Top Five things to do off the beaten path

Sure, there are many things to do when you come to Costa Rica. But visiting UGA Costa Rica offers a wide array of non-traditional tourist activities for you and your friends. This is our top five list of things to do off the beaten path. How many have you done?

1. Try the hot chocolate (Seriously, you don’t want to leave campus without trying it!)

Hot Chocolate

2. Swim at the suspension bridge


3. Help out on the farm


4. Go to a community dance

5. Attend a Zumba class at the community center


Monday Top 5: Words/Phrases to know before going to Costa Rica

We know, we know. You’ve read every guidebook and brushed up on all your high school Spanish vocabulary. Buenos días. ¿Como estás? Me llamo…what more could you possibly need to know?

Although all of these phrases will certainly come in handy, you want to know which ones are more distinctly Costa Rican. You want to blend in with the locals, right? So, this week for our Top 5, we’re covering some words and phrases that will help you get along better on your study abroad trip to Costa Rica.

1 – Pura Vida

It would be impossible to do this post without including the two words that have become the tiny nation’s catchphrase. Pura vida literally means “pure life”, but it has also come to be a sunny feel-good expression the can be used as a greeting, goodbye, or the answer if someone asks you how you are doing. It is a synonym for “excellent” and has a very “hakuna matata” feel to it.

Example: “How are you?” Your response would be, “Pura Vida! [I am fantastic.]”

Pura Vida

2 – Ticos/as

Tico or Tica is the nickname for a person from Costa Rica. It can also be used to describe something pertaining to the country. The nickname originates from the fact that Costa Ricans often add tico/a as a suffix in order to create a diminutive. In other words, instead of saying blanquito (small, white), they might say blanquitico,  which means the same thing. The suffix does not only mean small, but also denotes affection and therefore describes the caring nature of the people.

3 – ¿Cómo amaneció?

In the United States it is common to ask someone how they slept as a form of greeting first thing in the morning. In Costa Rica, it would sound a little funny if you asked them, Como durmió? (“How did you sleep?”) Instead, Ticos will ask you, Cómo amaneció? which literally translated means, “How did you wake up?” Similar to the idea of waking up on the “wrong side of the bed” Ticos believe that it is how you wake up that affects your morning demeanor and not how you slept. Whether or not this is true, this is still the commonly accepted phrase and will get you major brownie points with your homestay family.


4 – Con Permiso

Here’s another really culturally relevant phrase. Costa Ricans are, as a general rule, extremely polite and proper in their speech. This phrase literally means “with your permission” and can be used as “excuse me”. This phrase is perfect when you are walking in a tight space and need for someone to move for you to get by. Want to start off on a good foot with your homestay family? It is Costa Rican custom to say con permiso whenever you are crossing the threshold of a house that is not yours or when you get up from the dinner table. Whip this phrase out on your first night at your homestay and you will be good to go! There is nothing a Costa Rican values more than basic good manners.

5 – Con mucho gusto instead of de nada

For those of you who took Spanish with a teacher from Mexico (or many other Spanish speaking countries), you probably learned that de nada, which literally means “it’s nothing,” was the way to say, “You’re welcome.” This is not the case in Costa Rica. No one is going to throw you out for saying de nada, but the most common phrase is con mucho gusto or mucho gusto. Translated it means “with much pleasure” similar to saying “my pleasure” in the U.S. Remember how Costa Ricans are generally polite? Here is another example of how that is reflected in their speech. Does “you’re welcome” work just fine? Yes! But doesn’t it feel just a bit better when it is someone’s pleasure to help you? We rest our case.

Beach Jump

One last thing: We know it’s just five words or phrases, but there’s one last little grammar tip to take into account about Costa Rican Spanish. In Costa Rica, it is much more common to use usted not when saying “you”.  In most countries, usted is only used in formal situations and not with close friends or peers. However, usted is the form most commonly used by Ticos regardless of whom they are talking. This is shifting a bit, but still holds true in most of the country. So, if a Tico is calling you usted, it’s not because they’re mad or trying to keep you at arm’s length, it’s just a cultural thing.

Well that’s it for this week’s Top 5! Hope you picked up some useful tips on Costa Rican Spanish.

