Leach learns about Costa Rica’s culture


By Paula Frew - For the Sidney Daily News



Matt Leach views a tree frog while visiting La Paz Waterfall Gardens in Costa Rica. The gardens, near San Jose, is home to some of the most famous waterfalls in Costa Rica, an animal sanctuary with over 100 species of animals, and an environmental education program. Leach studied Spanish in Costa Rica Jan 3-April 22.


Courtesy photo

SIDNEY — Matt Leach, student at Mount Vernon Nazarene University, majoring in intercultural studies, participated in a study abroad Jan 3-April 22. The experience was intended to allow him to learn Spanish while living in another culture.

Being immersed in the culture presented some challenges.

“The greatest thing I learned was not something I could get from a classroom, but from experiences. This was the culture in Costa Rica. It was amazing to experience a new culture, but difficult because it is so different than my own. I loved learning about the people, their jobs, their cooking styles, and lifestyles in general,” said Leach.

Being a particular eater, Leach had some difficulty adapting to the food. In the interest of being polite, he decided to do his best to try new foods.

“Food is a major part of the culture and community in Costa Rica. Meal times are used not just to eat, but to spend quality time with others. I wanted to make sure I tried my best to be fully a part of these meal times by being in the conversations and trying the new foods. I was blessed to live with a great host family that cooked mostly food I liked,” said Leach.

Being immersed in a language he didn’t know very well presented Leach with its own challenges.

“It was constantly a struggle to talk to anyone, anywhere. I knew some Spanish, but not enough. It was a struggle the whole time, from trying to talk with my host family about my plans to trying to go see a movie and order the correct movie ticket. The good thing is that these struggles helped me with learning to continue to be persistent and try to learn as much as I could in the time I was there,” said Leach.

Leach was surprised to find that there was much more to learn than the language and the culture.

“The most surprising thing was that I learned how to deal with people. I was in a language school with about 15 people in my classes every day. When you are around the same people for four months in a new environment, you learn a lot about others. I learned how to problem solve, manage my way through a new country, and understand people on a deeper level,” said Leach.

The trip was a rewarding experience that brought Leach to a new understanding of himself as well as the language.

“I am very glad I went on the trip. I learned so much and it stretched me a lot. I not only learned Spanish while there, but that I learned that with God I can do anything. I learned how to deal with people better. I also conquered some fears by going on the longest zipline in Central America facing straight down. I also went parasailing on a beautiful beach and went whitewater rafting and horseback riding. I am so grateful for the experiences that I had in Costa Rica,” said Leach.

The immersion in the culture led Leach to a new appreciation for the it.

“This trip allowed me to see a beautiful country while learning about an amazing culture. I was able to see the hard work of all of the Costa Rican’s, especially my “Tica” mom who worked every day to make sure I was comfortable. But I also saw the hardships of children in poverty and those in need within another country. This was an experience that I will never forget and I could not be more grateful for it,” said Leach.

Matt Leach views a tree frog while visiting La Paz Waterfall Gardens in Costa Rica. The gardens, near San Jose, is home to some of the most famous waterfalls in Costa Rica, an animal sanctuary with over 100 species of animals, and an environmental education program. Leach studied Spanish in Costa Rica Jan 3-April 22.
http://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2017/06/web1_Matt-Leach.jpgMatt Leach views a tree frog while visiting La Paz Waterfall Gardens in Costa Rica. The gardens, near San Jose, is home to some of the most famous waterfalls in Costa Rica, an animal sanctuary with over 100 species of animals, and an environmental education program. Leach studied Spanish in Costa Rica Jan 3-April 22. Courtesy photo

By Paula Frew

For the Sidney Daily News

The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.

The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.