When leaving La Selva Biological Station, I pondered about my past couple of months. I don’t believe my study abroad experience was what I expected and, at first, it was definitely not what I originally wanted. For me studying abroad was a last minute shot in the dark for the last available program, as I needed a change from the status quo of being overworked at UNC. I wanted more of a carefree, travel the world, and meet interesting people experience, and while I definitely experienced some of that, I got a lot more that I did not necessarily want but definitely needed.
I’ve realized that I have not been overly challenged in my life in two separate fields: academics and interpersonal relations. On the academic side, while I have always taken difficult classes and aimed to achieve the highest score possible, I cannot say I have ever put academics as my first priority for an entire semester. This semester has been the most academically challenging in the sense of constantly having to be working and maintaining an academic mindset, which is something I have never had to do.
On the social side of things, I have always been and will always be as extroverted as a person can be. This extroversion has granted me a lot of ease in creating good relations with people and, for the most part, has made interpersonal relations come to me with ease. On the other hand, however, I have never had to spend four months with the same small group of people. This semester has been the most socially challenging as, for almost every day since the middle of January, I have been surrounded by eleven people who I would most likely not be around that much back at school.
What have these challenges gifted me? I worked non-stop for the last two weeks on a research project that I actually felt passionate about. My body ached and my mind was ready to give at any second, but I learned to persevere through the exhaustion and had a hell of an experience at the same time. I developed a research project that I can see myself working on in the future and I felt like I got a glimpse at a side of Costa Rica not many people can say they did.
In the end, no, I did not “go out” every month. I did not have the time of my life. I would not willingly choose to go through a semester similar to this again. What I did get, however, is a better understanding of who I am as a person, an idea of what I personally want to do as a professional in the future, and, most importantly, a maturity and confidence that I never knew I lacked, that will take me anywhere in the future. Thank you OTS.