Brittany Beene - 2014 Program Participant

A view of the Costa Rican countryside

Check out that view!

What inspired you to go abroad?

One thing that inspired me to travel abroad is the importance of being a woman of color and being abroad. I truly feel that my experience could inspire other persons of color to travel and to have that experience of immersing oneself into a different culture.

What made you pick CISabroad?

I loved the fact that CISabroad was extremely affordable and offered everything I was looking for in a program. I was able to explore Costa Rica, take intensive Spanish courses, and live with a host family for the duration of my experience.

What was your favorite part about Costa Rica?

My favorite part of my host country was the overall lifestyle of the people. Pura Vida is a widespread lifestyle that teaches individuals to live life to the fullest and without regrets. The culture made me evaluate the way I was living my life and completely changed my outlook and journey.

What made your study abroad experience unique?

How I was viewed truly made my experience unique. Being a black woman is something I was proud of before studying abroad, and traveling to Costa Rica made my pride even stronger. The people of Costa Rica viewed me as something unique and beautiful because of my skin. The constant adoration and appreciation was positively overwhelming and truly helped me to embrace the diversity that I represented.

How did you like the local CISabroad staff?

Local staff was amazing. They answered any and all questions and provided that extra support that the students need during their stay.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I wish I would have saved more money and explored more parts of Costa Rica.

A beach in Costa Rica

Beach Life

Describe your typical day in Costa Rica.

A typical day would consist of me eating breakfast with my roommates and host family, then heading to morning Spanish classes. After class, we would head for lunch at a nearby café or restaurant and practice our Spanish with the neighborhood residents. Next, we would possibly explore downtown (oh, the markets!) or go to the mall to hang out and bond with one another. Later, I would eat dinner with my family and talk about my day and practice everything we have learned during our Spanish courses. The night typically ended with homework being done as a group or working on a class project.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

In my free time, I enjoyed cooking with my host mom, going to free dance classes, traveling to different parts of Costa Rica, and experiencing the nightlife.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

I had four other roommates and we had our own house that was connected to our host family's home. The best part was that we were able to have our privacy when needed, but still be able to bond with our family.

What is one thing every participant should know before arrival?

Be prepared to practice your Spanish and be open-minded. Life in Costa Rica may be very different than life in the United States.

What was the hardest part about studying abroad?

The hardest part of studying abroad had to be the elimination of your daily routine. Living in a new country, many times, the things I did at home, I wasn’t able to do in Costa Rica. At home, I live on my own, so I do as a please on my own timeline. Because I lived with my host family and went to school, I had to follow a brand new routine that worked around others’ schedules.

A fountain in downtown San Jose, Costa Rica

Downtown San Jose

What surprised you most about Costa Rica?

There is a ton of PDA (Public Display of Affection) in Costa Rica. They are definitely not afraid to show the love they have for one another. Definitely takes some time getting used to, people loving on one another so publicly.

How difficult was it to communicate with locals?

Personally, it was quite easy for me to speak with locals. Partly because I already spoke the Spanish language before I arrived to Costa Rica. The other part is that, because I am a black woman with a slightly darker brown complexion, people would approach me and ask a number of questions. The students were a little different. The Costa Rican students at the university we attended were a little more closed off, and it was a little challenging to connect with them.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before spending a semester abroad in Costa Rica?

I wish I would have known to pack more hair products. Seriously, for my type of hair texture, I need certain products for my hair to remain moisturized and healthy. A lot of the black women that were in Costa Rica had a similar issue finding products that worked well with our hair and the heat from the Costa Rican sun. Luckily, we were able to find a hair shop within the mall that specializes with our kind of hair.

How has studying abroad made a lasting impact on your life?

I have changed completely since my time abroad. My appreciation for life has changed drastically and I am more aware of others. Studying abroad also helped me to find my passions and to enter into the field of international education. My passion now is to promote studying abroad to underrepresented groups and to ensure that all students have the privilege to study abroad.

Would you recommend CISabroad to others? Why?

YES! CISabroad was absolutely amazing for each part of my trip. From marketing/outreach, all the way to re-entry, they were organized and provided immense support for me. They are able to keep constant communication and ensure that their students have the best experience.

If you could study abroad again, where would you go?

My absolute dream country is Cuba. This country has a strong mixture of different cultures and diverse hues of skin that mesmerizes me. It is a country within Latin America, but still has strong cultural ties to West Africa. I feel like Cuba is a country that is part of my black ancestry. Plus, a lot of its historical sites are still intact and well preserved, which sometimes is hard to find in different countries.