Margo Bailey - 2014 Program Participant

study abroad students at La Fortuna waterfall in Costa Rica

Margo with friends at La Fortuna waterfall on an excursion hosted by Sol.

Why did you choose to study abroad?

I chose to study abroad because I was a travel-lover searching for a sense of independence. I had traveled plenty of times with my family, but by attending a nearby university, I realized I had spent no more than three weeks on my own. I wanted a fun experience that would cause me to grow up, and studying abroad was my go-to choice to accomplish this.

What made you select Costa Rica over other destinations?

I originally wanted to go to Guatemala for a couple weeks in the summer, but my mom asserted it was too dangerous. I really loved Spanish, and I wanted to select a Latin American country that she would be comfortable with. Costa Rica just seemed to be the perfect fit. It has a wide-variety of climates, a clear form of Spanish, tons of outdoor activities, and has a great rating with the U.S. Department of State.

Treehouse hostel on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica

Laura’s bed at a treehouse hostel on the Pacific coast. The bed was moist all night, but you could not beat the sound of the forest at night. It put any of those Forest Visions CD’s to shame!

Why did you choose Sol Education Abroad over other study abroad organizations?

I was in between Sol and another study abroad program in Costa Rica, but Sol had better ratings across the board and was more affordable. 

What were your housing arrangements like in Costa Rica?

In Costa Rica I lived in a small barrio near Heredia center. I lived alone with an older woman for the first three weeks of my stay, and it was great. I was forced to learn so much by watching TV, talking, and cooking with my Mama Tica. There were other students who lived nearby, so I never felt alone and always had friends to walk to school with.

What was a typical day like as a student in Costa Rica?

I would wake up, eat the breakfast my Mama Tica had prepared for me, attend class from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. (with a break in between), walk back for lunch, participate in program activities, go to the gym or hang out, have dinner, and either relax or explore with my group of friends at night. 

Study abroad students posing on the beach at Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Modeling on the beach at Manuel Antonio.

What was the most memorable experience you had during your time abroad?

I’m not an adventurer when it comes to daring activities. I have trouble going on kiddie-coasters and waterslides, nevertheless I still went zip lining and white water rafting! Coasting thousands of feet above the air was a moment in which I realized, “Hey, maybe I’m not doomed to be a scaredy-cat my whole life.” Since then I’ve been much more apt to try new things, take a few more chances and go on a roller coaster.

What was the biggest challenge you faced abroad?

Traveling without Sol. My friends and I would go off on our own some weekends, and it’s a lot harder to travel without a coach bus. Our experience was a lot of scrambling to catch the right buses and boats. After we got on said buses and boats we sat there wondering if this was, indeed, the bus that was going to take us to the beach and not some little neighborhood in the middle of the country. Navigating Costa Rica was difficult and frustrating at times, but we always ended up safe at home by the end of the weekend.

Study abroad students celebrating Costa Ricas World Cup win

Margo and friends celebrating a win for Costa Rica in the World Cup Costaricenses shared their flag and eagerly jumped into the shot.

What advice would you give to other UConn students interested in studying abroad in Costa Rica?

Check out Sol! It really is the best value study abroad program for your money. The program dates also tend to be more appealing to all students. By breaking up the winter and summer into three week sessions, students can pick and choose when they want to study. Additionally, you have students from all over the country coming in and out every three weeks. I was able to meet friends from across the country that I still keep in touch with today.

What are the top reasons you'd want to go abroad again?

I want to refine my Spanish. Six weeks was enough time to get comfortable speaking, but it certainly did not iron out all my errors in production and comprehension of the language.

How has your study abroad experience impacted your life?

Studying abroad has impacted my life immensely. I do not think a week passes where I do not think about my time in Costa Rica. Reflecting on it brings a smile to my face and a feeling of accomplishment that I can function away from friends and family. Previously, I had always worried about being homesick when I would have to take jobs far away in the future. Now I feel confident traveling alone and discovering friends and adventures wherever I travel. 

Baby monkey at a Tucan/Wildlife Animal shelter in Costa Rica

The cutest baby monkey Margo has ever seen! Her group had the chance to meet Noelia at a Tucan/Wildlife animal shelter.

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

I am going abroad again! I leave for a full semester in Spain with a Uconn program. Costa Rica was the perfect preparatory trip for me—I was there for six weeks—and helped me prove self-sufficiency to my parents and myself. You can follow my times in Spain (and Costa Rica) on my blog (it will be up and running again within the month).

Did you experience any kind of reverse culture shock when you came back to the US?

No - I just missed my friends who were all over the country

If you could go on another Sol program which one would you choose?

Argentina. It looks like a mini-Europe in South America—everything about it appeals to me.