AQ Difference - Pura Vida: AQ in Costa Rica

By: Zach Stepanovich
Zach Stepanovich

I was determined to wear my torn khaki shorts and summer short sleeve shirt to the Grand Rapids Airport on January 8, the day we left for Costa Rica.  I knew when the day’s travels were over I would not regret my choice of attire. After a few sad farewells and two flights prolonged by extreme anticipation, our plane touched down at the San Jose airport, just a few miles outside the bustling tropical metropolis that is the capital of Costa Rica. As the plane doors cracked open, the warm moist tropical air and blazing sun pushed through and it began to hit me; YES, Zachary Stepanovich, your  semester abroad in Costa Rica has finally begun.

“Pura vida” is something a native Costa Rican might say in response to my arrival, but I had yet to learn the true meaning of

this phrase. The leaders of this adventurous program are Don Jorge Acevedo and his wife, Doña Ana Porras de Acevedo. As a sophomore at Aquinas studying Spanish and English as a second language, I could not have chosen a better way to spend this spring semester and I am very confident in the program here. Don Jorge and Doña Ana have both traveled the world working in countless endeavors, including their work here in Costa Rica guiding students from many different walks of life in various forms of education and more.
Costa Rica is, plainly put, a little slice of heaven. And, as if that was not enough, Santa Ana, the town in which we live, is located at the base of a spectacular green mountain. From learning hands-on about the wildflowers like the Santa Lucia of the mountain, to visiting the great and vast Pacific Ocean, the presence of nature is omnipotent here in Costa Rica. After hearing for the first time the great call of a pair of macaws and watching a white-headed capuchin monkey steal bananas, I realized that this journey was not just about learning about another environment or culture but truly living in it. I was now beginning to understand, “pura vida.”

Costa Rica Costa Rica
I am enjoying meeting new people as well. My advanced Spanish conversation class is taught by the hilariously brilliant Dr. Gabriel Baltodano who also dabbles, to say the least, in surfing, taekwondo, triathlons, and on top of that knowledge of a motley of different languages. Wednesday and Thursday nights are spent with the charming Ms. Oona Jimenez learning a variety of Latin-American dances including salsa, merengue, and even belly dancing! At home, my host family has welcomed me generously and I have delighted myself in trying delicious dishes and have even ventured with them through coffee plantations to secret waterfalls hidden in the mountains.
As I begin my semester I already feel the Spanish flowing more easily from my mouth. Here in Costa Rica life is truly lived to the fullest and pulsing with new adventures every day, or as the natives (and I as well) might happen to say, “pura vida.”