What have I gained from my experience volunteer teaching in Costa Rica?
The thing that will stay with me the most about my volunteer experience is my memories of having lived in Costa Rica and the friends I made. I am still in touch with my students and I teach them English online. I am happy I got to teach them English and I am glad to have been able to have improve their fluency. The skills and experiences I gained while teaching are also very valuable.
What were the differences between Costa Rica and the United States?
The language was a little bit different and by that, I mean that Costa Rica has certain words that are different from the words I learned during Spanish class. I had gotten a book from the library about the different Spanish words use in different Spanish speaking countries and that helped me out lots. I definitely noticed the new Spanish words that were specifically Costa Rican words when I was speaking to my Uber drivers and to the retail staff in the stores.
The food was also different. I have eaten lots of Mexican food, mostly tacos from taco trucks and I did not really eat the same kind of tacos in Costa Rica. I had all sorts of other kinds of food. I got to try lots of Costa Rican food from Kracovia. I tried passion fruit drink and passion fruit pie. I had never really had passion fruit before and I got to try the drink and I absolutely loved it. When I was little one of my grandmother’s friends had passion fruits at his house. I think we got some fruits and tried to make a juice out of it, but we didn’t really know how and it ended up being sour so I did not really drink the juice. So yes, technically it was my first time drinking an actual passion fruit juice and what an awesome thing to think of making them into pies. We did not have lots of passion fruit in the Philippines and since I have been living in America I have never really seen passion fruit pies at the grocery store or in the restaurants so it was a treat to get to enjoy the passion fruit drink and the passion fruit pie. I also got to try passion fruit macaroons at the airport. Those were so yummy. You get a sweet and tangy delight in the little bite sized macaroons.
The other thing I really liked were the crepes in Costa Rica. I have always loved the dessert crepes with the Nutella and the strawberries, but Costa Rica has taken crepes to another level for me and the crepes have savory food inside that I got to eat for lunch.
My other favorite go to for food were the panaderias or bakeries. I got all sorts of goodies from the bakeries. I especially loved all the different types of empanadas you could get. I also loved the hot dogs in a flaky type of bread that was similar to a croissant.
What are some similarities between Costa Rica and the United States?
Costa Rica is very well developed and the roads and infrastructure are amazing. When I first arrived in San Jose, it seemed to look a little bit like Davao City in the airport areas, but as you go to San Jose and Escazu, it definitely looked more like the United States, which is a good thing. Also, the malls had lots of the same brand name stores. When you went into the grocery stores, you could find lots of the same United States brands like the shampoo and other toiletries.
What lessons did I learn?
I learned that even though I have been learning Spanish in school and online I still need to learn more. Yes, I was able to get by and have basic level conversations, but I really could not fluently express myself in Spanish. I really needed to watch more Spanish movies and listen to more Spanish music. I also need to make friends with someone who speaks Spanish so I can improve my fluency.
What was the most important part of my Costa Rican experience?
I would say making new friends was the most important part. I did not expect to make so many new friends and I was delighted to have made so many. I will cherish my travel memories more because I got to experience my tour of Costa Rica with friends. I think you can enjoy yourself so much more when you are touring with your new found friends.
What turned out differently during my trip than I had planned?
I decided to stay longer that I had expected. I just wanted to go for two weeks and then come right back home. I was expecting to really miss my friends from home and yes, I was a little sad my first night, but after my third day of being there, I really got over being away from home.
I also didn’t expect to be going to Nicaragua. That was not planned at all, but I am glad I went to Rivas and I got to see Nicaragua. I also did not expect to be staying for two months in Nicaragua. I thought I was just going to stay there for two weeks at most, but I really loved it there and I did not want to leave.
What were the most difficult parts of my travel?
I would have to say that the most difficult part of my travel has been the actual getting around Costa Rica. I am glad that I had Uber to take otherwise I would not have found half the places I was looking for. Taking the bus was also challenging at first, but after a few months of being there I felt more comfortable and once I got to know the bus routes I was golden and taking the bus became easy.
How is my volunteer experience shaping my future?
Because I loved volunteering so much and living in San Jose, I got a TEFL certificate in Manuel Antonio, which then led to a job at Academia Europea. I think my Costa Rican experience is going to stay with me forever and in the future I will be going to teach English in Latin America again because I have already experienced it and it was fun and easy. I had the best time ever in San Jose and Manuel Antonio and I hope to be going to Costa Rica specifically; however, I would also like to teach in Managua, Nicaragua.
My volunteer experience was such a positive experience for me that I would also like to try other volunteer programs through Maximo Nivel like the program where you work with hatching turtles in Manuel Antonio. I have also been looking on the IVHQ sites recently and there is an internships with footages of dolphins program that they are running in Greece. That also really interests me lots. Overall I had the best time and I would highly suggest the volunteer teach program that you can book through the IVHQ site.
About My Volunteer Questionnaire:
Check out the travel questionnaire I made. I think these are awesome questions you need to answer before you go to your travel destination. I got some of these questions off of the volunteer training site that I visited before I went to Costa Rica. I watched their videos and downloaded a worksheet that had some of these questions. I have added more items onto the worksheet and this is what I have created. I am hoping to create a better guide in the future. I think I am going to be making a TEFL version that anyone can download.
My Reflections on My Volunteer Experience Part 1
My Reflections on My Volunteer Experience Part 2