Change is good. I know, I know, this phrase has been recycled for decades, from movies to your parents. But the fact still remains that change forces you to grow as a person. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t one of the hardest things to do. Routine on all scales is comforting, but breaking routine and expanding your horizons is when the best things happen.

Changing cultures is definitely not an easy transition, but the people of Monteverde, Costa Rica made it easy for freshman Emma Galusha. From January to June of 2016, Galusha went to school in Costa Rica—and the experience changed her life.

While she was there, Galusha attended the Monteverde Friends School—a K-12 Quaker school for local and international students, where her aunt is the co-principal.  The transition went surprisingly quick for Galusha, who felt accepted by her new school and community.

Towards the beginning of March, I made some more friends in different grades, and since that moment, I wasn’t really homesick at all,” Galusha said. “I missed my friends and family, of course, but it wasn’t something that I was constantly thinking about that made me miserable.

During school, Galusha mainly focused on improving her Spanish speaking.  Three of the eight classes she took were taught entirely in Spanish; as a result Galusha was immersed into the language through living in a Spanish speaking country.  Learning Spanish was one of her goals for the trip, and she hopes to be completely fluent by next year.

“The amount of Spanish I heard within and outside of school really helped me improve in that language, although it was a little difficult to get used to at first,” Galusha said.

In her free time, she did outdoor activities like hiking and participated in the community events.  In April, the community gathered for Las Fiestas, which were like city-wide parties. Some of Galusha’s best memories were made at those Las Fiestas.

Las Fiestas were definitely the most fun that I’ve probably ever had. There were amusement park rides, the food was divine, and there was dancing,” Galusha said.  “Most people went to Las Fiestas, and the music wasn’t the best, but it was a lot of fun to dance with the friends I’ve made.

One of Galusha’s favorite things about Costa Rica was the tight bond that the community shared.  She immediately felt at home in her new surroundings.

“I really enjoyed the strong sense of community there.  It was something you don’t really get in Omaha,” Galusha said.  “Everyone was so close and it didn’t matter if you were from Costa Rica or North America. Everyone was so welcoming.”

If there was one lesson Galusha took away from the trip, it was to become closer with the people around her in Omaha.  The sense of collective unity from Costa Rica still resonates with Galusha today.  The experience has left her wanting to go back and she wishes her peers would adopt the same mindset.

“We should learn to be closer with each other,” Galusha said.  “Everyone knows everyone there.  It doesn’t matter what age you are—you’re friends with everyone, and I thought that was a really wonderful thing.”

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