Getting out of your comfort zone, going to another country, another culture, is incredibly important. Having just returned from taking a group of 50 people to Europe, 19 of whom were 13 years old, I got to see eyes opened, confidence given, and understanding granted. Every child of this age (and really of every age) should be exposed to different cultures. Here is what I witnessed:
1) A junior soccer team from Costa Rica went to Barcelona and played in one of the top international tournaments in the world. They got their booties kicked in the first game which gave them a respect for other teams and styles of play. Then they came back and won 5 games in a row, winning 2nd place in the consolation bracket, and giving them the confidence that just because they are not a major European team, not only can they compete, that they have the ability to win against some of the best. Think about how this relates to their day to day lives in the future.
2) This group learned how to manage the public transportation system in Madrid, Paris, and London. They figured out the metro system so they can get from place to place in some of the major cities of the world. The fear of the unknown was conquered. They began to understand that they can figure these things out and don’t have to be afraid to try and to ask for help.
3) Learning to communicate with others without knowing the language. First, many recognized the importance of English as the international language of communication but even without that, they figured out ways to get the answers they needed. Whether they used technology, a friend, or hand signals, they ordered meals, found locations, and made new friends.
4) Seeing how other cultures react to rules. The group discovered that rules are very important to the British and these must be followed. If you cross the street, it must be in the crosswalks and with the light. If you do so, the world stops for you to cross the road, if not, you are risking your life. Lines are not to be cut. Rules are there for a reason and must be obeyed. It was a very obvious contradiction with the Costa Rican culture that opened their eyes to other differences in cultures and helped them to understand that not everyone sees things the same way.
I know that for many of these families, this was a very difficult expense and a sacrifice to send these kids overseas, but it has had more impact than only a soccer tournament or just seeing the Eiffel Tower. This was life-changing for these kids whether they realize it yet or not. For those parents who bring their children to Costa Rica and immerse them here, the same happens. Anytime that children (and adults) can be exposed to another culture is a positive thing. I am so glad to have seen it in this group and hope that other kids will have this experience which will absolutely shape their lives in ways unimaginable.
Tina Newton is a Realtor and part-owner of Tristan & Newton Real Estate, located in Atenas, Costa Rica. For information on homes in Costa Rica or just to answer your questions about living there, contact her at her email, check out the listings on the homepage or follow on Facebook.