by Hannah Nevitt, Greenheart Travel volunteer abroad participant
Every day, multiple times, I remind myself to have patience…the patience to adapt to this new and different world I now live in. There have been many moments, in many days, where I have been frustrated…frustrated that I could not understand the language, frustrated with the heat, humidity, and the heavy rain, and especially frustrated with the bugs. But then I take a deep breath, and remind myself that acclimating to another country different than my own will often bring such “learning moments.”
Once again, “Not wrong…just different.”
The Spanish word for patience is, “Paciencia.” I have learned to use this word quite often. There have been many days in my Spanish class when I have wanted to throw my pencil and give up as learning a new language can be really hard. There are often days when my brain hurts and all I want to do is speak in English. This is actually easier said than done because my entire world is now in Spanish: the television, the music, the books, all of it, and my host family doesn’t speak English (although the kids are trying to learn).
Although I knew this would be a challenge, there are many reasons why this experience continues to be so important for me; the first is to learn a second language, the second is to gain some international work experience and the third is to experience a full cultural immersion. In the past year I have traveled extensively, but I have also tried to experience several different types of travel mediums: the study abroad, the leisure travel, the low-budget backpacking, and now this, a full- immersion, extended-exchange of work and cultural understanding.
After three weeks of living in Costa Rica, I am definitely beginning to understand the life of a foreign exchange student. Living with a host family in a different country, with a language I don’t understand and learning to navigate and observe my new environment. It is exciting, exhausting, and challenging, yet I know this experience is going to be invaluable. Every day I take notes of my experiences and how I could possibly make them better.
Along with the “highlights” of my travels…the adventures, the adrenaline rushes, and the inspirational sights…it is also important to document “the lows.” The times when you are uncomfortable, frustrated, or lost, when you miss your family, your friends, and the “normalcy” of your life back home.
There are definitely days when I miss the comforts of home like my bed, my personal space, and the occasional indulgence of a glass of red wine, but overcoming these situations is all part of the immersion experience.