COLA: Tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is David Manzo! I am a senior this year and am a sociology & justice studies major and forensic science & international affairs minor. This past summer of 2017 I studied abroad in Costa Rica apart of the UNH managed program.
I am from a small town in South Shore Massachusetts (Abington) and came to UNH in the spring of 2014. I am in Sigma Phi Epsilon NH Gamma, I’m the president of the Golden Key International Honour Society, an Airman in the NH Air National Guard, and want to take advantage of every possible experience through college and life in order to grow as a person, and going to Costa Rica had to have been one of the most genuine experiences in my life this far (both culturally and in general).
I’ve only been to Bermuda and Costa Rica which is considered outside of the physical U.S. and definitely has a different culture. My trip to Puerto Rico with one of my very close friends immediately reminded me of how much I wanted to be a competent Spanish speaker and/or listener. I initially directed that desire into trying to speak Spanish with my friend as much as possible but when I realized I might be able to financially handle study abroad, it was a no brainer.
COLA: What were your expectations of Costa Rica before arriving?
I didn’t know anyone else in the UNH program which I liked because I like meeting new people but I really didn’t know what to expect until I went to the CR study abroad preparatory meetings. All questions were asked and the foundation was laid for how things would be but there was never really any sure answer on how living with a host family for 6 weeks would be.
Simple version: I need to travel more. Not only travel more, but put myself in an immersive environment that gives me the genuine cultural experience.I absolutely love seeing how different people live and how their culture’s function so I need to just make the move and do it again rather than waiting around.
We all know that there is infinite knowledge out there but it taught me how every minute part of societies can be similar or different, and it is essential to find those similarities or differences both small and large.
Every single weekend my friends and I went to a new location, and then I traveled for a week with my girlfriend once the program was over. There were many places that I could call my favorite for several different reasons, whether it was the first time the entire UNH group rented out a house and got to know each other, the most beautiful places we went together (Tamarindo, Tortuguero, Arenal, etc.), or the places I got to completely utilize everything I learned in my 6 weeks with my girlfriend in our travels to Montezuma, Santa Teresa, and Playa Hermosa (Guanacaste).
I took two, 4 credit classes in CR which was most common. They were very small classes and you become very close with your classmates as well as the professors so it was impossible not to have memorable moments. Whether it was moving to the rhythm of the music to our favorite genres in Latin American Music, or sharing stories and joking around with our professor at the beginning of class in Intermediate Spanish 2.
I would recommend absolutely any study abroad trip outside of the physical U.S because of the cultural immersion and the way it opens your mind. I would recommend this trip specifically because the UNH staff member as well as the staff at the institute genuinely cared for your experience and the knowledge ofthe Spanish language as well as Hispanic/ Costa Rican culture.
Listen to the UNH staff, listen/ reach out to people that have done the program before, and roll with the punches. Always have someone with you and look out for the people your with at night just because there is no harm in numbers and the feeling of security amongst your peers. Most of all, take advantage of every single day. Find a place nearby like Mas Pizza to go to for lunch with your friends every so often, once you do your trips through the program have something scheduled and booked (with thorough research) to do with your peers the next weekend and every weekend until you leave. Lastly, be over prepared rather than underprepared and TRULY immerse yourself by stepping out of your comfort zone sometimes.
I had an incredible host family that had a family structure that isn’t popular in the U.S. but is very common in CR. Families live behind the same gated area with their own houses so you see much more of the family every single day which is incredible. Also, push yourself to practice your Spanish. It can feel awkward the first week if you aren’t very familiar with Spanish but your host family is there to help and was incredibly helpful to me and your progress will be remarkable by the time you leave.