Junior Tori Hopper recently returned after a five month study abroad program. Hopper left for Palmares, Costa Rica on July 18 and returned to the United States on Dec. 13. Since a young age Hopper had loved traveling and that’s ultimately what led her to wanting to be a part of an exchange.
“I’ve always been pretty interested in traveling and thought it would be really cool to be able to experience new culture in the middle of high school,” Hopper said.
While away, Hopper recognized many differences between the cultures of those in the United States and those in Costa Rica.
“The culture was noticeable different from the US,” Hopper said. “It’s not necessarily a lazy culture, but definitely one which worries more about getting through the day rather than focusing on the future which is a big part of my culture.”
Since the culture was so different it took Hopper a while to adjust to it.
“It was hard to adapt at first since the culture was so much different than the one I had been used to,” Hopper said. “After a while, however, I was able to see the benefits of a culture that some might call ‘lazy’.”
A normal day for Hopper would include waking up, showering, then walking or taking a taxi to school. The classes would change each day and sometimes the teacher for a class just wouldn’t show up for class so the students could leave. The average school day would run from 7-4:30 and after school she would go to the park for a while, then go home to have dinner with her host family.
“Dinner was family time and after dinner my family would usually watch TV or go across the street to spend time with their extended family,” Hopper said.
Hopper lived with two separate families, both within Palmares, during her study abroad. The first family included parents Krishna and Jonathan, and their seven-year-old daughter Amanda. The second family included an uncle, the mother Ingrid, sisters Carolina, 16, and Dayana 21, and Jean Luca, 18. The two families had very different living styles.
“My first family was a lot more well off than my second,” Hopper said, “But I ended up liking the second one better because I had extended family living in two other houses right across the street which is really typical of Costa Rica and this also allowed me to form relationships with other members of my host family.”
Overall Hopper saw this experience as a life changing one and would recommend this experience.
“I would say I would recommend it to someone who’s pretty open minded and interested in learning about new cultures, as well as sharing their own,” Hopper said. “They should also be independent.”
Coming from this experience Hopper not only learned new cultural issues but she has also gained more happiness.
“Being in a third world country and having less possessions than most Americans are used to,” Hopper said. “I would say I’ve still seen more genuinely happy and relaxed people there than I have here. Toward the end I realized maybe this “laziness” wasn’t necessarily being lazy, but choosing happiness and worry-free way of living.”