Madisonville native Kelsey Byrd had the experience of a lifetime over the summer when she traveled to the picturesque Central American country of Costa Rica to study abroad.
“I wanted to learn how to speak Spanish and I was starting from scratch,” said Byrd. “After three months of constant learning, I have improved so much. I now use Spanish just about everyday.”
Byrd travelled to Costa Rica with friends and learned the language in a classroom setting on Monday through Friday from 8 to 11:30 a.m. Outside of the classroom, Byrd and her friends experienced the country with excursions to beaches, a volcano and a white water rafting trip during the first month. After the first month of planned locations, students would set out on their own to explore during the weekends.
When someone plans out a trip that will take them far away from everything they know, they tend to build up certain expectations in their heads about what the new culture will be like. For Byrd, Costa Rica did not disappoint.
“It was everything I expected and more,” said Byrd. “For example, I went to the market, which was mainly all outside. Pretty much all of the food was grown locally in the community and everyone was so nice over there.”
One of things Byrd learned from the new culture was the phrase “Pura Vida,” and she identified it as an important part of Costa Rican life. The phrase’s immediate English translation is “pure life” or “simple life,” but it means so much more. To Costa Ricans, the phrase is a way of life and you will see it everywhere you go if you choose to travel there.
Byrd’s trip ended when she returned to Texas on Aug. 12, but the memories will stick with her forever. She also has advice for other young people who are considering whether or not to study abroad.
“It will definitely be scary at first,” said Byrd. “It is hard to travel outside of the country for the first time and I had never even flown on a plane before. But it is completely worth it, especially when you have a passion for the language like I did.”
Byrd has just started the new academic year at Sam Houston State University and has aspirations to continue traveling in the future. Her next desired destination would be Spain to continue her education in the Spanish language.