Revisiting the ‘Pura Vida’ lifestyle, the Costa Rican culture

Amanda Kleinmann (second from right) and the rest of her class pose for a picture in Central San Jose.

By Amanda Kleinmann

I chose to go on this trip because I fell in love with Costa Rica while studying there for three months in the Fall of 2016. This time, however, I had a purely academic mindset to practice and learn as much Spanish as I could. While studying abroad in Costa Rica for eight days with a host family, we surrounded ourselves in the Spanish language and Costa Rican culture, so we could enjoy everyday conversation with our “mama ticas” (host moms), locals and each other.

Our group, along with Maria Villalobos, associate professor of Spanish, arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica, on March 11, and we were picked up by our mama ticas. Each day they cooked us a variety of typical Costa Rican foods for breakfast and dinner, such as gallo pinto, plátanos maduros (sweet plantains), yucca, fresh juices and exotic soups.

For the first half of the week, we had Spanish classes taught by Villalobos. We presented unique items we found in a local food market, wrote about each day’s experiences, expectations, and highlights. After class on Monday, while the others went zip lining, I took the opportunity to visit my previous host family from last semester. It was fun showing them how much Spanish I’ve learned and how much I’ve grown as a person in such a short period of time. After classes on the other days, we went to the local food and artisan markets. The rest of the week was spent in Tamarindo, Guanacaste, in the northern part of Costa Rica by the beach, learning about the ecosystem and surfing.

Costa Rica expanded my mindset — I have gained more patience and become more accepting of myself and others. However, I still struggled with reverse culture shock in adapting back to my environment. Being in a tranquil country for three months and returning home makes people in the states seem overly critical; it’s difficult to adjust. In Costa Rica, I’ve seen how “Pura Vida” (“to have a pure life with no worries”) is not just a saying; it’s a way of life used in many greetings to mean “no worries” or “living a pure life.”


Originally printed in the 3/29/17 edition. 

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