Volunteer Review: Nicole K., General Care Projects in Costa Rica
Currently, I am in my final year studying early childhood/childhood education at the State University of New York College at Cortland and I have always wanted to volunteer abroad. Since this is my last year in my undergraduate education, I decided to jump on the opportunity that was presented to me through Kappa Delta Pi, an education honor society.
As a group, we decided to plan a volunteer trip to Costa Rica to work in a local day care center and contribute some of what we have learnt through our own education. It was my last opportunity to study abroad and I jumped on this once in a lifetime chance. I was excited and a little nervous to be travelling out of the country to do two things I love to do, work with children and learn.
My Volunteer Experience
The group that I travelled with was placed in a local day care in San Jose, Costa Rica. We volunteered for ten days, working from eight o’clock to three-thirty during the working week. Before leaving for Costa Rica, we planned workshops to give to the staff that would enhance their program and help give them some educational activities that they could do with the children.
We were scheduled to run these workshops during our first week at the center and ended up extending them into the second week since the staff enjoyed them. It was a great opportunity for us to use what we have learnt through our own education in a beneficial way to help other professionals grow.
Another part of our placement involved working with the young children at the center. The first day there was a little shocking because the way things were run were very much different compared to back here in the States.
After the initial culture shock, I was able to jump right in and work with the children. It was great working with the children and I had a lot of fun playing and interacting with them. Even though there was a huge language barrier, the children did not mind and came right up to us and tried to communicate the best they could with us. My favorite part of working with them is that every day we came in their faces lit up and they were genuinely excited to see us. The only negative thing was when we were trying to figure out what was wrong when they were upset.
My Host Family and Accommodation
Before leaving for Costa Rica, I was nervous about being so far away from home in a foreign country that I was not very familiar with. In addition, I was nervous about the language barrier and questioned how the communication with my host family would be.
I was pleasantly surprised when I walked through the doors of my host home. From the first step in, I felt as if I was home and that I was a part of the family. My host mum was amazing and was a fabulous cook! She took very good care of me and the three other girls that stayed in her house. Since my Spanish is very poor, I was glad that one of the girls that stayed with us spoke Spanish fairly well. She helped us with our communication and our host mum was very patient with us.
The entire family was willing to except us and include us in what was going on in their family. We spent many nights outside playing with our host brothers and sisters and getting to know them. One of my favorite experiences with them was playing football with one of my host brother’s team. Even though I am very un-athletic and am extremely bad at football, they were excited to have us, and even went easy on me, and allowed me to kick the ball some.
My host family provided a great opportunity to experience the Costa Rican culture.
My Experience with Projects Abroad
I could not be any happier with the Projects Abroad staff and support that they provided us. Our member of staff was very enthusiastic and made sure that we had fun and an overall great experience. He was more than willing to help us and get anything we needed for our workshops and helped us do everything we wanted in our short time in Costa Rica.
In addition, he was very friendly and made the transition to a foreign country smooth. If he was not there, our language barrier would have been a huge problem, but with his support we were able to communicate with all whom we encountered.
The rest of the Projects Abroad Costa Rica staff was also a big help! They made sure that we had a great time and helped us make last minute plans to what we wanted to do during our free time. We requested many changes, and not once did they tell us it was impossible, but made sure we could fit it in. In addition, I received several phone calls before my trip that helped ease my mind with what we were exactly going to do.
Even though I was only in Costa Rica for a short time, I gained a lot of beneficial experience that helped me grow on a personal and professional level. I loved the culture and the experience, and I wish I took the opportunity to volunteer abroad sooner.
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.
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.