Imagine finishing high school in Costa Rica.
* * *
You overpack your luggage with traditional sweets, swimsuits, and flip-flops. Actually, this is the third time you’re packing because you’re just too excited. Your mom tries to be excited too, but you may or may not have seen some tears the night before. Your dad drives to the airport and you see him crying for the first time ever. You think it’s some sort of a joke.
“What’s your final destination?” asks the sleepy airport worker.
“San Jose, Costa Rica”. You sound just a bit too eager.
You should have finished Costa Rica’s Wikipedia page instead of scrolling through your second year’s Facebook. Should have spent more time with your sisters. Should have walked your dog more.
There’ll be a lot more ‘should have’s’ along the way. But you will learn how to live through them as the opportunity cost of every decision you make at UWC will be extremely real to you.
Imagine finishing high school in Costa Rica where you will meet 240 beautiful souls from every corner of the world. Imagine living next to them for two life-changing, stimulating, painful, perfectly complete years, and seeing every single one of them go back to their own corner of this simultaneously small and big world.
* * *
Two years is a long time. You grow taller, get a gringa tan, shave your head and let your hair grow out again. You grow out of your winter coats and even when you’re back in Ukraine, conversational Spanish slips out at the grocery store. After a year at UWC, the family photos on your dorm room wall are joined by the pictures of your second years and you fear that you will never find a home without them. But then your firsties introduce you to a newer, younger vision of casa where you can even be an occasional guide for them. You start realizing that your teachers aren’t scary and come to tutorials to ask them about their interesting lives. You apply to universities but you can’t imagine existing outside of the bubble. You keep falling in love with all sorts of people, from day one to the morning of graduation.
* * *
And then just as you find out who you are and where you belong to in this place you call home, you end up leaving your last IB exam. It doesn’t go as well as you’d expect, which would make younger you cry and get stressed, but instead, you go drink sangria in a fancy shot-glass with your closest friends on a local hill until the tropical rain is so strong, you can barely see. You get back to campus fully soaked and just a bit too giggly. You only have 5 days left, but 5 days can last a lifetime, no?
* * *
And then you wake up, energetic but never rested, the usual way. You go to the cafeteria with your pajamas and eat with your self-proclaimed ‘breakfast club’. But an hour later, instead of doing homework or grabbing orange juice at the local feria, you’re passing through a tunnel of firsties holding different flags and spot your Russian first year holding a Ukrainian flag. She looks beautiful. Your parents are there and mom’s definitely crying this time, but you can’t really see because you’re crying too. You give hugs and kisses to first years, coyears, some of your second years who are visiting (while making a mental note that you’ll visit as well), teachers, parents, and staff members. You’ll never have as many pretty graduation photos as your ‘normal’ friends because you cried for most of it.
* * *
You cross the gate. This time you don’t have to sign out and there’s no time by which you need to get back to the campus. You think of the people. Some you will never see again, some you will see in years, and some you will see next month when you travel around Germany.
You did it. You finished high school in Costa Rica. And a bit of your heart will remain with this land of pura vida, gallo pinto, and beautiful sunsets.
Mi linda casa, siempre estas en mi corazón y mis pensamientos. Te extraño cada día.