At Maximo Nivel we help hundreds of international students every year gain experience in their fields, obtain the credits needed for graduation, and even to find their perfect career path. Students can create customized curriculum suited to their goals whether that’s adding an internship, service-learning, or Spanish courses.
Last time, we interviewed students from Guatemala campus. This time, we’re bringing you memorable moments from those who joined us in Costa Rica. Here’s what they had to say about their unique experiences studying abroad.
Chris F. – Veterinary & Animal Science
By 3, I’d declared myself a vegetarian, refusing to eat any animals. At 5, I was introduced to my best friend, a beagle named Sinbad, who I trained to roll over so I could try to hear his heartbeat with my toy stethoscope. I had a fascination with understanding animals – their anatomy, their health, their diet, causes of illness, their moods and feelings – you name it! I knew I would go to school to study veterinary medicine.
I chose to study abroad in Costa Rica because I was interested in exploring its biodiversity first hand. During my veterinary internship, I worked mostly with domesticated animals. I was ecstatic to get the hands-on experience I needed to advance professionally. However, my most memorable moment while abroad didn’t happen at the clinic.
It actually happened during a visit to Manuel Antonio’s National Park. I’d never been so immersed in nature in my life. Literally, tens of monkeys were going about their lives and I was just in complete shock. My guide was so well-informed and I admired his ability to not only know about and understand the animals he pointed out but to witness a true connection between himself and the species. That moment made me realize that my work needs to go beyond medicine and doing all that I can to protect animal rights and welfare to the best of my ability.
Stan H. – Health & Medicine
Medical school was a challenging road. Between medical terminology, anatomy, symptoms, diagnosis, and clinical, I sometimes felt like I was in over my head. A peer suggested I take a trip abroad to celebrate all of my hard work after graduation, but I didn’t want to stop learning or practicing. That’s when I started looking into internships abroad.
I chose a medical internship in Costa Rica where I would be able to learn from local medical staff, assist with the elderly population, and still be able to explore a bucket list country. For 8 weeks, I worked alongside professionals with decades of experience. I learned how to more effectively communicate with Spanish speaking patients through my practice at the elderly center and the medical Spanish courses I decided to take while abroad. I learned to ask questions that could more easily lead me to understand a patient’s symptoms, and I worked hands-on helping with treatment.
One of the most memorable moments for me was when I was able to work with a patient from beginning to end with absolutely no translator. It was in my 7th week, but I’d practiced so much that I was fully able to communicate with the patient and front desk staff nearly fluently. This experience will allow me to service a broader patient population, and has made me a preferred medical professional at my local clinic.
Lily A. – Volunteer Abroad
By the spring semester of sophomore year, I felt like I was the only student I knew who hadn’t declared a major. I wasn’t sure if I lacked passion, commitment, discipline, or all three, but I couldn’t make a decision. My mom was very supportive during this time though, never forcing me onto a path I didn’t make for myself. But she did provide a solution that helped me finally realize where I belonged.
Instead of sending me abroad during the traditional semester at school, my mom persuaded me into a mother-daughter extended summer vacation. Once we agreed on Costa Rica, she pretty much handled everything else and presented me with a full itinerary for our 2 months abroad. She’d spoken with a Maximo Nivel program advisor who helped her put an itinerary together which allowed us to get involved in 3 different volunteer programs; working with children, construction, and teaching English.
Working in the local communities really opened my eyes to a different way of life. My mom is a natural social butterfly, so she struck up conversations with the locals we saw around the neighborhood every day and improved her Spanish almost overnight. I quietly admired her from afar but felt too shy to fully embrace all that was happening around me. That is until the teaching English program.
I don’t know how or why it happened, but from the moment I stepped in front of a group of strangers to teach English, I naturally came into myself. Was it because being put on center stage left nowhere for me to hide? Was it the fact that I quickly realized my own positive energy and excitement in the classroom put the biggest smiles on my students’ faces? I knew I felt differently, but when my class was over, my mom embraced me in the biggest hug and told me how proud of me she was. “This is your calling,” she said. And I couldn’t deny the fact that I knew it, too.
That moment changed my life. I found myself, and I found my path. When we got back home, I immediately declared an education major. I have two years left to complete my program and will follow with a TEFL certificate. I plan to teach English abroad for a year before returning to complete a TESOL Master’s degree.
Mariah W. – Spanish For Business
I studied Spanish all throughout high school, and actually had the opportunity to live abroad in Spain while I was in college. But life happens fast, and the next thing you know, I hadn’t used my Spanish in 3 years. I was focused on getting my business off the ground and working 14 hours days during that time. Finally, when things settled down, and I was able to afford someone to help with my business, I left her in charge and went to Costa Rica.
My instructor was really adamant about helping me to develop my Spanish as it related to my life. When she found out I owned my own business, we focused on business communication. I was able to tell her about my passion for planning events and how I networked endlessly to build my clientele list. Then she posed a really obvious idea I hadn’t even considered – advertising my services to Spanish speaking clients.
I’d never considered it because I was hesitant about putting myself out there. It wasn’t my first language, and what did I know about the Latin American party culture? “No importa. Todos quieren divertirse” – everyone wants to have a good time. We worked on my writing for the ad, and role-played first meetings with a client which really boosted my confidence.
I’ve been back in the states for 7 months now, and I’ve successfully produced two events for Spanish speaking clients, and currently working on a third. My focus now is networking within this population and among catering companies better suited to the culture. I’m learning more every day about the preferred styles and event organization. I’m so incredibly thankful for the support I was shown because I don’t think I would have expanded my business the way I did if it weren’t for my Spanish instructor in Costa Rica.
