Matt Lawson - 2014 Program Participant

Ziplining in the rainforests of Costa Rica

Showing off some Western Kentucky pride while ziplining through the foggy and dense rainforests of Costa Rica.

Why did you choose to study abroad?

I have lived in Kentucky my entire life. As much as I love where I have grown, I've always had this desire to experience the world in all its natural and cultural beauty. I began taking Spanish classes in high school and fell in love with the language and the Latin culture. I knew that the only way to truly experience and learn the language and culture was to travel and immerse myself in it. This is why I jumped at the opportunity to go to Argentina and Costa Rica.

What made you select Costa Rica?

I had traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina the year before with Sol Education Abroad and loved it. Buenos Aires is a vibrant urban atmosphere, and I wanted to experience a completely different environment. Sol's program in Costa Rica offered many opportunities to experience the natural beauty of the country, whether it was white water rafting, zip-lining through the rainforest, or just going to the beach. All the while I lived in a smaller town and got a new experience.

White Water Rafting on the Rio Savegre in Costa Rica

Matt had the opportunity to go white water rafting down the Rio Savegre through the middle of the rainforest!

Why did you choose Sol Education Abroad?

I loved the fact that Sol specializes and makes sure it was good at one thing: Spanish
language and cultural immersion. I had studied Spanish in high school and really wanted to build upon what I had learned. The fact that all the Site Directors are locals and experts in the local culture and opportunities available promised that it would be an intimate experience to learn and experience the country. Additionally, all the program staff were extremely friendly and made the application process and study abroad experience very personal, which I loved. It really set the program apart.

Where did you stay in Costa Rica?

While in Costa Rica I lived with a local family in a homestay. It was probably my favorite part about the program. My host mom was so sweet and hospitable, not to mention a great cook. I really felt like I became part of the family. We had family meals all the time and spent all evening laughing and talking in Spanish. It was so memorable and fun.

What was a normal day like as a SOL student in Costa Rica?

In Costa Rica I would wake up to fruit, coffee, and gallo pinto (rice and beans) from my host mom. I would walk to school and have class from morning to early afternoon. Most afternoons and evenings had cultural activities like salsa dancing lessons or cooking classes. If there wasn't anything planned, we had the chance to explore the city or travel to San Jose and explore what was there. I would always have dinner with my host family and we would chat about the day. If I had any homework, I would do it after dinner but there was plenty of time to relax and enjoy the "pura vida" of Costa Rica.

Volunteer English teacher in Costa Rica with local student

Matt and his amigo, Sebastian. He had the opportunity to volunteer doing crafts and teaching English to local elementary school students.

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

I would have to say that white water rafting through the Costa Rican rainforest was the coolest experience I had there. While we were traveling down the river and braving the rapids it started to rain which made the experience all the more epic and adventurous. Not to mention that the surrounding scenery was breathtaking and beautiful.

How have your experiences in Costa Rica impacted your life?

Studying abroad is one of the best decisions I have ever made. It not only opens your eyes to how beautifully diverse the world is, but also shows what unites us as humans. The best part of studying abroad are the relationships and friendships you build with locals and with other students in the program. Not only did I improve in my ability to speak Spanish, I learned to connect with a different culture and appreciate the diversity of the world in which we live.

Would you recommend your Sol Education Abroad’s program in Costa Rica to others?

Definitely! I've been on two of Sol's study abroad programs now and had an amazing experience on both. I love how the focus is on complete immersion in the local culture. This is seen in how the Directors and students get to live in a homestay with a local family. This provides so many opportunities to learn about the culture and do what the locals do. Also, everyone in the program is extremely helpful and friendly and there to make sure that you're experience is smooth, fun, and enriching.