them I have homework. Because, again, time is hard and I do not have a good grasp on how long a month is. Also, I’m taking 11 credits in one month, which genuinely seems like a lot. 

I know we are supposed to talk about our plane trips, but… ok so from MCI to Georgia was like, an hour and a half? And that’s how far my cousin’s house in Iowa is. So Georgia is a close as Iowa. The flight to England is 8hrs and that’s how far Colorado was, so England is like going to Estes Park for me. 

I guess what I’m getting at is: if you have a study abroad trip, don’t worry about how long you’ll be there or how far away from home it is. Time and distance are completely meaningless and incomprehensible. 


Ashley Silver is a senior at the University of Missouri — Kansas City studying English Literature. Ashley will spend the summer semester abroad with the IFSA-Butler program in Oxford, England.

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 Joys of Hiking

Tomorrow it will have been 2 months since I left the United States and landed in Spain! 2 MONTHS! I can hardly believe how fast this semester is going. Midterms are just around the corner and then after that it’s a mere 5 weeks until finals! When studying abroad for a semester, you think you have so much time, but in reality it really does zip by.

Anywhere you are – traveling, moving to a new city, at school, at home, it is important to find something that fills your heart and that makes you feel connected with your environment. For me this semester that something has been hiking. It never fails to make me feel at peace and rejuvenated. Granada’s population is more than 230,000 inhabitants, whereas my hometown, Liberty MO, has roughly 31,000. Not only is the population greater in Granada but also the city is much more condensed. You can easily see from the city by walking in 1-2 hours, but Liberty is much more spread out than that. Additionally, I live in an apartment, with my host mom and roommate, that is about the size of my main floor at home in Missouri. It gets to feeling a little crowded at times, in the streets and at my host home.

When I need some space to myself, hiking is a lifesaver. I don’t dislike the city or my apartment, but there is nothing quite like the silence, solitude, fresh air, and the openness and freedom found in the mountains. No traces of cigarette smoke or exhaust are smelled. The air is crisp and inviting. The view of the large mountains on the horizon and the tiny cars of the city in comparison remind you just how small you are, how small your problems are, and how much more there is in the world beyond your minuscule and often clouded perspective.

I can’t express how much I love the mountains and the joy that they bring me! There are no mountains in Missouri, which may be why I love them so much: it’s extra special when I am near them. I take every opportunity I can here to explore the vast trails of the mountains while I have them in my backyard. From my apartment to the start of the trails is about a 45 minute walk; at home it’s a 9 hour drive to Colorado to find the best mountains. I am so grateful to be studying where I am.

What I have particularly enjoyed is the two times my friend and I went hiking at 6:30 in the morning to watch the sunrise over the mountains. It is truly magical. For starters, the walk through the city to the mountains is quite tranquil: the only people in the street are those returning home after a night out at the club (it’s very common to stay out all night here… I can’t keep up!) When we get to the mountains, I love how the sun first lights up the surrounding peaks before fully revealing itself to you. After hiking for an hour or two, my friend and I are of course very sweaty. As we sit and wait for the light to break over the peaks, our sweat is drying and it is quite chilly. Through this experience I realized how often I take the sun for granted. As my friend and I were shivering from the brisk wind and cool air, we jokingly contemplated would happen if the sun just decided not to rise that day: we would miss out on the beauty that it brings with it and we would also still be very cold. When the sun finally shines over the crests, I instantly feel its warmth and began to thaw. Mmm, I could just bask in the sun all day. With the sunrise, the world rises around us. What a treasure is the new day that the sun brings. And in the mountains it is even more magical.

I didn’t expect to be able to write so much about hiking, mountains and nature, and I could definitely go on. However, I will conclude with a thought I had on one of my hikes. This activity lends itself well to somewhat cheesy (yet profound) metaphors for life, and I love that. Here is my most recent one:

When hiking, it’s okay, and even encouraged, to look back at how far you’ve come and all that you’ve passed through. But if you turn around and walk back the way you came, focusing too much on that path (your past), you will never know what views and experiences lie ahead, where life will take you moving forward. Occasionally when hiking, through the mountains and through life, you will get lost and you’ll be forced to go back and retrace your steps (to spend a short time in the past), but this is only so that you can find a better path forward the next time around.

Go out and experience the nature around you! Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you.


Camille Meeks is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Psychology and Languages & Literature 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.

