November 29, 2020

Going Abroad With Purpose – Exploring Costa Rica

Alex Montiero and the Latin American Studies Program cohort touring Costa Rica. Courtesy of Alex Montiero.

By Alex Montiero ’18

When talking with Laura Carmer about the potential of studying abroad, I told her that I had to have an immersive semester – full culture, language, experience. She told me to look no further than the Latin American Studies Program (LASP), and she could not have been more spot on.

From my understanding (and experience), LASP is a special abroad program. Between the five courses that we take, we cover a lot of information and a lot of learning.

All the students first take Spanish Language, Perspectives on Latin America, and the Regional Study courses. We practice our Spanish in small groups, as separated by both a verbal and a written pre-examination, and as a collective get exposed to special speakers, presentations, and short trips around the country within the other two classes.

Halfway through the semester, we move into an intensive three-week concentrations study (three options to choose from) and conclude the program with a three-week community immersion/internship period.

The semester is designed in such a way as to expose students to as much language, history, culture, and life in Costa Rica/Latin America today as possible, while also giving students the opportunity to enjoy their time in one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

The program itself is incredible, and the people in charge – Javier, Britney, Debbie – for sure know what is going on and what works for the students.

That’s not to say that being abroad isn’t hard. There have been times where I have found myself thinking about the long, happy walk from the Hill to Jenks, wondering how we got speakers like Tim Tebow to come to campus, curious how many times Tom has said “daddy” during chapel, and complaining about all the other Gordon-isms.

Not only is it weird to think about that happening regardless of who’s abroad and who’s not, but it quickly settles in that while you’re away growing, changing, and evolving into who Christ wants you to be, the same is happening back at home with the people you love.

It’s a struggle every time you get asked “How’s being abroad?” or “How’s everything going?” because you want to throw your entire experience at them and share and pour and all that. But you can’t just do that – it isn’t the same to try and explain. It isn’t the same to talk about it or to show pictures and videos. To know, you’ve got to know, and to know, you’ve got to come.

I was on the fence for a while about studying abroad, but the decision to leave home, comfort, my culture, my Nick’s Roast Beef and Cherry Hill ice cream and go 2300 miles away was and continues to be so very worth it.

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