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Volunteer Review: Nicola E., Spanish in Costa Rica

Why I chose Costa Rica and my placement

Volunteer trip to a rope swing in Costa Rica

I am a nineteen year old geography student with a keen passion for the environment, the Spanish language and traveling. For me, Costa Rica ticked all these boxes and more!

Costa Rica is certainly full of surprises with its vast range of wildlife and friendly residents. I saw iguanas wherever I looked and all kinds of strange looking bugs and creepy-crawlies! I certainly experienced culture-shock when first arriving in Liberia, the streets and roads appeared to have an extremely hectic atmosphere to them which took a little getting used to. However, I soon settled in.

During my time in Costa Rica I studied Spanish everyday (including Saturdays!). For many years now my family and I have been traveling to our holiday home in Spain and each time I improve my Spanish. I was keen to develop my skills even further and I certainly achieved this whilst I was in Costa Rica.
Volunteer trip to the beach in Costa Rica

For a month I had 4 hours every morning of one-on-one lessons in ‘The Language Studio’ with my excellent teacher Solomon. My ability to write, read, listen and speak Spanish were tested and improved beyond recognition. I also embarked upon some interactive lessons which included traveling to markets, shops and a prison in central Liberia with my teacher and fellow students, in order to test my speaking skills and interact with the Ticos (Costa Ricans).

My Host Family

Volunteer taking an English lesson in Costa Rica

My host family were without a doubt some of the kindest and most welcoming people I have ever met; they welcomed me into their home and gave me the opportunity to experience their culture and livelihoods. The food was one aspect which perhaps took the most getting used to, the dishes consisted of rice and beans (a cultural tradition in Costa) for every meal and as a treat some form of meat. One night we had oxtail - I don’t think I’ll be having that again anytime soon!

The family were keen to hear all about my life back in England and see pictures of my family, which also gave me an excellent opportunity to perfect my Spanish skills as they could not speak English.

Other activities

Volunteer host family in Costa Rica

As part of my trip I undertook a research project on the effects of tourism on Ticos and its recent progression to eco-tourism. This consumed much of my spare time as I interviewed numerous people, all of which were very helpful and interested in what I was researching.

A few times I also taught English to people around the same age as myself, and some older who had not completed school for various reasons and had no knowledge of speaking English. The lessons were basic and included teaching them vocabulary like ‘hello’ and ‘how are you’ as well as how to say their birth dates, describe their family and so on. This was perhaps one of my favorite times in Costa Rica, I thoroughly enjoyed teaching and it has inspired me to look into teaching English in Spain in a few years to come.

Saying Goodbye to Costa Rica

A volunteer in Costa Rica makes friends with the local wildlife

Whilst I have so many amazing memories of my trip some aspects really have stood out to me upon returning to England. One day the host family and I visited countless beaches, spending an hour at each. Beach after beach presented me with beautiful scenery and stunning views, and at one beach I even saw wild monkeys up in the trees – I’ll never forget that moment.

Another day a group volunteers and I traveled to the rainforest near Liberia and went on the canopy ride, otherwise known as the rope swing. It was 2km in length and gave us a great opportunity to see much of the rainforest from a great height, although, I must admit I had my eyes closed for most of the time as it was extremely fast! Whilst there we also drove up to the top of a volcano and watched as it puffed out ash clouds.

Saying goodbye to my host family was perhaps the most difficult part of my trip as I had grown very close to them in the month that I lived with them - I so desperately wanted to bring them home with me! Words cannot even begin to summarize what an incredible experience my trip was and I would thoroughly recommend Costa Rica to anyone considering traveling.

Nicola E.

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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