A famous quote from the Shakespearen classic “Romeo and Juliet,” occurs when Juliet points out to Romeo, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” She’s arguing that he would be the same if his last name were different, which is important since their families are mortal enemies. After being called something that is not my given name for over two months now, I’m adding that conclusion to the list of things that Juliet says and/or does that I disagree with.

College is the moment in life when anyone has the opportunity to totally redefine herself. As it turns out, studying abroad is basically the same deal; it’s just not as common to redefine yourself a second time. Well, that’s too bad, because I’m right in the middle of an identity crisis brought on by the new name I have assumed since arriving in Costa Rica.

When I arrived here in July, I introduced myself as Mariah to my host parents, but it was immediately clear that my name was not going to work. The “ry” sound in Mariah, like Mariah Carey, simply doesn’t exist in Spanish. I offered “Maria” as an alternative, and that has caught on much more strongly than I would have imagined. Not only does my host family call me Maria, so do my professors and the friends I have started to make in my classes, even though I introduced myself as Mariah the first time I met all of them. It seems like the switch is natural.

It’s even become subconscious for me. I now introduce myself as Maria to people I meet when I’m out. Need to make a reservation? Introduce myself to someone at a bar? It’s Maria. If they’re Costa Rican, I’m Maria.

This honestly wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t feel that Maria had a totally different personality than regular old, American Mariah. Sure, my new persona is more culturally attuned, but she is also incredibly quiet, a little nervous and pretty freaked out all the time. Regular Mariah is one of the first to participate in the classroom discussion, is fairly outgoing and — if I do say so myself — is pretty funny. Maria is likely to make people laugh because she has trouble putting together a coherent sentence. Mariah generally enjoys making a fool out of herself, but not exactly like that.

I’m ultimately struggling because I feel like no one who meets Maria is getting to the heart of who I, Mariah, really am. My American friends here have met the real me, but unfortunately, the point of studying abroad was not to meet more Americans. I want my host family, my classmates, my professors and the Ticos I’m trying to befriend to understand that I am not an American stereotype. I care deeply about truly immersing myself in my classes and the culture here. All of my classes are interesting and make me want to participate, but Maria’s afraid. I want to introduce myself to strangers and crack jokes, but Maria doesn’t want to be judged for her error-filled Spanish. I have learned so much thus far from my experience at Georgetown because I threw myself into it. I wasn’t afraid to meet new people, to make mistakes and to come off as a little weird, because that’s just who I am. Now, Maria needs to man up and make the decision to do the same thing.

On the plus side, while Maria might be timid, she is much easier to serenade. My real name is only featured in the intro to some obscure Mariah Carey songs and the show tune “They Call the Wind Mariah” from “Paint My Wagon,” Maria is the title character of songs from musicals like “The Sound of Music” and “West Side Story,” to singles by Blondie, Santana and Justin Bieber. Basically what I’m saying is that everyone is now invited to sing to me all the time. Thanks.

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