HHS Student Spends Semester in Costa Rica

Zea Robbi./Photo By Kristan Korns, TRT

By KRISTAN KORNS, Two Rivers Tribune

Zea Robbi said her address last semester was the green house by the soccer field in Birrisito, and the only other person at her school who could speak English was the English teacher.

“The houses are stacked on hills next to each other. They’re made out of concrete and painted really colorfully,” she said. “There aren’t any house numbers, so they identify them by color.”

Robbi, who’s lived in Orleans since she was three, spent the spring semester as a foreign exchange student in Costa Rica. It was hard for her at first, because she could barely speak Spanish.

“It took about two months to be able to make friends in broken Spanish,” Robbi said. “By the end of five months, I could have conversations with anyone.”

She met locals and also made friends with other exchange students from around the world. Her best friend there was from Austria.

“We had to talk in Spanish because she didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak German,” Robbi said.

She said they were on Costa Rican reality TV for a few seconds during a trip to San Jose.

“There’s a show in Costa Rica called ‘Combate’,” Robbi said. “We ran into two of the actors from the show, and the guy gave us a kiss on the cheek. It was so exciting.”

She said she was an exchange student through a program called American Field Service (AFS), a non-profit that helps send kids from different countries abroad to learn about other cultures.

“My sophomore year I met a girl from Costa Rica who was being hosted in McKinleyville and she said ‘you should go to Costa Rica to learn Spanish’,” Robbi said.

She said that she was also encouraged by Matt Nagel, the Spanish teacher at Hoopa High School.

“She’s a fantastic student and the current Valedictorian at Hoopa High,” Nagel said. “She submitted an application to AFS, was selected, and raised the money on her own.”

Robbi had help from her family, who threw a big fundraiser dinner and invited everyone in Orleans.

She said that at first she really missed home, but that by the end of her stay she almost didn’t want to go home.
“I think it’s a good opportunity to push your boundaries and do something super different,” Robbi said. “It shows that you can do whatever you set your dreams to.”

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