International Connections

Madison Bodholdt

Major: Child, Adult, and Family Services

Minor/option/emphasis: Spanish

Year: Junior
Hometown, State: Fort Dodge, Iowa

Type of experience: Study Abroad
Experience: Centro Panamericano de Idiomas (CPI)
Experience website:
Destination: Costa Rica

Overall experience..
I absolutely loved my study abroad experience in Costa Rica! My first week I studied in Monteverde, and my last two weeks I studied at Flamingo Beach. Each morning I went to Spanish class from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the CPI campus, where I was in a class with two to three other students. My favorite thing about class at CPI was that the structure was so flexible. We spent a lot of time just having conversations in Spanish on a wide variety of cultural topics, which was great practice and very interesting at the same time. I also felt really comfortable asking any questions that I had, and my professors did a great job of explaining their answers and making sure I understood. In addition to my classes, I loved exploring the exciting diversity of Costa Rica in my free time!

I learned...
I learned about the CPI program through the Study Abroad Center website. I knew that I wanted to go somewhere to study Spanish, but I did not want to be gone for a whole semester or summer. The CPI program ended up being perfect because I could not only pick the duration of the trip, but the time of the year and also the location(s) I wanted to go to.

An impact to my life...
I learned so much from going on this trip! It was my first time traveling completely alone, so that was something new. I also had to step out of my comfort zone in order to get to know the other students at CPI, and ended up making a lot of new friends this way. This trip was also a big step in my building my confidence in speaking Spanish. Even though I had taken Spanish classes at Iowa State, I never had gotten the chance to really use it that much out of the classroom setting, so I wasn't very comfortable with my abilities. When I arrived to my first host family though, I didn't have a choice but to make it work and communicate. Being able to constantly use my Spanish while in Costa Rica also motivated me to want to find ways to keep using it when I returned to the United States. In the future, I plan to further utilize my Spanish in my career in the social services field, where I want to eventually work with at risk children and families.

A surprising discovery...
One thing that really surprised me was how many new people I met during my trip and all the new things I tried on my own. Before studying abroad, I kind of considered myself a pretty quiet or even shy person. However, during my first week in Costa Rica I realized just how outgoing I actually could be. I was in a different country, speaking a second language, exploring my surroundings, making my own decisions, and meeting tons of new people, all completely on my own. Before my trip, I would have never pictured myself doing any of that! It was kind of exciting, because it helped me to realize I should never underestimate myself or get too comfortable in my comfort zone.

Advice for others...
I would definitely recommend studying abroad! For students studying another language, visiting a place where that language is spoken is the absolute best way to practice. You can learn so much from being immersed in the language, and it is an experience that just cannot be found in a classroom. I would also really recommend staying with a host family because it is a lot of fun and is a great way to experience the culture of the country first hand!

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