Monday Top 5: Things to do after you study abroad

You did it! You took a leap of faith and decided to study in Costa Rica for a week, a month, or even a semester. You brushed up on your conversational Spanish, tried a tasty green mango, and zipped through the treetops on the zip line. Now, you’re back in the United States with stories to share and experiences to last you a lifetime. Life doesn’t get much better than that. Let’s stop and think about this for a minute though, is it really that simple? Can you really come back from living abroad and jump right back into the life you were living pre-Costa Rica? We’ve searched the depths of the internet (and our own minds) for useful information to help ease you back into life on American soil.

Students Reading and Writing

1 – Learn how to articulate your experience.

You may have decided to live abroad with the idea in mind that it would be a great resume builder (or maybe you just wanted to have some good stories to share with your friends upon your return). Regardless of your reason(s) for going abroad, it is important to know how to put your experience into words. If you went abroad with the intention of using the experience as a resume builder, you’ll need to know how to express your experience in writing on your resume and how to speak clearly about the value of what you learned. Begin by asking yourself some useful questions to mentally unpack your time abroad. What skills did I learn that will matter in my career? How did I grow as an individual? What did I struggle with while I was abroad? Once you have asked yourself these questions (and maybe more), think about how you would condense the most important parts into a 30-second elevator pitch for anyone who asks. You don’t have to give all of the details, but hit the main points that will make your future employer want to know more. (This will also help you become a phenomenal story teller with your friends without boring them with too many details!)

2 –Learn how to deal with “Reverse Culture Shock” in a positive way.

In 2008, I had my first study abroad experience. I loved it so much that I almost didn’t want to come home. I was certain that the culture shock and “big university” shock (my home university was a small private school in St. Louis, MO) was going to be the toughest adjustment during my study abroad experience. I was wrong. To my surprise, the toughest adjustment I experienced actually came right after I arrived back home. I was experiencing what one may call “reverse culture shock”.


My reverse culture shock came in waves of sadness, elation, and frustration. I was sad because I missed the “new life” I had created while I was abroad – my friends, the routine, my favorite places, etc. At the same time, I was elated to see my family and friends. Between the sadness and the elation, I also found myself going through stages of frustration. Why didn’t anyone understand just how incredible my past 6 months had been? Why didn’t their lives stop when I got back? Why did my bedroom have to flood while I was gone, forcing me to live in our spare bedroom and live out of my suitcase? I felt utterly displaced in what should have felt like my home.

There is good news here…all of the feelings of reverse culture shock wear off, just as culture shock does. The best ways I found of dealing with reverse culture shock involved writing (a LOT of writing), drinking copious amounts of hot tea (just like I did while abroad), talking to my friends who were still abroad, and being honest with the people around me about the things I was struggling with. There are many ways to cope with reverse culture shock so it is best to find what works for you. (If you want to read more about reverse culture shock, please reference the useful links at the bottom of this list.)

3 – Stay involved with UGA Costa Rica and others from your program.

As a member of the UGA Costa Rica family, we want to know how you are doing! We love hearing about your experiences and catching up with you post-study abroad. We also find it extremely valuable for other students to hear from their peers what they experienced while abroad. It is encouraging for prospective students, who may be facing some of the same hesitations you first had about going abroad, to hear that it was an experience worth having. We often host fun reunion and alumni events that we want you to be part of as well. Make sure you keep up with us on Facebook and Twitter for all of the latest and greatest!

Coffee Class

Another group to stay connected with is the students in your program. You never know who may have a future job connection for you! Plus, it helps to have a group of people who shared your experience to talk with when you may be feeling the frustration of reverse culture shock. Create a Facebook group and start re-connecting!

(Another useful tip: Stay in contact with your program instructors because you may need them to write you a recommendation one day!)

4- Submit a photo or video for the International Photo & Video Contest.

Every year the Office of International Education sponsors a photo and video contest during International Education Week (Nov. 11-15). This is a great opportunity for you to share a small piece of your experience with other students, staff, and faculty. Entries for this year’s contest are being accepted through Monday, November 4 (TODAY!). Prizes will be awarded 1st-3rd place for each category and will be announced on Friday, November 15 at the International Student Life Coffee Hour in the Memorial Hall Ballroom from 11:30a-1:30a.

5 – Plan your next trip.

Now that you have experienced life in another country, continue learning about the world (or even just the community) around you. Let your inner-tourist thrive by going on another trip abroad and mingling with the locals. If you can’t go abroad, travel to a different area of the United States and immerse yourself in the culture of the community. Or, you can always hop on over to the opposite side of Athens, GA and experience what a different neighborhood has to offer!

Useful Links:

World Learning