Back in Chicago during the spring 2014 semester, a typical day consisted of waking up at 6am, rushing to the train station so I can get on the early but very crowded train, and making it to my first class at 8am. After class, I’d go to my job on campus and get out during the afternoon, leaving the rest of the day for papers and assigned readings. On the two days I didn’t work during the weekday, I had three classes starting from 8am to 12:45pm. My fast pace routine came to a sudden halt when I arrived to Costa Rica. After Spanish class, I suddenly found myself with vast amounts of free time and the constant lingering thoughts of “What should I do next?” or “I don’t know what to do now.” My days felt longer than usual and it was quite odd. It seems, that I wasn’t the only one with these thoughts. Many of us, found ourselves napping way too much or watching hours of Netflix. Though there is absolutely nothing wrong with indulging in some napping or in hours of Netflix, I have realized that free time does not come by very often, it is valuable, and should be enjoyed in various ways. Here are my tips for the next time you find yourself with “too much” free time in a new country.
Learn and practice the language. Buy a book in the language you are studying. This can be an easy, short novel or even a book on grammar rules and typical sayings. You can also practice your speaking skills with your host family.
Read a book! The list of books you have always wanted to read can finally be fulfilled. If you don’t have a list, grab a few books from that pile that has been laying on your desk since forever.
Take a walk and explore your new surroundings. You can venture into your new neighborhood or explore the different cities of your country. Don’t be afraid to be adventurous!
Try a new food dish at the restaurant that has captured your attention. One of my favorite restaurants has been Café Manga, a Japanese anime themed restaurant located in San Pedro.
Sign up for an activity. Some of us have attended zumba classes and yoga classes for about 800 colones each (less than $ 2 dollars). Two compañeras (female classmates) even signed up for a cross fit program.
Do something that you have always wanted to do. My compañera Sage bought a guitar so she can finally learn how to play it.
Go to a museum. There are many different museums in the city of San José.
Document your experiences through writing and photography. Many of us have bought journals or have our own blogging pages.
Check out local cultural events. The biggest one is Costa Rica has been Independence Day!
Simply embrace it. Enjoy the solitude you may encounter and just relax. Take this time to reflect upon the experiences in your life.
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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>