Country has an edge in attracting language students

Students across the United States are flocking to Costa Rica to study Spanish. International students enrolled in Costa Rica’s universities and schools said they chose to study here not only because of the impressive biodiversity and countless volunteer opportunities but because they were also interested in shoring up their language skills and possibly their resumes.

Bethany Fredrick from Marian University in Wisconsin chose to study Spanish because of Costa Rica’s clean form of the language and excellent programs. When Ms. Fredrick was searching for a language program, she found that Costa Rica has more than 60 different universities and schools that offer them, and, three are in the top 10 of all Latin American institutions. As a Spanish major, she said she felt that the experience of studying abroad would be useful in obtaining a job after graduation.

The likelihood of this happening is well within her reach. According to a recent report by University of California at Merced, 97 percent of study abroad students found employment within 12 months of graduation, when only 49 percent of college graduates found employment in the same period. Moreover, 25 percent of students obtained higher starting salaries, which on average equated to $7,000 more annually than other students who had not studied abroad, the report said.

Halle Mar from Bethel University in Minnesota also said that the ability to speak Spanish will prove useful for her job search in the future. “Spanish is a very valuable language because it’s growing in the United States,” she said. “It’s possible that within the next five to 10 years, Spanish will be the second official language of America.”

With well over 35 million Spanish speakers in the United States and 40 percent of the population growth being among Hispanics, more Americans seem interested in improving their language skills. Besides her interest in learning Spanish, Ms. Mar also chose to study abroad in Costa Rica because she heard it was a country where she could easily get plugged into Christian ministry work. Outside of academic course work, Ms. Halle volunteers at Youth With a Mission to help distribute Bibles and organize Bible school programs in San José communities.

A huge concern for parents of students studying abroad is finding a country where safety is assured. This past year, Mexico experienced a 42 percent drop of study abroad students due to drug violence. On the other hand, Costa Rica ranks as the lowest Latin American country for homicides, said the Central Data Report, citing the U. N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

Costa Rica also sell its environmental awareness to international students, as it ranks as the number one Latin American nation in terms of ecotourism. Stephanie Woo said she came to Costa Rica to experience the country’s natural beauty.

The environmental studies major from the University of Denver was enthusiastic about exploring the outdoor biodiversity and learning more about ecotourism. Ms. Woo said she chose Veritas University because she was “interested in environmental issues and the program had some relevant and interesting classes offered.” Through her ecology courses, she has had the opportunity to visit the mountains, rain forest, and volcanoes of Costa Rica.

Even those who are not concerned with environmental issues can appreciate Costa Rica’s scenery. Senior Mohammad Hadi, studying international relations in Colorado, also expressed his enjoyment of Costa Rica’s scenery. “The natural beauty is amazing here,” he said. “I love nature and you can have it in its purest form out here.” In addition to Costa Rica’s pure nature, Hadi also commented on the Pura Vida lifestyle innate to Costa Rica’s identity. He said he appreciates how people in Costa Rica are laid back and easy going.

Another reason students cited for studying in Costa Rica was for easy and accessible travel through Central America.

The capital city of San José is wonderful, but there are so many other beautiful sights to see outside of the metro area, said student Diamond Davis, who traveled to Panamá last weekend. Ms. Diamond said her favorite part was experiencing the amazing food of patacones and churros.

* Miss Reese, a senior at Wheaton College in Illinois, also is a Spanish language student at Veritas University in Zapote.

By Abigail Reese*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

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