Four months into my study abroad experience, I’ve come to realize that there is a lot about Costa Rica that I just wasn’t expecting. Sure, I had been warned about culture shock and how different classes in another language would be, but I’ve been able to manage those transitions with relative ease. However, Costa Rica faces another set of struggles that I rather naively overlooked — what I have since deemed “developing world problems.”

Costa Rica is arguably a well-developed country. It has a strong history of democracy and well-functioning political and economic systems. Nonetheless, I have learned to live with daily reminders of the differences between here and home, small things that I now realize I took for granted in the United States. However, living in a country still considered under development has also yielded a variety of small blessings, regardless of the inconveniences associated with them.

First of all, I have learned some serious patience thanks to the public bus system here. I use buses to get pretty much everywhere — school, downtown San Jose, my friend’s houses — because they are very convenient and there is a stop a block from my house. On the other hand, there is no bus schedule whatsoever. The next bus could come in the next 30 seconds or it could take 25 minutes. Therefore, I’ve had some pretty deep conversations with myself while waiting for the bus, and I’ve also listened to “Call Me Maybe” on my iPod an embarrassing number of times in a row. The plus side of this experience: Transportation is super cheap.

Costa Rica is roughly the size of West Virginia which makes it relatively small, but I was still surprised when the entire nation’s Internet and cell phone service once cut out for an entire hour. To make matters worse, it took my phone over a week to recover from the shock — I simply couldn’t send texts. Although it took me a while to figure out what was wrong with my phone and my conversation partners thought I was ignoring them, it didn’t present much of a problem, and because I rarely text anyway, I’m just going to take the phone freak-out as a pro in my experience abroad.

The developing world also has some bizarre hygiene-related problems, although I promise I’m still squeaky clean 99 percent of the time. However, I wasn’t expecting my neighborhood to not have running water for one weekend every two months. Luckily, this problem is easily solved by scheduling my showers ahead of time so I don’t spend too much time being stinky in one weekend. The more immediate inconvenience is that my university, and pretty much every public restroom, provides neither toilet paper nor hand soap, which has led to some lowering of my personal standards. I’ll let you ruminate on just exactly how by yourself. However, as some sort of plus, finding a bathroom with toilet paper, a toilet seat, soap and paper towels is like the Holy Grail and genuinely excites me now. It’s the simple things in life that get you through the day, people.

Ultimately, however, these “developing world problems” don’t actually matter. I might not have prepared myself for them, but they are part of my life in Costa Rica, an experience I am enjoying immensely. And, honestly, the fact that I have them means that I’m living life like a real Tica. I have waited for the bus with Costa Ricans, figured out what was wrong with the Internet when my host sister and I powwowed about our computers not working and followed my host mom’s lead on how to prepare for the water shortages. My intent in going abroad was not to live like a tourist in another country for six months but to fully immerse myself in Costa Rican culture. Even if I’ll never be totally at home here, both personally and in the eyes of the Ticas around me, at least to some extent we can bond over shared struggles, no matter how simple.

Mariah Byrne is a junior in the School of Foreign ServiceSURVIVING ENDLESS SUMMER appears every other Friday in the guide.

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