In this post, I thought I might tell you a bit more about the actual studying and some of the field trips.
Going to Costa Rica is part of my bachelor’s degree in Peace and Development studies in Sweden, but the students here have very varying previous experiences of studying at university level. Some already have a whole degree, some have studied a couple of courses and some are straight out of high school. This makes the experience very different for everyone. For those who haven’t studied before, it might be a shock at first, especially if you haven’t studied in English. However, so is any first course at university level. My experience, as a current student in Uppsala University, is that the pace here is relatively slow and the expectations are not that high. It is not nearly the amount of literature that I am used to. The course feels more adapted to people who have not studied on university level before. That being said, the course is very interesting. The Sustainability course makes so much sense when you can connect everything to the environment around you. The setup makes it even more interesting. After a chapter and a lecture on small farmers in Costa Rica and the importance of farmer’s markets, we took a field trip to visit one! For the chapter on indigenous tribes and their right to their land, we took a field trip to an indigenous territory and got to hear them tell their story, face to face. The way the course is built is very rewarding as a lot of the theory also gets put into actual perspective. It is certainly a privilege to be able to be here and learn about these things in context instead of sitting in Sweden with a book.
My favourite field trip so far is the visit to the Terraba tribe. We got to learn so much about the indegenous people in Costa Rica, their history, how they live now and the challenges they face. It was really inspiring and so incredibly nice of them to spend their time meeting with us.
Regarding the Spanish courses, as a person who only studied Spanish a few years, a very long time ago, I really enjoy the fact that you are forced to speak a lot. The teachers rarely use English, and while that might cause confusion sometimes (and in the beginning be quite frustrating to be honest) you are forced to learn at a faster pace. Some might disagree, but I find it very encouraging to try speaking in Spanish when you know there is no other option. The courses are divided into “lectura”, “grammatica” and “oral”. Each specifies a specific skill. At first, I thought dividing it was weird, since I’m used to having Spanish as one subject. But it’s actually very convenient. Oftentimes we have the same topics in all classes, but from different angles. This year we have eight different classes. We got divided based on a diagnostic test that we took at the beginning of the semester. The classes are very mixed in terms of experience and knowledge, and that can sometimes make it hard for the teachers to find a level that fits everyone. However I find that if you feel like the class is too easy, you can always challenge yourself by developing your own answers and assignments. The teachers are very nice and accommodating and somehow always happy. Even though it’s not always a blast to study, I doubt that there is a better way to learn Spanish than in a Spanish speaking country.
The school itself is nice. It’s a bit weird to use old school chairs with their own little table in the front… but it works just fine. The ticos (locals) studying at Uisil have their classes at night, so we are basically alone during the day. Our biggest problem is when the rain comes (as it does everyday now in rainy season) and we can’t hear the teachers anymore. But that’s a real Costa Rica problem!
Another pro about Uisil is the short weeks. We study only half days on Thursdays and we have Fridays off. This gives us the opportunity to travel more and see the country. Kulturstudier even organizes voluntary trips for us sometimes, which is an easy and nice way to see things! But more on weekend trips in another post!
Hasta Luego! //Maja