Clash of Cultures

By Andrew Novinski

We stepped off the plane and I immediately knew that this was going to be one heck of an experience. I have never been outside of the US, so everything was a bit overwhelming and we had to get our passports checked and go through security. We finally finish all of that and step outside onto the streets and there are just lines of people asking you if you need a taxi ride. Finding our ICADS drivers was not too difficult and we loaded up the vans. The next part was a weird experience because one by one each person was dropped off to their host family’s house and with the language barrier it was hard to tell who was next. It was like a game. I finally got to my house and my host mother was very welcoming and her son was there and I, someone who has taken 4 years of Spanish, could not coherently say, “Hello. How are you. It is nice to meet you.” I am glad to be having such an experience and I am not frustrated with the language barrier. I actually laugh at myself when I am trying to say something and stop mid-sentence for like 30 seconds to only say the wrong word or conjugation. The host mom has helped me a lot and has been teaching me along the way. When I started to get settled in, I started remembering more Spanish than I thought I knew.

When we got to our school ICADS, the day after we arrived, we had our orientation and I was expecting a written placement exam, but instead it was a combined oral exam/interview where I had to talk about myself as best I could in Spanish. Based on how well I spoke would be where I was placed. I was happy that I could speak using correct Spanish words the whole time, but with poor grammar on the most part.

I was half sick heading into Costa Rica and I was proud of myself when I had to go to this pharmacy and speak with the lady and describe how I need medicine that will help my stuffy nose, sore throat, and my cough, I also had to describe how I needed something I could use before bedtime. It was hard because where I am they do not have nyquil, dayquil, or mucinex. So now I am taking these foreign medicines that are actually working and I am so thankful they are the right ones.

The hardest thing for me is when I am at the dinner table and the whole family there and they are having a conversation at their normal pace and I don’t understand any of it. I am getting better at making small conversation. I was able to talk about the last World Cup in Spanish and how well Costa Rica actually did. I am looking forward to my first Spanish class this Monday because It will refresh my memory even more. Right now there are just a pile of Spanish verbs and phrases in my head that aren’t very organized.

I am excited for this wonderful, but challenging opportunity to grow in wisdom of a culture that is overlooked and has so much to offer.

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