In July 2017, I had the opportunity to study abroad for the full month in Costa Rica.

Professor Kevin O’Brien, who teaches Spanish at Savannah State, saw something in me and hand-picked me to have this experience because of my knowledge of the Spanish language coming in. I was honored by the offer but did not think I would have the money to in time of the trip, so I didn’t put much efforts into it in the beginning. I was also scared of the idea of going out of the country for the first time on my own for a full month on top of that, but that’s when Melanie Smith stepped in to help make a way. 

Smith is the study abroad coordinator at Savannah State University. She is very passionate about international travels and opened her arms to me and immediately got to work.

She introduced me to 3 scholarships to apply for to help with my cost- The Gilman Scholarship, the Presidential Scholarship, and the Savannah Council of World Scholarship. I missed the deadline for the Gilman Scholarship and cried my eyes out thinking I blew my opportunity to experience this new journey in life, but I didn’t blow it. That’s when the Presidential Scholarship and the Savannah Council on World Affairs Scholarship came into play and I made sure I applied. 

I received both scholarships and Hope Scholarship plus donations from my family, friends, and faculty to cover majority of the $3300 that was due. I only paid about $500 out of pocket for the entire trip. The $3300 covered living arrangements, round-trip flight, food, room and board, and all of the excursions. 

Living in Costa Rica for four full weeks was a life-changing experience. We studied Spanish for four hours a day and had fun excursions every week which included zip lining, visiting the hot springs, city tour and more.

Along the way I built new relationships with my mama tica (Costa Rican Mom) and her family. It gave me a new perspective on life and made me become more appreciative to the things we take advantage of here in the United States.

Learning a different culture including their language, in my opinion, is the best way to become a well-rounded person. It opens your eyes to differences from your culture to theirs whether its big or small highly encourage students to take advantage of the study abroad opportunities offered at the university. 

If you are interested in studying abroad contact Melanie Smith for more information at 912.358.4152 or email at 

If you are interested in studying abroad in Costa Rica contact Professor Irina Tedrick at 912.358.3326 or email at

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