Today’s blog post comes to us from UW-La Crosse student and API scholarship recipient Anna Schaut. She’s opening up about intercultural relationships and her experience studying abroad with us in San José, Costa Rica!
“Bendito Dios por encontrarnos en el camino” or Blessed be God for crossing our paths.
I’ve always believed everything happens for a reason, and that God has a set life-changing plan for each and every one of us. I have always known my calling has been to use Spanish to help others. I have a profound love for the Spanish language and have taken part in many activities outside of the classroom to improve my own Spanish skills. So when I decided to download a language exchange app called Speaky during the summer of 2018, I thought I was simply practicing my Spanish as usual.
In the app, there are millions of potential language partners, and it can be really hard to choose who you want to talk to. Since I was to study abroad in Costa Rica in the Fall of 2018, I figured I would pick conversation partners from Costa Rica. By chance, on the 21st of May, I saw that I had a conversation request from a Costa Rican. I responded to the conversation he had started, not knowing that it would change my life forever.
I talked with Tonny throughout the entire summer.
He helped me with Spanish, and I helped him with English. He was very welcoming to any questions I had about Costa Rica when I told him I would be studying there. We exchanged pictures of our typical meals, and talked about our typical days. I taught him about s’mores and camping, and he taught me about gallo pinto (a traditional Costa Rican meal of rice and beans) and El Día de la Virgen de los Angeles (a day in which many people pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Angels Basilica in Cartago, Costa
As we became less shy, we called each other on the phone to practice our language skills, and this built more trust between us. Soon we became close friends, sharing our favorite songs, our problems, and helping each other to overcome them. I learned about his family and I told him about mine. We became excited as it came closer for me to go abroad, and he counted down the months and weeks even more than I did. We always had planned on meeting each other at least once. One thing lead to another, and soon I realized that I had a crush on him, and thought he might like me too. I was right. A few weeks before I left for Costa Rica, he confessed his feelings for me!
Even though I was nervous, I told him that I liked him too. It soon became apparent that we would be meeting up far more than once. We talked about tons of fun things that we could do on our first date, and ultimately went to the San Pedro Mall.
We were both scared to meet for the first time, but as soon as I saw him walking towards me at my bus stop, I instantly felt at home.
My face lit up, and without thinking, I gave him a big hug. I remember walking to another bus stop with him thinking “Oh my gosh, this is really real. This is so crazy, please don’t let me be dreaming.” Our first date was perfect; it was like a scene from the movies. We had dinner together, played in an arcade, went on a virtual reality roller coaster ride, watched a movie in the cinema together, and lastly spent time together talking in a park in downtown San José before I had to go home.
During the rest of my time in Costa Rica, it only got more amazing from there!
We formed special habits, like going to La Gran Muralla restaurant to eat our favorite pizza. In addition, we visited the amusement park three times, and each time was a blast. We went to different parks and had picnics with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Smartfood White Cheddar Popcorn, which became our go-to snack when hanging out. We saw even more movies together, including A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody.
Eventually, I went to his house and was able to meet his siblings, allowing me to know Tonny on an even deeper level. We laughed together and learned together and formed our own inside jokes and memories that I will always cherish. We knew our time to physically be together was short, and this undoubtedly caused a lot of stress and worry. However, I feel that this fact alone has helped us to become even closer and have a stronger relationship. We valued our priceless time together, and hung out whenever he wasn’t working, and I didn’t have school or a weekend excursion.
When it was finally time for me to leave, he went with me to the airport, and stayed with me until 2 AM when my flight was delayed. Watching him walk away as he left the airport to catch his ride home was one of the hardest things I have had to do. We knew this day would be hard, but we assured each other that everything would be alright.
We were right. Two months later, we are still together and very happy.
Undoubtedly, being in a long-distance relationship has its challenges. I miss him so much, and there’s not a minute I don’t think of him. I always try to stay positive, although sometimes it can be hard when my roommate’s boyfriend visits her every weekend, while I know I still have months to wait before I can see mine.
Of course, there are always people that give me looks of doubt or disapproval when they hear of our situation. They expect me to have our whole life plans figured out, and if I don’t, they think our relationship will be impossible. I try not to let it bring me down, because I know that we have lots of time, and our love is strong enough to last. Sometimes I
think of Taylor Swift’s lyrics in the song Ours to make me feel better:
Don’t you worry your pretty little mind,
People throw rocks at things that shine,
But they can’t take what ours,
They can’t take what’s ours.
Although being in a long-distance, multicultural relationship can be hard, Tonny and I still have lots of fun together every day.
I thank God every day for the blessings of our current advanced technology. Not only does it allow us to text, call, and video call one another; we can also share silly videos and memes that we both find really funny. We play really fun games together as well.
My favorite thing to do with Tonny is have movie date nights. We use a website called Rabb. It lets us simultaneously watch YouTube videos, Netflix, and really any anything else you can access online. It’s really cool, because while we are watching the movie, we can see each other and talk to each other, without any echoing of ourselves or the movie that is playing.
We can also write messages to each other on the sides, or click buttons that send hearts or laughing emojis to the movie screen when something cute or funny happens in the movie.
I never regret starting a long-distance intercultural relationship.
Being with Tonny has changed my life for the better in so many ways. He really is the man of my dreams. He is a gentleman, and patient. He is the sweetest man I have ever met, and he makes me feel safe. He never pressures me into doing anything I don’t want to. I feel comfortable talking to him about anything, and I can be myself around him. He recognizes my strengths and things that make me special that not everyone can see, and he has taught me to love myself and be more self-confident. He always makes me laugh and smile, and motivates me to be the best I can be, especially when it is hardest to do so.
It’s crazy to think how shy we were the first couple times we hung out, and how we have grown so much since then. I’m so excited to grow even more together in our future.