Leanne Shinkle - 2013 Program Participant

Why did you choose to study abroad?

I chose to study abroad because before traveling with SPI I had never been outside of the country. I wanted to do it because I love Spanish and learning about different cultures. I also wanted to immerse myself and take the step to travel and engage abroad independently. Studying abroad was a chance for me to grow as a person while learning in more ways than I thought possible.

Volunteer with toddler in Costa Rica

On the street of Leanne’s school, she was shopping after class and a man and his son were conversing with her, an extremely friendly family. The man offered to take a picture of Leanne with his son and he kept chanting to his little boy to give her a kiss. After each kiss his dad would say “otro, otro,” trying to snap the picture at the perfect time. - Photo Courtesy of Leanne Shinkle

Why did you choose Costa Rica over other locations?

I chose Costa Rica as my location for study abroad because of how beautiful the country is. Costa Rica is known to be one of the happiest countries in the world with such simple living, and I wanted to get a taste of that. The people were friendly, the culture was rich, and the experience was unbelievable.

What made you select SPI Study Abroad specifically for your program?

I chose SPI Study Abroad over other high school study abroad organizations because it has a firm history of good reviews, friendly employees that helped me step-by-step, affordable prices, and so many opportunities. What I loved most about SPI was the daily schedule it offered. Every single day we were on the move going to different cities, beaches, and engaging in different activities. Had I just gone to Costa Rica on my own, there is no chance I would have done as much exploring and culture immersion as I did through SPI.

Tell us about your accommodation in Costa Rica.

I shared a room with two other girls from my program, and we lived with an older couple in a small town. The elderly couple always had their grandchildren over who were under the age of 10 and I loved getting to play with the kids. The best part of the housing arrangement was just getting to live in a home with a local family.

Living with a Costa Rican family was the best way to immerse in the culture, and you can’t get that by staying at a fancy resort.

Sunset in Costa Rica

After an exhausting day of fun activities and traveling, the bus driver noticed the sun was setting so he pulled over and they took pictures; beautiful sunset and a perfect way to end an awesome day!

What was the most memorable experience you had while studying abroad?

My most memorable experience I had during my study abroad adventure was the sunset cruise my classmates and I took on our last day. We went on a yacht ride where we snorkeled during the day, ate amazingly delicious Costa Rican dishes, and even got to see two whales swimming side by side with the yacht. We watched the sunset and then we rode back to shore. My classmates and I took the ride back time to reflect on our weeks in Costa Rica, it was an amazing moment I got to share with the girls, but bittersweet that our trip was coming to an end.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in Costa Rica?

The biggest challenge I faced abroad was the language barrier. When I studied abroad, I only had two years of Spanish under my belt so I was intimidated from the start. However, it is amazing how much I already knew about speaking the language; once I got comfortable speaking, it began to flow. At the end of my two weeks, I learned so much Spanish that it put me extremely ahead in my classes in high school.

Volunteers in Costa Rica

At the preschool where Leanne did community service, she got to meet the kids, paint the school, and plant a garden for the kids.

What advice would you give to other high school students interested in studying abroad with SPI?

Do it! SPI was life changing for me; it opened my eyes to so many new things. You will not get this experience with any other study abroad program. If you want to be busy delving into new adventures in an unfamiliar place, SPI Study Abroad can help make that happen.

How have your experience abroad impacted your life at home?

My experience studying abroad has impacted my overall goals in life as well as my day-to-day thinking. All I want to do is travel now, and experience different cultures and experiences, and I have SPI to thank for that. I spend every day thinking of different places I want to go, reflecting on my trip, and I continue to take classes to better my Spanish language skills so I can one day accomplish my dreams of becoming a translator.