Story by Lilly Pandis
I never realized that I grew up on a different planet. At least that’s what people think when I say I’m from Costa Rica.
When I first decided to move to California for college, I thought it would be the coolest thing to tell people that I grew up in such a beautiful country. Although I did get this reaction from a handful of people, I was shocked at the responses I got from everyone else. “Costa Rica? I love that island!” Yeah… too bad it’s not an island.
The number of times I have had to Google search a map of Costa Rica and show it to people is kind of embarrassing. Didn’t we all take geography in middle school? Other reactions I received from students were even more surprising.
People thought it was the weirdest thing that I was from a different country, let alone such a tiny, unfamiliar country. And by weird, I mean I was looked at as a different species. Although I do understand that Costa Rica is not a very well known country, it still amazes me how strange some people think it is that I was raised there. There is always that first look in people’s eyes that says, “How do you speak such good English?”
Some people are even curious enough to ask. Well, just because I grew up in a third-world, Spanish-speaking country does not mean I am bound to have a terrible English accent.
It also does not mean that I have never seen a mall or tried “Mac n’ Cheese”. In fact, the beach town I grew up in was primarily composed of locals, Americans and Europeans.
I attended an American school since second grade and most of my friends from home are from the United States. So although Costa Rica is only a dot on the map and a very different country than the U.S., there is definitely more to it than people think.
Back home it was just normal to be international since there was such a melting pot of people. Here in Southern California, however, there are not as many foreign students.
That’s probably why people have the reaction they do when they find out I am from Costa Rica. I just wish I could take everyone on a trip to my hometown so they could experience it for themselves and take a peek into my world.