About Tori

I'm a senior at NWMSU, studying Spanish and English Education. My semester will be spent at Universidad Nacional in Heredia, Costa Rica. I'm studying abroad to improve my Spanish skills and to learn about another culture that I've only admired from afar, la vida tica! :)

Indigenous Floss

More about orientation week!

Our third day of orientation began our excursions. We started at La Sabana Metropolitan Park in San Jose. Here’s our first group picture!

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We went to a natural history museum that had really interesting displays with shells, fossils, rocks, and animals.

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It was back to San Jose for day 4, starting with walking around the city and finding this beautiful church. It was very open, like many of the buildings here.

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Unfortunately, I began to feel sick that day. I know it’s common for bodies to rebel when they’re under the stress of getting accustomed to a new place, but I was frustrated that I had to go home and rest instead of spending more time in the city. Feeling sick in a new place definitely made me miss the comforts of home more, also. However, my host mom took me to the clinic, and she has been wonderful in helping me to feel better! I was nervous about holding up during our last day of orientation because I knew it would be a long one, but I’m so glad I decided to go!

We left early so we could drive a few hours to get to the rain forest. We started our day with a banana plantation tour. We learned all about banana plants and how they go from the rain forest to our tables with their little Dole stickers. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures because we got a lot of rain during the tour.

During lunch, we visited a jungle lodge and did some exploring. That’s where we came up with Indigenous Floss (both a prediction of the use of a certain rain forest plant as well as an excellent band name to use in the future).

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After lunch, we went to another part of the rainforest to learn how chocolate was made back in the good ol’ days. The tour started with a walk across one of the longest suspension bridges in Costa Rica (about 800 feet long!) It was scary, but a really neat experience.

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We got home late because a landslide closed the road we had taken in the morning. Our road home was very curvy, but the views were beautiful. I guess it was just a reminder that you can always find something good when things seem bad. I’ll need to keep that in mind as we start classes soon! :)

Pura vida!


Roto el hielo :)

Observations during this orientation week have been so numerous that I’m going to have to make more than one post about it!

The weather here is BEAUTIFUL. There are almost constant breezes that make drying clothes outside the ideal option. See below, the patio and clotheslines behind my host home.

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I haven’t mastered the ATM/bank situation just yet, but I am slowly figuring it out. Look how pretty Costa Rican colones are! I think it’s good for my budget because they’re so pretty that I don’t want to spend them.

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This is my host dog, Lulu! If she looks sad, it’s probably because I had to steal an oreo wrapper from her. But I’m sure she’ll forgive me when she realizes it was for her own good.

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It’s strange to me how quickly my confidence in speaking can shift. Sometimes at school I can’t even form basic sentences, but then I can come home and tell my host mom everything I did that day. Then the next day will be the exact opposite! Here’s the first picture I’ve taken of my school.

P1000348 (600x800)Orientation has been stressful, but it’s also been really good. Having something to do is much better than spending all my time at my host home missing my US home. I am SO happy to have met the other students in the exchange program (a.k.a. mis amigos gringos).

More to come soon! Pura vida!


P.S. The title loosely translates to “breaking the ice,” something my host brother, Victor, taught me. :)

¡Bienvenidos a Costa Rica!

Well, I made it! Here’s a recap of my first day in Costa Rica:

I traveled with my friend Meagan from Nebraska. Here’s our slightly teary picture before leaving the airport in Omaha.

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My first impression was muy incómodo (very awkward). My host family didn’t recognize me because my clothes and hair were different than my picture, so I kind of had to sneak up on them. And the welcome hugs/kisses on the cheek that I had tried to prepare for were much more difficult because I’m quite a bit taller than them and had a lot of luggage. Not to mention that I said “Nice to meet you,” in English. I didn’t quite have my Spanish brain on yet.

Eventually I said a few things correctly so they figured out that I can at least speak some Spanish, but I also had to ask them to speak more slowly and/or repeat nearly everything they said on the way to our house. I looked out the windows the whole way home and already noticed a TON of things that are different from home or that I’d never even seen before!

Everything is very close together here. Most of the cars seem smaller, but the roads are also. This doesn’t keep people from driving very fast. I would tell you how fast, but my kilometer to mile equations are not very accurate yet…

Most of the houses are connected. My room is small, but it’s the perfect size for what I brought from home. My window looks like a glass blind, which means my room is very loud, but it also has a wonderful breeze!

We had coffee and cake in the afternoon, which seems to be something that is typical here. I gave my host family some cherry mash as a gift from my hometown, and my host mom said she liked them!

Before I even finished unpacking, we were off to meet more family members. Everyone has been very patient with me, which I appreciate more than I know how to express to them. My host brother, Victor, showed me pictures he had taken of Costa Rica, and he told me that he wants me to like his country. I think I will. :)

Sleeping was hard because it is so much louder than my house in the country at home, and it was the first time I’d been able to really think about how much I already miss my family, but I survived the first day!

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This is the first sign I saw at the airport! I had to be a tourist and take a picture. :)

Pura Vida!


Why Am I Doing This?

That is an excellent question. Why in the world would I leave my wonderful family, friends, and boyfriend to live in another country by myself (well, with a host family) for almost five months? I’ve been asking myself that pretty much every day lately.

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Costa Ricans (ticos) as a whole are relaxed and happy with life the way it is. As a constant planner, I could use a dose of pura vida! (literally meaning “pure life,” but used as a greeting, farewell, an expression that things are going well, and/or saying good luck and with connotations of living well in general) Blog1


  • I get to try a whole bunch of new foods! From traditional Costa Rican food I’ve only read about (pinto gallo, fried plantains) to things I know, only fresher (coffee, chocolate, fruit); I can’t wait for this part!



  • My Spanish needs mucha ayuda! For the English speakers reading this (Mom and Dad), that means “a lot of help!” If I want to teach other people Spanish, I know there is no better way to take in the language than by dropping myself into one of its natural habitats, even if it is really terrifying.



  • Costa Rica is ridiculously beautiful. Even though I’m not there yet, the pictures I’ve seen are telling me that I’m making an excellent choice to spend my time surrounded by some of the most amazing scenery in the world.



  • Meeting new people, extending my comfort zone, being enlightened, etc. :)



  • Honestly, the idea of leaving tomorrow is BEYOND scary, but I want to push myself to do something I once thought was only a picture on my Pinterest bucket list (see below). Here’s to being able to put a big “DONE” underneath it come June!



Pura vida!