university of tulsa logo

Pura Vida in Costa Rica

Before I left for study abroad, I was told by mentors and friends alike how this experience would be utterly life-changing. I have to admit, I was a little bit skeptical. I have been fortunate enough to travel before, and while each trip was beautiful, none of them left a resounding, lasting impact on who I am as a person. Living in Costa Rica has changed all of that (and it’s only been 2 months!)

I don’t think there are words in any language that could describe the absolute joy that fills my soul. Never did I imagine feeling so at home in a country that is not my own, communicating via a language that is not my mother tongue. This country has welcomed me with open arms, and for that I will be forever grateful.

When I was growing up people would always ask me what I was passionate about. For the longest time I didn’t know how to answer; I didn’t know how to articulate what I want to devote my life to. Later on in high school I had a teacher who told us her two passions in life were people and science. I share those with her. Since then, I’ve chosen the paths that lead me to people and science. For now, that choice has taken me to Costa Rica. This tiny country contains 5% of the world’s biodiversity. Every way I turn there are stunning tropical flowers and impressive birds and so much green. I can only describe it as a biologist’s paradise. The people here are what have made my experience truly unforgettable. My host mother treats me as one of her own. Strangers have gone out of their way to help me find a bus stop or a restroom. The culture is so friendly and generous.

All of that being said, this journey has not been without its challenges. There were entire weeks where I felt lost and lonely. Starting from scratch can be intimidating, and forging genuine relationships in such a short period of time can feel impossible. I have had to actively remind myself why I am doing this (I quite literally have a list on my phone). Thus far, all the benefits have heavily outweighed any doubts. My Spanish has improved in a way that never would have been possible in the United States. I have met people who appear quite different from myself on the surface, only to discover the many things we have in common. Countless little things have reaffirmed my dreams of becoming a physician. I have gained a completely newfound sense of independence. And most importantly, I have learned that through it all, I will be okay.

Salina Haville
University of Tulsa ’18
Biochemistry
Costa Rica | Spring 2017