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How I Got Paid To Study Abroad In Costa Rica as a Low Income Student


Studying abroad is a dream many students aspire to, but for those from low-income backgrounds, the idea often seems out of reach due to financial constraints. However, my journey to study abroad in Costa Rica shattered that misconception. In this blog, I'll share my inspiring story of how I not only realized my dream of studying abroad but also managed to do it without incurring overwhelming debt. Costa Rica, with its lush landscapes, rich culture, and diverse wildlife, became the backdrop of my transformative experience.

A photo of Sabrina climbing a rock surrounded by a waterfall and tropical plants in Costa Rica.
Pura Vida

The Dream and the Doubts

From the moment I stepped into college, the desire to study abroad burned within me. However, my financial reality and the daunting prospect of taking on student loans made me question if this dream was achievable. The initial visit to my college's student aid office left me disheartened, as they emphasized that going abroad meant accumulating debt. That's when the journey truly began.

Belief in the Dream

Undeterred by the initial setback, I clung to a powerful belief: if you can dream it, you can achieve it. Growing up in a low-income household and being the first in my family to attend college, the odds seemed stacked against me. Still, I refused to abandon my dream of living my younger self's wildest dreams through studying abroad.

Research and Resilience

With determination as my compass, I embarked on an exhaustive quest for alternative pathways. I delved into scholarship opportunities and sought guidance from mentors who had walked a similar path. My dedication to finding solutions and navigating the challenges set the stage for what was to come.

Pursuing Scholarships and Financial Aid

I embarked on a comprehensive quest, casting a wide net to seize every scholarship opportunity that resonated with my fervor for exploration and education. Pouring my heart into personal essays, I meticulously conveyed my dreams and aspirations. The journey was undeniably demanding, yet it stood as a pivotal milestone in the realization of my dream.

In this process, I diligently scoured the study abroad program's website in search of financial assistance options. To my immense relief, I uncovered a $500 scholarship with a rapidly approaching deadline—just five days away. Without hesitation, I set to work, crafting an essay that encapsulated my passion and determination.

Soon thereafter, I received invaluable counsel from a trusted advisor who introduced me to the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship —an opportunity designed specifically for low-income students. This scholarship, however, came with its own set of rigorous requirements, including three essays and a list of additional prerequisites. Although initially overwhelming, I remained resolute in my determination, leveraging every available resource.

Having previously navigated the intricacies of financial aid, I revisited my college's financial aid office to explore my options once more. Despite being informed that I might still require a loan to cover expenses, I no longer allowed fear to deter me as it had during my initial encounter. Undeterred, I proceeded to apply for financial aid, patiently awaiting the outcome.

In the end, my pursuit led me to three potential sources of financial support: the ICISP $500 scholarship, the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, which could provide up to $5,000, and a financial aid package tailored to each student's household income. This multifaceted approach ensured that I explored every avenue to transform my dream of studying abroad into a tangible reality.

The Moment of Realization

Then, on a day that felt like a dream itself, the moment I had been yearning for finally materialized. A notification popped up, bearing the incredible news that I had not just one but two scholarships in my grasp, ready to fully finance my upcoming study abroad expedition in Costa Rica. It was an overwhelming and surreal sensation, as I came face to face with the undeniable truth that all my relentless dedication and unwavering belief had yielded tangible rewards.

In this stroke of fortune, I was awarded the ICISP $500 scholarship, the prestigious Gilman Scholarship worth $4,000, and an additional offer of approximately $1,600 in financial aid. Considering that my summer study abroad program costs, inclusive of flights and meals, amounted to $3,970, this revelation was nothing short of astounding. Suddenly, I found myself with a surplus of $2,130 at my disposal.

The overwhelming emotions that engulfed me are impossible to forget—gratitude and love flowed through my veins. My dream had ceased to be a mere figment of imagination; it had transformed into a tangible, exhilarating reality. I had, against all odds, proven that the impossible was indeed possible, affirming that with unwavering commitment, even the loftiest aspirations can become attainable truths.

Life-Changing Experience

Studying abroad in Costa Rica became more than just a dream; it became a life-changing experience. Immersed in a new culture, surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the country, and making lifelong friends, I knew I had made the right choice.

Lessons Learned

My journey to studying abroad in Costa Rica taught me that determination, research, and belief in oneself can overcome financial obstacles. It showed me the importance of seeking out opportunities, even when the odds seem against you. Today, I am a testament to the fact that no dream is too big for a low-income student to achieve. Costa Rica not only broadened my horizons but also reinforced my belief that with hard work and resilience, anything is possible.

If you're a low-income student with dreams of studying abroad, remember: where there's a will, there's a way. Your journey may be challenging, but it's undoubtedly worth every moment. Costa Rica was my canvas of transformation, and it can be yours too.


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