This is Kiley, Jill, and Lisa blogging at the conclusion of our trip to Costa Rica.
As our time in Costa Rica draws to a close, we have come to a number of conclusions about the experience that we are excited to share. It is, however, difficult to articulate ours experience fully, as the act of immersing oneself in another culture for four weeks has great implications that will no doubt extend far beyond today.
While one of our main goals in coming to Costa Rica was to enhance our Spanish speaking abilities for use in a clinical setting, one unanticipated factor that was gleaned from our immersion experience is realizing the ways in which elements of the culture of a developing country permeate all areas of life for the people. While we have found that, in many ways, Costa Rica offers its citizens access to sufficient (often excellent) mental health care, education, and other social services, there are indeed areas in which the systems struggle to meet the need efficiently and effectively. The system is complex and bound by many sociocultural factors that we would not have formerly recognized as contenders.
We do not mean to say that the system is entirely flawed or that the people are consistently for want or need of services. We mean to say that in our analysis of the system, we need to keep in mind that Costa Rica is a developing country and has challenges of a developing country. We also cannot forget that we are observing from the lens of Students from the United States. Many Ticos with whom we spoke had wonderful stories of success with the healthcare and/or education system. We were also reminded that the Costa Rican people are living to ages that often exceed average lifespans of people in the United States.
We have been so consistently impressed by the skills, intellect, compassion, interest, hospitality, and honesty that we have witnessed in the people we have interacted with during our time here. One example of the compassion of the Costa Ricans was with a child and mother at the UNIBE clinic. The child was receiving Cognitive Evaluation and the mother needed to bring her to the clinic on five separate occasions for the assessment. After the third session, the mother, who is a house keeper, was nervous she would lose her job if she missed any additional days at work. The clinician changed her times and extended sessions in order to accommodate the needs of the family.
At times, it has been difficult to witness the ways in which personal and professional lives are impacted by the limitations that life in Costa Rica imposes. However, for every one of those times, we have been impressed by the great importance placed on securing and maintaining good health (both physical and mental) for the people of a country that struggles so financially.
In short, the experience has been far more thought provoking than we could have anticipated. We arrived hoping to speak better Spanish and we are departing with a host of new ideas and impressions about mental healthcare in Latin America. Thanks for following our blog! Until next year!