It’s not goodbye, it’s a see ya later

It’s been two weeks since I got back from Argentina. I sometimes forget that I don’t need to constantly speak Spanish. Driving felt weird as well since I was constantly walking to get to places while abroad instead of driving. Whenever I have driven around since returning home, I have been more cautious, especially on the highway. I kept worrying if I was driving in the center and not merging into the other lanes correctly. I still remember what the highway was like in Argentina. The memory haunts me from driving. I kind of miss walking around to get places. Everything was so conveniently located since most places were all close to each other.  As soon as I got back to the U.S, I ate my favorite food every day until my stomach could burst. I gained some weight as well. I was kind of disappointed by how much I gained.

I can’t really tell if I experienced any culture shock since I got back or if I am currently experiencing it. My daily routine has definitely changed. My eating habits have been changed as well. Argentina was experiencing winter at that time and didn’t have many fruits and vegetables available for purchase. Host families will not buy a lot of vegetables and fruit due to the high cost of seasonal produce. Luckily I was able to receive plenty of nutritious food from my host mom. She was a nutritionist. Her food was amazing and was better than the food that I found outside the home. I have been making adjustments and changes throughout my return. I definitely think that I have learned a lot from my study abroad experience. For example, I think I improved in listening to Spanish. I wished that I was able to study abroad longer and improve my skills more. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to go study abroad and travel by myself. I wouldn’t have done it without the support from my family and friends. There were many difficult and happy times throughout my study abroad trip as I was able to explore a new country and eat different types of food. If I had an opportunity to do this again, I definitely would. Hopefully, later in the future, I will be able to visit Argentina again and explore more cities and landmarks. My journey of studying abroad ends here but I will cherish these memories until I die. There are not many people who have the opportunity to study abroad and therefore I am thankful for this opportunity and hope others have an opportunity like I did.


Julie Jeong is currently a freshman at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Chemistry, Entrepreneurship, and Spanish. Julie will spend the summer with the UMKC Spanish Program in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She plans to attend UMKC’s Dental School after her undergraduate study. She plans to use Spanish in her career as a future dentist who strives to help patients and eliminate miscommunications.

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.

Study Abroad Fail 1/?

In preparing for my trip, I have been told time and time again that study abroad is about failing, about getting lost and finding the way back, about enjoying when things don’t go as planned. I figured these character-building failures would not begin until I was actually in-country, or at least the airport. As it turns out, I experienced my first #studyabroadfail while still at home in U.S.

The Plan: drive home from Kansas City to Illinois on Wednesday evening, spend time with my family, fly out on Friday afternoon

The Hitch: at 9:57 Thursday morning, I realized I had left my passport in my Kansas City apartment

I have always been a relentlessly organized, obsessively over-prepared person. I had packed my bags a week in advance, crossed everything off my to-do lists in my pristine bullet journal, and was excited to spend two days relaxing at home with my family before taking off. It took a full 30 seconds for me to accept that I had actually committed the monumental mistake of forgetting my most important travel document in a shoe box 287 miles away.

My mother and I promptly abandoned our plans for the day in favor of a 9-hour round-trip drive to Kansas City. She was remarkably unflustered about it, reminding me in her typical motherly fashion that “at least we remembered today instead of tomorrow, two hours before your flight.” This reminder helped to decrease the frequency of my self-deprecating exclamations that inevitably punctuated our drive. (She did, however, immediately regret her comment during breakfast about hoping to go on a road trip soon.)

Our impromptu road trip actually provided an excellent opportunity for us to spend time together before my departure. The long, tedious, uneventful drive across the entire state of Missouri gave us plenty of time to catch up, argue about politics, and jam out to the Hamilton soundtrack. Though I think we both would have preferred hanging around the house in our pajamas and grabbing lunch and coffee at my favorite hometown spots, the drive was comfortingly reminiscent of the hours we used to spend in our beloved Mighty Prius when she drove me to lessons, rehearsals, and summer camps while I snoozed or did homework in the passenger seat.

In the end, this seemingly huge mistake actually worked out okay; I retrieved my passport with plenty of time to spare and got to spend some quality time with my mom. This pre-departure mistake showed me that it is okay to fail, that mistakes can be fixed, and that it is possible to enjoy the journey that these failures bring. I’m definitely ready to relish in all the mistakes and failures that my time abroad will inevitably include.


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.

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.

 

Study Abroad: The After Party

Join us to unpack your experience with other returning students and reflect on the impact of study abroad on your life in an informal setting. PLUS you will:

  • Learn how to best market your international experience to future employers
  • Understand how to navigate reentry and tools for success
  • Discover how you can volunteer, study abroad again or work/teach (often for pay)
    after graduation!

 

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

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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.