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Volunteer Review: May H., Teach Physical Education in Costa Rica

A game taking place at a stadium in Costa Rica

I took part in the School Sports Project in Costa Rica and it was without a doubt the best thing I have ever done. I knew I wanted to take part in this particular project but Projects Abroad offers so many destinations, I just didn’t know which one to choose! After having looked further into the information each destination, I decided on Costa Rica.

I was absolutely over the moon the second I arrived. This was the first time I’d ever gone abroad on my own so I was a little nervous. However, the excitement took over as soon as I walked out of the airport in San José.

Arriving in Costa Rica

I arrived in the evening and taken straight to my host family. I didn’t really know what to expect as this was a new experience for me. I thought there may have been a little awkwardness, to begin with. I was completely wrong! They welcomed me with open arms and made me feel at home instantly. I cannot express how wonderful my Costa Rican family were. My host mother was lovely. She introduced me to the other volunteers staying next door, to the rest of her family (including the dogs) and also showed me around her home. She introduced me to different Costa Rican dishes which were delicious. I honestly enjoyed every meal she gave me during my five and a half week stay.

Something I loved about my accommodation was that the three neighboring houses were also like my host family. In these houses lived my host mother’s twin sister with her family, their other sister, and finally their mother. This was great because there were volunteers staying there as well which made it easy to meet new people. It almost felt like one big house. For a week, I had another volunteer staying with me and it was fantastic to have the extra company. I loved meeting volunteers from all around the world as it really opened my eyes to different cultures.

My induction and Projects Abroad staff

May with her students in Costa Rica

The next day, I was taken on my induction by my project supervisor who took me into Heredia. He explained the different buses to me and showed me around town. He made me feel more at ease about using the public transport and going into town by myself. The last part of my induction I was taken to the school that I was going to be working at. I really do believe I had the best possible placement. My project supervisor was one of the funniest and kindest people I have ever met. He showed me around the school and introduced me to many of the other teachers. They made me feel so welcome to the school and also to Costa Rica. I was shown many places in the country that I should visit and we would sometimes drink coffee together after class and just talk.

My School Sports placement

The children were all so joyful and kind. It was great to spend a good amount of time in the school which enabled me to grow a rapport with some of the students. I will never forget the laughs we shared and the way they shout “hola Teacher May” across the corridors. It was fantastic to see their passion for different sports, in particular, football. When Costa Rica faced Scotland in an international friendly, I loved seeing how excited everyone got as they wore their national jerseys. I watched this match with my fellow teachers after school and Costa Rica won 1-0!

Free time in Costa Rica

May with one of her students at the school

On my first weekend, I went to Heredia to go on a coffee tour. This was very interesting as Costa Rica is well-known for their coffee. Drink as much of it as you can whilst you’re out there as the flavor is very different to back at home. The next day, I went to La Paz Waterfall with my host family. The drive there was so beautiful. It is crazy to think that after only an hour drive you can arrive at this beautiful location – something you could only dream of doing back home.

I got to do plenty more with the other volunteers as well. We went horse riding on the beach and swimming on the Caribbean coast, admired Puerto Viejo, went on a canopy tour in Barva, and watched a match at the local football stadium. We also took a trip to Irazú Volcano. If you go here, I advise you to wear lots of sunscreen. The views were breath-taking. Situated above the clouds, there are many photo opportunities and it is definitely worth a visit.

I also got to visit La Fortuna, San Carlos. The weather here was so humid and it rained a lot which was definitely a change to what we were used to near the capital! Here, we went on a hike to the Arenal Volcano, experienced hanging bridges, natural hot springs, waterfalls, wildlife and so much more. Over my last weekend, I went in Tárcoles where we went on a crocodile river tour and then visited Jaco Beach in the afternoon. One thing that is great about traveling in Costa Rica is that eating out is so cheap. I felt it was important to make the most of the weekends and see as much as I could.

Free time after school was often spent with other volunteers in the local area. There was a football field nearby which we used, we would visit cafés, go to San José, and sometimes I watched films with my host family.

Final thoughts

May with the Costa Rican flag

Although the weekends were always filled with so many memorable and fun moments with other volunteers, I always looked forward to going back to school on Monday. I value all the time spent with my fellow teachers and the children. Seeing the students grow a love for sport was fantastic to see. The boys always wanted to play football and the girls loved skipping. I learned some new games that I will soon introduce to the children I coach back in England.

If I have any advice for other volunteers, it would be to embrace the culture as much as you can. As someone who studied French at school, I have very limited Spanish skills. However, by embracing the culture I made this a positive thing and actually picked up a lot of the language. Make the most of your weekends. Costa Rica is too beautiful of a country not to explore. Finally, make sure you visit Café Entre Nous in Heredia – they sell the most amazing desserts.

My volunteering experience was unforgettable. Costa Rica is such a beautiful country, I felt safe during my stay, and the people who live there were among the kindest I’ve ever met. I will definitely go back in the future and hope to have more spectacular experiences.

May H.

This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.

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