by Liz Rothaus Bertrand

When RaiAnne Cruz arrived in Costa Rica with a travel group from the Language Academy of the Carolinas back in 2012, she noticed two things immediately: the beautiful, tropical landscape and the friendliness of the people she met.

These ingredients turned out to be the perfect recipe both for an unforgettable vacation and an opportunity for personal growth.

“To be exposed to totally different cultures and see how they do things is just amazing,” says Cruz, who works as a Master Planner at Corning Incorporated and has also traveled to Spain with the Language Academy. “I can’t stress enough that people should travel internationally if they get the chance.”

Cruz loved the daily excursions in Costa Rica, which included guided hikes in a nature preserve, a visit to a coffee plantation, and zip lining through the Monteverde Cloud Forest. “That was a ton of fun,” says Cruz. “And I’m scared of heights, so go figure!”

Trying new things—like different foods, activities, and speaking Spanish every day—pushed her out of her comfort zone but also turned out to be some of the best parts of the trip. “My advice is be absolutely open, enjoy the experience,” says Cruz.  “Go out and do something that makes [you] uncomfortable… feel free to interact and engage with people. They are very patient and they are excited that you are there trying.”

She also speaks fondly of the language school, CPI Monteverde, situated on its own lush campus. “The instructors and the administrative staff were great,” says Cruz. “They try to do as much of it in Spanish as possible… if you didn’t understand you tried to stumble your way through. That I appreciated. It was a struggle though.”

My advice is be absolutely open, enjoy the experience. Go out and do

something that makes [you] uncomfortable.

-RaiAnne Cruz

While the coursework was challenging, she says instructors ensured students were placed at the appropriate level to get the most out of their experience. Classroom time was also full of variety. From learning Salsa Dancing and preparing traditional Costa Rican cuisine to making presentations, the open and relaxed atmosphere of the classes made it a fun way to learn.

Cruz also enjoyed the camaraderie she experienced during her “downtime” on the trip, getting to know other participants, exploring Costa Rica together, and sharing relaxed dinners after action-packed days. “Our group got along really well,” she says.

Returning home after an experience abroad can be life-changing too. “When you go overseas you see how rich other cultures are and you see your own culture and its own shortcomings and own richness too, you’re not just stuck in your own bubble,” says Cruz. “There’s a lot going on out there and it’s beautiful.”

Want more information on traveling to Costa Rica with The Language Academy Aug. 2 – 12, 2017?  You can find more details online or by calling 704.548.0048.