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My Tican family: Not easy to forget

July 21, 2010

EDITOR'S NOTE: Throughout the summer, ASU students studying abroad will be writing back to the states about their overseas adventures. Fostering international student experiences is just one part of ASU's commitment to making a global impact.

Brett's blog:
During class today we talked about our preconceptions and expectations of Costa Rica. While others discussed their stories, I could not help to think about my initial anticipation for Costa Rica. My mind ran wild with expectations focusing primarily on the beautiful landscape, and not yet appreciating the Tican (the term for Costa Ricans) culture. On the plane, I talked with my friend Matt about all the rainforests and beaches to explore, only fantasizing about aesthetic appeals and not expecting what was to happen next.

One of our teachers, Mr. Peterson, touched on the accepting and welcoming nature of the Costa Rican people in all aspects of life. The simplest way to express my experience with this cultural characteristic is with a story. After being picked up at the airport, I was dropped off at my Tican family’s house with a little luggage and even less Spanish. My initial conversations with my family were short and paused, as I often lost my train of thought and struggled to express myself. I would be lucky if I could communicate with them well enough so they could pronounce my name correct. (It turns out they did not pronounce my name correctly until the third day, when I built up the heart to tell them they had been calling me “Brat” for two days). After failed attempts at sustained conversation, I quietly went to my room, unpacked and prayed for Conversa to be as good as advertised. I did not realize it then, but it quickly became evident that my Tican family was compassionate and willing to suffer alongside, helping me through every day in a new country with a foreign language.

I went to class the next day more determined than ever to learn and improve so I could hold a conversation with my host family. Over the course of the week I improved drastically and was able to grow closer to them. I came to Costa Rica expecting to take back great stories and unbelievable pictures, never thinking about what the Tican people had to offer me. In my experience, Costa Ricans, much more than American people, are accepting and welcoming to foreigners. I never felt unwelcome here because of the connection I made with my host family. Leaving them after one week, I felt like I was leaving my real family behind.

Brett Fitzgerald, a finance and accounting major, will be a sophomore this fall. He is studying abroad in Costa Rica this summer.