Katelyn in Costa Rica

Katelyn is a sophomore Hunt Scholar and Meadows Scholar, and a member of the University Honors Program, who is majoring in journalism in Meadows School of the Arts and Spanish in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, with a minor in political science. During summer 2012, she is participating in SMU-in-Costa Rica, where she’s hoping to improve her Spanish skills and immerse herself in the culture.

Magical Manuel Antonio

Enjoying Manuel Antonio National Park. We saw so many monkeys!

It’s hard to believe that we only have a week left in beautiful Costa Rica! It will be especially difficult to leave after falling in love with the pristine beaches of Manuel Antonio, a definite contender for the top five most beautiful places in the world.

We were given last weekend free to explore the country. We had countless options to consider: Should we go to the rain forest? Venture to the mountains? But we knew we couldn’t leave Costa Rica without seeing the beach. We asked around and all the locals told us to head to Manuel Antonio, a national park in the town of Quepos on the Pacific coast.

Right after classes on Thursday, all ten of us and two of our “amigos ticos” made the three-hour trip to the seaside and arrived after sunset. But we didn’t let that keep us from a day at the beach. After ditching our bags at the hostel, we went to the beach to dip our toes in the water. At that point, it was easy to tell we were going to have an excellent weekend.

On an early morning walk on the beach. There were no tourists yet— just us and the waves.

The next morning we woke up really early to beat the crowds to the beach. We spent the day at the public beach, where vendors meander among the tourists selling ceramics and snow cones. The waves were pretty big, which made for a fun day of surfing for a few members of the group. The rest of us basked in the sun and soaked up the amazing day.

For dinner we went to “El Avion,” which actually has a converted airplane in it as a bar. Delicious seafood was the perfect way to finish the day.

After dinner, we went dancing at a local spot, which was really fun! We finally got to put the salsa skills we learned in orientation to practice!

On Saturday, we went to the National Park. After hiking through the rain forest for a bit, we arrived at the most gorgeous beach I could have imagined. In contrast to the public beach, the waves were nonexistent, making it easy to swim to the coves and enjoy the water.

We had a simple but delicious picnic lunch of mangoes, avocados, and chips on the beach and watched monkeys steal food from all the sunbathers.

Sunday morning, a few of us woke up at 7 a.m. for a long stroll on the empty beach. It was absolutely gorgeous and not too hot yet.

After our walk, we had just a few hours before heading back to Heredia, so we spent them playing in the waves and building sandcastles.

Probably the best part of the weekend was spending it all together. We had a few hiccups along the way (like not seeing the warning signs and swimming in a crocodile-infested lagoon), but all in all we had a great time getting to know one another in such a stunning setting.

I’m so sad I’ll be leaving Costa Rica in a week, but I’m so glad to be taking the friends I’ve made here back with me.

Pura vida,

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A trip among the trees

No trip to Costa Rica is complete without experiencing the marvels of the rain forest. And there’s no better way to experience it than flying high among the trees in the luscious canopy.

This weekend, we went to the volcano Arenal, which is one of the most perfectly formed and majestic volcanoes on earth. Arenal sits in a thick rain forest, where we spent a day being Tarzan and swinging from tree to tree.

I had tried a zip-line in summer camp, but this wasn’t the average 30-second ride. The course included nine zip-lines, which crisscrossed expansive valleys and weaved between trees.

Some of the rides were really long, so long that you could reach the velocity of a speeding car.

Everyone had the time of their lives. It was scary at first to look down and notice there were treetops that seemed like a mile below, but after the first terrifying drop, it was easy to sit back and enjoy the view of paradise.

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¡Viva Heredia!

In Heredia celebrating the big win!

We’ve been keeping ourselves busy here with new Costa Rican friends and countless excursions. Last weekend, we got to experience what many consider to be the epitome of Central American culture: fútbol.

Last Saturday, we woke up really early to make the trip to Guápiles to see Heredia’s team face Santos in the Costa Rican national championship game. The national fútbol championship here is equivalent to the Super Bowl in the U.S. So, needless to say, everyone from Heredia was extremely excited to see their team make it to the finals.

We went to the final with some of our new Costa Rican friends and a director of our program here. But it wasn’t like a game in the U.S. where you can show up a little bit before it starts and get a good seat — we actually had to get there eight hours early to get into the line!

An SMU student was interviewed by a Costa Rican news station before the game.

But all that waiting was well worth it when the game started. We learned all the fun chants with the Heredian fans, and after a nail-biting last five minutes, we saw Heredia beat Santos, 2-1.

After the game, we charged the field with everyone from the winning team, soaking in this magical moment of Costa Rican culture.

We then made the two-hour journey back to our hometown of Heredia, where the streets were filled with people sporting the team colors of red and yellow. The whole city seemed to be awake and excited, continuing the chants from the game and hugging everyone in site.

All in all, it was an awesome night to consider ourselves Heredians.

Sharing the excitement with our new Costa Rican friends

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Pura Vida

In the center of Heredia, in Costa Rica's central valley

¡Hola de Costa Rica! It’s hard to believe that we’ve already been in beautiful Heredia for a week and a half — this trip is flying by!

Our time here is off to a fabulous start. The people are really friendly, the food amazing, and our classes interesting. We are living with host families here, and mine is really welcoming and helpful! My host mother, or “Mama Tica,” treats me like one of her own and even gave me a welcome gift when I first arrived.

Costa Rica is a really laid-back place. There are a few phrases that people use all the time to express this go-with-the-flow Costa Rican mentality:

Our host university, La Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica, in Heredia

1)   “Pura Vida” — “Life is good”… You can say it whenever you want. If someone asks you how you are, you can say, “Pura vida.” It’s like saying you have no complaints, no worries.

2)   “Cero estrés” — “No stress”… As the ticos say, there’s no reason to worry in Costa Rica because everything’s going to go well.

3)   “Tranquilo” — basically “Be calm,” or “Don’t worry”…. Ticos use this ALL the time. If you ask for water, bump into someone and apologize, arrive late to class, you will promptly be told “Tranquilo.”

Basically, the motto of Costa Rica is “No worries, be happy,” which is pretty easy to abide by.

The cathedral in my town of San Rafael. We are living with host families in quaint towns, and in the middle of mine is this grand, beautiful church.

¡Hasta luego!

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