Going to Costa Rica with the College of Staten Island on the Transcultural Nursing and Global Health Program is an amazing experience that is made to immerse students in a different culture and to allow them to take what they learn and use it in their health care practices. One way in which the program does this is by placing the students in the care of host families throughout the stay.
A host family is given to each student after being evaluated by the University Iberoamericana (UNIBE, the host institution). This is an excellent measure that is taken in order to ensure the safety of the students and something I feel that helps to place students in families that are compatible with their personalities, eating and lifestyle preferences. Host families are also conveniently located within walking distance from the school, supermarkets, restaurants and more.
I was placed in a host family with a host mom called Inés, her two sons Sergio and Eugenio, and another student from Spain named Ricardo. At first, I was a bit worried that I might not get along with those in the house or that I might not like the living arrangements or the food that my host mom would prepare for me. However, once I got to my new host home, everyone was immediately welcoming and accepting of me. The environment was so relaxed and started to feel like home quickly.
Though Inés was only responsible for a couple of things, including cooking and laundry, she went above and beyond those things by taking me to San Jose to tour me around, taking me to two different malls and an artesian market within the first weekend there. I was always asked how my day was by her and the her sons, and she made sure to prepare food ahead of time to have it ready for whenever I was hungry. Upon speaking to the other students that participated in the program, it is a valid assumption to say that all the host families know what they are doing in the kitchen and prepare great meals. Clothes are washed frequently and the house is cleaned daily. She also did my nails whenever the class went on a trip or excursion and invited me to her room to watch “spanish novelas” with her. Though I already speak Spanish, I feel as though I have improved my Spanish a lot and also learned so much from just speaking more Spanish than I do in New York.
Within the first week of being there, I had already felt closer to my host brothers and would look forward to spending time with them and speaking to them after I would return home from school. We would all sit together watching TV, playing video games or we would go out. I would also exercise with them whenever we had the chance to.
Even though I was only there a few weeks, I honestly consider these people family, and I miss them greatly. The question now is not “if” I will ever see them again, but when. I’ve made so many contacts and learned so much from them that I will forever be grateful for the wonderful experience that they were essential in creating during my stay in Costa Rica. All of the students in the program had similar experiences with their host families and miss them very much. Personally, I don’t feel there’s a better way to immerse oneself in a culture than to be living it daily through the interactions with the family, the food and rituals. To anyone that is thinking about taking part in this program, I would say it is an experience of a lifetime that they will never regret.