Loretta G. – Anthropology and Sociology
I never thought I’d be able to afford to study abroad. But in my junior year of college, I applied for a scholarship that paid for half of the tuition for a study abroad program with Maximo Nivel in Costa Rica. I still had to come up with half of the money, but I was determined not to give up this opportunity.
I found out I was getting the scholarship during the spring semester of 2018. I gave myself exactly one year to work, save money, and get the best grades I possibly could in hopes of securing more funding. I worked part-time while going to school full time, applied for more grants to cover part of my tuition, and by spring 2019, my very last semester in college, I got on my very first flight abroad.
It isn’t much for some people, but for me, the most memorable part of my trip was landing. From the sky, Costa Rica looked like the greenest place I’d ever seen. I couldn’t believe I was there. I completed 12 credits I needed for graduation including two advanced Spanish courses. Studying abroad in Costa Rica opened my mind to the limitless possibilities my life could take me. Since then, I was offered a full-time position working as a study abroad advisor for my university, helping students just like me to study in countries all over the world, and have had the chance to travel to three more countries in 2019.
Karen O. – TEFL Certification
Two years after graduating with a degree in accounting, I sat at my desk preparing payroll for employees. Monday through Friday, I banished myself to a superficially lit office and drank all the free coffee I could manage. I knew I wasn’t happy, but who was? I and all of my friends met for happy hours at 6 PM and spent at least an hour complaining about our jobs. By 7, we were stuffing our faces with fried food, and I’d get home at 10, sometimes later, only to wake up at 6 to do it again. It was becoming a toxic cycle. And one day, I just snapped out of it.
I knew I needed a change, but I didn’t know what I would do. Anything was better than this. I reached out to an acquaintance who frequently shared photos of her life abroad, and she gave me information on how I could get my TEFL certificate. I applied for the program in Manuel Antonio and fell in love with the experience my very first day.
I was so siked to be learning something new and training for a new career. I would decide later to extend my stay, and I ended up teaching English for a year in San Jose. I can’t pinpoint one memorable moment, but the experience itself is one I will never forget. Choosing to get my TEFL meant choosing my happiness, my path, and my life. I’m trying to live by those morals every single day.
Cristina G. – Volunteer in Costa Rica
I am originally from Mexico and had been traveling through Central America when I came across Maximo Nivel in San Jose. I met one of the staff members while out one night who told me about the various programs I could get involved with. I went to visit her at the campus the next day and learned about all of the volunteer opportunities. I know that many people in Latin America aren’t as fortunate as I am to be able to travel, so I thought getting involved myself and helping where I could would be a great way for me to give back.
I chose a Working with Kids placement because children will grow to lead our world one day. I wanted to understand their perspective on life, what their day to day routines were, and how I might be able to alleviate any of their struggles in any way possible. I was placed in a program in one of the more impoverished communities. The center was understaffed and they were extremely grateful for the help the volunteers provided.
The most memorable moment for me was a group of kids I was helping with homework one day. One of the kids abruptly put down his pencil and asked, “What are you doing in Costa Rica?” that question unraveled a load of questions about the countries I’d visited and how I was able to travel. I had to explain that going to college provided some of my first travel opportunities, and I soon prioritized travel over many other hobbies.
The kids were all really excited to hear more about my travel stories. They mentioned that they’d met many English speaking volunteers at the center, but not many native Spanish speakers. My presence gave them encouragement to go to college, work hard, and travel. It was a bittersweet goodbye after 3 weeks, but I will cherish that moment forever knowing I was able to help them to dream a little bigger.
Amanda D. – Spanish Immersion
I decided to move to Costa Rica in late 2018 after going through a divorce. When I arrived, I didn’t know the language, but it wasn’t my first time visiting. I knew I’d be able to get around using just English. I settled in Manuel Antonio, and the first few days were bliss. But as the days turned into weeks, I started to feel lonely.
One day on my way back from the beach to Quepos, I noticed the big COSI sign in front of the Maximo Nivel campus. I knew it was a language school, but this time I instinctively jumped off the bus and signed up for Spanish courses. The staff and faculty became like a second family. In no time, I knew everyone at the school and advanced my Spanish so much so that I felt comfortable enough to begin conversations with the locals in their native language.
Studying Spanish in Costa Rica was a turning point. It allowed me to create a more sustainable life in this beautiful place. I made new friends, met new dancing partners, and celebrated the holidays with a chosen family. Learning Spanish was the moment I picked up a paintbrush and began painting the new story of my life.
Jeffery F. – Spanish Summer Camp
Every summer, since I was 13, I’ve participated in different summer camps. I took part in a traditional teen camps, basketball camp, football camp, and nature camp. This past summer, we chose Maximo Nivel’s Spanish camp in Costa Rica.
I was used to spending time away from my family, but I’d never spent time in another country! It was sort of like traditional summer camp, but there was a Spanish language component to it. I was already studying Spanish in school, but actually getting to use it in the country made it that much more important for me to really learn and understand it during my classes.
After lunch we got to visit Costa Rica’s highlights around San Jose and Manuel Antonio. We also got to go zip-lining, hiking, and rafting, surf lessons, and chilled out on movie nights. I unexpectedly met a friend who lives a few towns over in my home state of New Jersey, and I also met friends from California, Chicago, Virginia, Texas, and of course, Costa Rica. This experience was so different because I didn’t only feel like I was at camp, I felt like I was at boarding school and on vacation at the same time.
It’s crazy that I now have friends in so many different states and even overseas. Next year, I won’t be eligible to attend the Summer Camp, but together with a friend we will join sea turtle conservation program for a month. I’m so excited to go back.