Costa Rica might not observe Thanksgiving, but surviving a whole six months of the pura vida has given me plenty to be grateful for. I know that I might be a bit behind on my holidays, but I’m feeling pretty sentimental as I procrastinate on preparing for my final classes tomorrow and the end of my time in Costa Rica.
I’ve loved almost everything about my experience here — the friends I’ve made, the trips I’ve taken, the opportunity to just take a semester to learn more about another culture and myself. I was expecting to encounter all these things, but there was something particular about Costa Rica that I was not prepared for: earthquakes — and how I will miss them. It’s probably weird to express gratitude for a form of natural disaster, but honestly, the earthquakes I’ve experienced have been pretty fun. The ground shakes, everyone goes outside and we all freak out a little about how bad the earthquake could have been. All in all, Mother Earth’s rather frequent dances were a reminder for me to be on my toes and that I should always bring my phone to school. It’s also pretty cool that I can say that I’ve lived through a magnitude-7.5  earthquake (which happened while I was at school without my phone, if you didn’t get that). No big deal.
I’m also incredibly grateful for the amount of sleep that I’ve been able to get. Maybe it’s the fact that I live with a family that includes a couple in their late 50’s and a ten-year-old, but I’ve started calling it quits at 9 p.m. Nevertheless, I’m going to miss watching “CSI” with my host parents and then tucking myself in for the evening. I have resigned myself to the fact that my current routine isn’t sustainable and is probably considered pretty lame back at Georgetown, but I’m sad to see it go.
I’m excited to get back to the Hilltop for sure. Georgetown has a very politically active student body, but it has nothing on the University of Costa Rica. And by this, I mean to say that I’m going to miss the university’s rector cancelling classes more than once this semester to permit students to participate in political marches. Like Georgetown, UCR is in its country’s capital, but the idea of the university not only allowing but encouraging you to attend a national rally is beyond comprehension. Sure, I’m thankful for getting to skip a few classes this semester, but I’m more appreciative of the environment of political awareness and participation that UCR fosters. I only wish Georgetown took the same measures from time to time.
In all seriousness, what I’m actually the most grateful for in this whole experience — and what it’s going to be the hardest to leave — are the people I’ve met here. After sharing lazy beach days, bubble tea study parties, and impulse ice cream runs, it kills me that I won’t be able to see any of the other students in my program next semester. I went into my program — which is run through the University of Kansas — knowing that I would be the only student from Georgetown, but I didn’t realize what that would mean at the end of the semester until now. I also don’t really know what I’m going to do without the constant support of my program directors. Sure, my deans can provide academic advice, but honestly, what administrator will be able to tell me where the closest sex shop is (real thing I had to know for a homework assignment) and put up with 10 a.m. dance parties in her office? Nonetheless, the people that I’m thankful for most of all are my host family. I know I’m the 30th-or=so student to come through their house, but I’m afraid that they’re never going to know how grateful I am that they put up with me all semester and  that they welcomed me as a member of their family these past few months. I wish I could explain exactly how wonderful they are, but unfortunately, I have neither the emotional capacity nor the word count. If any one of you — my friends, program directors or host family members — happens to find this piece, know how much I love and appreciate you. Puravida.

Mariah Byrne is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. This is the final appearance of SURVIVING ENDLESS SUMMER this semester.

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