My first two weeks in Costa Rica have honestly been challenging. Generally, it does take me some time to adjust to new routines in but doing it while taking intensive language classes in another country can be even more difficult. From what I have learned, here are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare for and begin your language immersion program.
1) Bring things that remind you of home. All of the guidebooks and AmeriSpan recommend bringing photos of family and friends to share with your host family. These photos can also benefit you. Take some time on a regular basis to look through the photos.
2) Establish a regular routine. If there’s something that you do at home, like exercise, journal or read the newspaper each day, try to do it in your new location. While it takes up a little extra space, I brought a travel yoga mat so I could continue to do yoga each morning.
3) Take your time. Some people will jump into every opportunity, while others may need more time to settle in and adjust to their new surroundings. No matter which group you fall into, go at your own pace.
4) Before you come or within your first week, make a list of activities you might like to do outside of class. This list can include everything from buying a new fruit from the market to visiting the countryside, jungle or beach. Remain open to other possibilities, too. The other night I went to a play in San José with some classmates and had a great time.
5) Recognize your limits. If you have had several hours of classes and feel overwhelmed, take a break. Read a book. Take a walk. Realize that immersion programs are very intensive. Between navigating my new surroundings and classes, I find that it’s incredibly important to give myself some time not to think and just relax.