Carly Kovatch - 2015 Program Participant

Rafting down Rio Savegre in Costa Rica

Rafting down Rio Savegre with my Sol mates

Why did you decide to study abroad?

I applied to study internationally for a couple of reasons. First of all, traveling is my absolute passion. I am so intrigued by different cultures and different ways in which mother nature works. I had heard that Costa Rica was beautiful and I am in love with the ocean, therefore, Costa Rica was my top choice!

Secondly, I decided to study internationally because it was about to be a very lonely and boring summer. My friends were staying in their college towns taking classes and I was the only one that was going to be in my hometown suburb of Chicago working all summer. I was craving an adventure in the midst of working long hours.

Why did you choose Sol Education Abroad in Costa Rica?

I heard great reviews about Sol Education and all of the staff that helped me get through the application process were so helpful and happy to help. However, one of the reasons why I chose to go to Costa Rica is because it seems like so many people travel abroad or study abroad in Europe. I wanted to branch out and do something totally different! On top of that, I am drawn to the beach and tropical weather, therefore, Costa Rica was a perfect option.

La Fortuna Waterfall in Costa Rica

La Fortuna waterfall

What was your favorite part about Heredia? 

The best part about the location of Heredia is that it is the most central you can get in Costa Rica. Because of that, you could basically go anywhere you want since Costa Rica isn't too big, it made traveling easy and not take very long, whereas if the location of the study abroad program was on the west Coast, it might take a long time to get to the east coast on an excursion. Everything was equidistant from the Central Valley. Plus, being surrounded by mountains called for an amazing sunset and great views from ULatina.

What made your program “one-of-a-kind”?

I believe that I really did meet my "sol mates" through this experience. Sol Education does a lot of activities and excursions together, therefore, I got extremely close with my group of about 35 people. I got to know everyone by the first week of the program, which allowed me to get to know people on a deeper level throughout the next couple of weeks. My experience in Costa Rica would not have been nearly as fun and as special to me without my Sol Mates.

How did the local staff support you throughout your program?

The local staff were absolutely amazing throughout the whole trip! They treated us like adults and trusted us to be safe. This allowed everyone to really respect and listen to the staff, since they gave us our freedom and their trust. I know for a fact that they would have done anything for us! They are so loving and caring!

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently during your time in Costa Rica? 

When we took an excursion to Manuel Antonio National Park, they told us specifically not to drink the water there because since we were on the beach, we weren't used to drinking tap water, and could get really sick. I made the mistake of not buying enough water to last me the weekend, so I got extremely dehydrated on the beach. I wish I would have brought more water bottles! It ruined dinner for me because I was so dehydrated that I didn't feel well at all. However, after I took a little nap after dinner I felt well and ready to watch the thunderstorm along the horizon of the beach, which was one of the most beautiful moments I have ever experienced.

Peace, Love, Joy, and Life sign in Costa Rica

"Costa Rica is peace, love, joy, life"

What was a normal day like for you in Costa Rica?

Every day in Costa Rica was a busy, but relaxing day. My roommate would wake up around 7 a.m. and our Mama Tica would have breakfast ready by 7:15 a.m. After our gallo pinto and huevos, we got ready for school and went to our advanced Spanish class from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m., with a 15 to 20 minute break each day.

My Mama Tica would give my roommate and I a packed lunch each day to eat after class. After we ate lunch in the outdoor cafeteria, a group of us would either go do a cultural activity (coffee tours, latin dancing class, traditional cooking class, city tours, etc.), go to the public pool if it was nice out, or just go do our own thing in downtown Heredia. However, on Thursdays, we volunteered, either playing with little kids or helping out at the dog shelter.

My roommate, my Tico Family, and I ate around 7 p.m. each night, so we would all meet back up for dinner and cafecita, which is a Costa Rican tradition of drinking coffee and chatting; it actually translates into "coffee date". Some nights after dinner, my roommate and I would go out after dinner and meet some Sol Mates to watch an NBA Finals game or a Costa Rican fútbol game. All in all each day was different and fun with lots of free time to explore!

What was your favorite thing to do in your free time? 

SWIMMING! Every weekend was an excursion through Sol that always included some sort of swimming. Whether it was a beach day on the Pacific, rafting, cliff jumping, waterfall swimming, every day involved a bathing suit. One of my favorite memories was we were all under the waterfall just laughing so hard, jumping off the rocks, taking every moment in. I did not have a care in the world!

What was your housing arrangement like? What did you like best about it?

I lived with a host family and I would not have done it any other way. It was great to have a roommate, whom I shared a room and bathroom with. My roommate and I had the best chef of a Mama Tica! We loved trying the traditional Costa Rican cuisine (which included a lot of rice and beans) and we loved helping our Mama Tica prepare meals and making fresh fruit juice from guayaba (guava) trees outside.

Other than experiencing real Costa Rican meals, I learned so much from my Tico Family that I could not have learned anywhere else. I got the full experience living in a Costa Rican town with a family who has lived there their whole lives. I got close with the granddaughter, Camila, and she was extremely smart and taught me so much about the culture.

I know I would regret it if I didn't live with a host family! I am very glad I did and very happy with my experience.

Sunset at Manuel Antonio Beach in Costa Rica

Sunset at Manuel Antonio Beach

Now that you're home, how has your time in Costa Rica impacted your life?

The Costa Ricans live the pura vida lifestyle, which is a very relaxed, forgiving, calm lifestyle. The Sol program really emphasized how important pura vida is to their culture. It can be used for greetings, good-bye's, "all good", basically anything. Pura vida has taught me to be a more relaxed and less stressed person. I have been a lot more positive and happy with this very forgiving and relaxed way life. I love what Costa Rica has taught me, factually and spiritually!