The Many Advantages to Volunteering in Costa Rica: Spanish, Host Families and Friends
By Danny Scott, 4 week Costa Rica Volunteer alumnus
I was so nervous about volunteering in Costa Rica before I came. It felt like there was so much to be nervous about beforehand– making new friends, traveling alone, living with a host family. I’d never been to a country that doesn’t speak English before and I was definitely worried about that. I worried whether my Spanish speaking skills were good enough.
But just a day after I arrived, I was instantly happy with my decision. In a heartbeat, I’d say do this program. For anyone who’s on the fence, there are so many advantages to doing this other than just the experience itself. You can put it on a college application if you’re planning on being a Spanish major. Or you can log the service hours which can help a lot getting into college!
I studied Spanish in elementary school and then later into high school. Even then, I didn’t think I had a really good grasp on Spanish just because of how they taught it in my school. But after being immersed in the culture and having to use the language around people in a practical, day-to-day way, my Spanish skills have improved greatly. I can pretty much just translate anything for anybody who needs it. I’ve become a lot more adapted to speaking on a day-to-day basis with people.
I’d never experienced living in another person’s home for this long. The families here, they seem to be the nicest people in the world. They have to be since they just to open up their homes to people that they don’t know at all. Nobody ever fights. They never even show anything rude towards you. They are there to help you make your time the best that it can be. My host mom is Rosy and I can honestly say that she’s the nicest person I’ve ever met. She’s an incredible person who’s out there to make your time really, really enjoyable.
I would say my favorite part about this so far has been the people here. The people are amazing. I’ve made so many good friends here, especially with my fellow volunteers. If there was nobody else that I could make a connection with, it would make it a lot harder being here in Costa Rica. But knowing that there are good people here that I can talk to and make jokes with makes the time so much more enjoyable as a whole. We also have some great staff at the animal sanctuary. I really like Teniente because he’ll play pranks on you the entire day. On everybody’s last day, he’ll take a bunch of water and try and soak you!
It’s such a good experience overall. For people that have trouble with social anxiety, it can help you cope by forcing you to deal with new people, such as your host family. Or if you’re worried about your Spanish or just want to have an experience traveling by yourself and being immersed in a different culture, this is definitely the place to do it.