As someone who has rarely traveled abroad, packing for 4 months was quite difficult. I realized buying the biggest luggage was a huge mistake. Though a big luggage allows for more room, this quite often leads to an overweight luggage. This is exactly what happened when I was checking in my luggage at the airport. My luggage was at 75 pounds and though I lowered the weight to 70 pounds, United Airlines charged me $225.00 for an overweight luggage. Some tips for first time travelers, pack lightly and buy travel size toiletries that can last for at least a week. Costa Rica has many of the toiletries sold in the United States. I recommend a medium size luggage, 1 carry-on luggage, and a backpack. If needed, another carry-on luggage will also work. Having some extra space inside a luggage is great for souvenirs you will want to bring back for friends and family.
My first week in Costa Rica has been an orientation week filled with various activities. There are 10 of us in the program and we are all staying in Santo Domingo de Heredia, Heredia. Santo Domingo is a county and Heredia is 1 of the 7 provinces in Costa Rica. The next day after my arrival, we explored the county of Santo Domingo and had our first traditional Costa Rican dish, called a Casado. This typical dish includes rice, black beans, plantains, salad, and an optional entrée that may include chicken, beef, pork or fish. During this day, we got our introduction to colones which is the Costa Rican currency. On Tuesday, we explored the city of San José and rode the bus for the first time. The cost of a bus varies but for our trip to San José, the cost was 430 colones which is about 80 cents in the U.S. In San José, we checked out the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum and afterward had some delicious coffee.
During this week, we also checked out two universities. The first was the National University of Costa Rica (UNA) located in the city of Heredia, Heredia. This is where some us will be taking the required Spanish course of the IES Abroad program. The second was Earth University and it is for students taking the Sustainable Development: Integrating Community, Entrepreneurship and Natural Resources course. The diversity of Earth University is amazing, there are several students from Latin America, Africa, and the United States.
We ended our orientation week with zip lining in San Luis de San Ramon in the province of Alajuela! As someone who has not been on a roller coaster, this was not easy but I decided to let go of the fear and live in the moment. It was an amazing feeling and the view of the tropical rainforest was incredible. Never did I imagine myself ever doing something like zip lining! I am very excited for what awaits me these next four months!
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<div><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Hello! My name is Sergio Cueto and I was born in the city of Juarez, Chihuahua located in Mexico. I came to Chicago when I was two years old and currently reside in the Logan Square neighborhood of the city. I am an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, majoring in Latin American and Latino Studies with a minor in Sociology. I am also a volunteer for the Chicago Latino Film Festival. I love photography, films, reading, writing, video games, and spending time with friends and family.</span></div>