Michael Martinez - 2014 Program Participant

Tropical coastal view in Costa Rica

Beautiful view from one of the homestays

Why did you decide to study abroad?

In school I felt like I wasn’t utilizing Spanish to the fullest of my ability. I felt like the Spanish I learned every year would only slip away during the summer. Studying abroad, I was told, is a good way to improve on and learn any language fast through total immersion. With that in mind, I also chose to study abroad as a type of rite for growing up. I felt that it was time for me to broaden my worldview through travel.

Why did you select SPI Study Abroad over other high school study abroad organizations?

I selected SPI not only because they were based where I live, Austin, but also because of their expertise, fluidity, and wide range of locations to visit. My first experience with SPI Study Abroad was to San Sebastian, Spain. It consistently surpassed my expectations and I was more than impressed with the program. When I signed up for Costa Rica the next year, there was no contest.

What were your housing arrangements like in La Playa Flamingo? What was the best part?

I was housed in a small two story house with a roommate. The family we were staying with slept upstairs while we slept downstairs. Honestly, the best part was the simplicity of it all. With no distractions, we had to interact with our host family because of the small living quarters. The cooking from our host family was amazing; I never knew there were so many ways to prepare rice and beans.

Eating lunch near a beach in Costa Rica

Quick meal after a fun time at the beach

From the roosters crowing in the mornings to the late nights reading, and even to the cold showers in the morning, everything made me feel alive.

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

Every morning we would meet and do an activity or some type of community service. Whether it was learning to surf, painting a school, or even zip lining, it was always fun. Afterwards we would have class where we would discuss what happened that day and play games (all in Spanish of course). In the evening after class we would walk around La Playa Flamingo, and either eat together as a group or go back to our host families for dinner. Rest assured at the end of the day none of us had any trouble falling asleep.

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

The most memorable experience that I had abroad was cliff jumping after school. It was a beautiful evening and all of our group walked to a small peninsula with small cliffs. As the sun set we all took turns jumping into the clear Costa Rican water. As scary as it was at first, it became one of the most fun experiences on the trip.

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

Do it! Nothing has ever come close to the amount of fun I’ve had studying abroad. The best way to approach the experience is to be confident in yourself. Even if you think you're lacking in Spanish or independence, the SPI program will guide you and make you feel welcome. Nothing has come close to the experiences and friendships that I’ve made abroad.

Celebrating Fourth of July in Costa Rica

Fourth of July Celebration!

What makes Costa Rica such a great place to study abroad?

Costa Rica was the perfect blend of culture, wildlife, people, and relaxation. The people are friendly, always cheerfully helping you with your Spanish. The beaches are beautiful, accompanied every evening with a sunset. The wildlife is everywhere you go; there are hermit crabs, iguanas, toads, and even monkeys. All together Costa Rica is the perfect package for someone who's willing to sweat while having fun.

How has your experience studying abroad impacted your life?

Studying abroad has changed me in many ways. I speak more confidently in Spanish knowing that it’s better to make mistakes than to not talk at all. I’ve become more independent; navigating through airports and towns without any adults is at first scary, but it grows on you fast. Also, studying abroad has widened my worldview. Studying abroad really shows you how large the world that you live in is, and the perspective that I’ve gained from it is something that I wish everyone could experience.