Costa Rica

Sol Education Abroad

In May I returned to the U.S. after four months abroad in Heredia, Costa Rica, a sweet, lively town about an hour by bus from the nation's capital, San Jose. I studied with Sol Education Abroad, and I loved it. The directors made sure that we were more than tourists: at every opportunity, we talked about the social, political, economic, and cultural situations of the areas we visited. I spent my semester parasailing, white-water rafting, waterfall rappelling, hiking, and zip-lining...all while taking five classes and improving my Spanish by leaps and bounds. (Parents, never fear! I did indeed study plenty, and one of my five classes was with locals. That's right, in Spanish for Spanish speakers, dealing with the Costa Rican government structure, with Spanish tests and Spanish presentations! Was it hard? YES. Was it worth it? YES.)

My Spanish improved big time, especially since I lived with a host family. I still talk to my host mom, and I have plans to return in a few years. My host family's open arms are just a microcosm of the way that all of Costa Rica welcomed us not simply as tourists, but rather students of their language and their culture. I had conversations with bus drivers and taxi drivers and hotel clerks alike, all whom were impressed by my desire to communicate in Spanish and excited to share their opinion on the best beaches or the most beautiful can't-miss views in the country.

I could talk about my time abroad for a really long time. From volunteer work to typical meals to beach weekends with the girls to Holy Week processions that filled the streets, I can't do justice to how my time in Costa Rica with Sol changed me. Basically, I have to tell you this: just go! You won't be sorry; I know I wasn't.

Program: Study Abroad
Location: Costa Rica
Posted: Aug 15, 2016
Overall:
8
Support:
6
Value:
8

Sol Education Abroad

In May I returned to the U.S. after four months abroad in Heredia, Costa Rica, a sweet, lively town about an hour by bus from the nation's capital, San Jose. I studied with Sol Education Abroad, and I loved it. The directors made sure that we were more than tourists: at every opportunity, we talked about the social, political, economic, and cultural situations of the areas we visited. I spent my semester parasailing, white-water rafting, waterfall rappelling, hiking, and zip-lining...all while taking five classes and improving my Spanish by leaps and bounds. (Parents, never fear! I did indeed study plenty, and one of my five classes was with locals. That's right, in Spanish for Spanish speakers, dealing with the Costa Rican government structure, with Spanish tests and Spanish presentations! Was it hard? YES. Was it worth it? YES.)

My Spanish improved big time, especially since I lived with a host family. I still talk to my host mom, and I have plans to return in a few years. My host family's open arms are just a microcosm of the way that all of Costa Rica welcomed us not simply as tourists, but rather students of their language and their culture. I had conversations with bus drivers and taxi drivers and hotel clerks alike, all whom were impressed by my desire to communicate in Spanish and excited to share their opinion on the best beaches or the most beautiful can't-miss views in the country.

I could talk about my time abroad for a really long time. From volunteer work to typical meals to beach weekends with the girls to Holy Week processions that filled the streets, I can't do justice to how my time in Costa Rica with Sol changed me. Basically, I have to tell you this: just go! You won't be sorry; I know I wasn't.

Program: Study Abroad
Location: Costa Rica
Posted: Aug 15, 2016
Overall:
8
Support:
6
Value:
8

Green Life Volunteers

I participated in the first run of the Solar Volunteer Project and it far exceeded my expectations. There were two days of theory on off grid solar taught by an excellent solar technician in the area brad. Followed by hands on classes on building solar panels from inexpensive materials where we worked along side locals who also wanted to learn. The two week program also included hands on installation of panels on a school that previously had no electricity or lighting, a visit to an off grid permaculture farm, inevitable chances to immerse in the biodiversity of the area, and the opportunity to experience the chill night life of the town. The group bonded and became like family. Was truly an unforgettable experience.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Costa Rica
Posted: Aug 8, 2016
Overall:
10
Support:
9
Value:
9

Green Life Volunteers

An absolutely fantastic experience. Amazingly informative on the practical aspects of solar, while at the same time extremely rewarding and helpful to the host community. I actually got to see the lights go on in a school house that had been powerless for forty years. Mixed with the project was an absolutely amazing adventure, got to experience the wonderful biodiversity of the Osa, from monkeys and dolphins to you name it, and enjoy the exciting night life, salsa dancing in the local bars and relaxing with a beer on the beach. As well, the small structure of GL volunteers means that it relies highly on local businesses and all the funding goes directly into the community. Above and beyond expectations in reward and fun! Janina is the best!

Also, I was put in a host family on the beach with tropical scarlet macaws serenading me on my way to the workshops. Couldn't recommend enough.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Costa Rica
Posted: Jul 22, 2016
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Global Crossroad

I enjoyed this program a lot due to the fact that I enjoy traveling, and experiencing other cultures. The house I stayed at was a typical house, and we were located in Puntarenas... not the nicest town in some parts. However, I believe it added to the experience overall, and we did our volunteer work there. I enjoyed that all the volunteers were in the same house because, I was able to make friends and have a "safe haven" type of place. Lauren, the program coordinator, was able to customize my project site to something I enjoy.My volunteer project was great for me, I was able to shadow a vet and it allowed me to see if I want to pursue Veterinary medicine. The only thing is that the program its' self is very independent... meaning that on your free time you are allowed to travel/ do other activities. It took a few days to get used to, but I took advantage of the freedom and traveled with some other volunteers. It was a great experience overall, and I recommend it to people who are open to adventure and work!

Program:
Location: Costa Rica
Posted: Jul 20, 2016
Overall:
9
Support:
7
Value:
8

Green Life Volunteers

I participated in the 2-week solar power workshop in June 2016. I came to the workshop with a general interest in clean energy and a desire for an immersive travel experience.

In addition to learning all things solar (theory, system design and maintenance, installation, and how to build a panel using cosmetically defective cells), I made chocolate from start to finish on an off-grid farm, practiced my Spanish with the locals, hiked to a waterfall in Matapalo, volunteered at a local butterfly farm, surfed, kayaked, went horseback riding, and observed an abundance of wildlife (dolphins, monkeys, toucans, scarlet macaws, and crocodiles to name a few).

Green Life Volunteers does an excellent job of balancing work and play. My experiences were life changing and I wish I could have stayed longer! Highly recommend.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Costa Rica
Posted: Jul 19, 2016
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Green Life Volunteers

Once upon a time I was looking for an opportunity to volunteer and install solar energy abroad and learn more about off-grid PV systems. I stumbled across the Green Life Volunteers organization through google searching these kind of opportunities in Latin American countries, and Green Life Volunteers offered a Solar Project at the time that lined up exactly with what i was looking for. This was my first time traveling solo abroad so I wanted to make sure that I chose the correct project. It was easy to pick this project because the information provided on the website was so thorough and the program leader, Janina, was very friendly and answered any questions I had. After meeting Janina for the first time I knew this program was going to be awesome.

The Solar Project Program offered a variety of things throughout the experience. It offered host family placement, transportation from the airport, two days of instruction on battery based off-grid solar systems, a building a solar panel from scratch workshop, installation of an off-grid PV system, an opportunity to help teach a local high school class about renewable energy, as well as free time to enjoy the richness of what costa rica has to offer. This program also provided full cultural immersion, as throughout the entire experience you are living, working and hanging out with real Costa Rican People.

I would definitely recommend this program to folks looking help the less fortunate, and those looking for some experience regarding solar energy. I would love to participate in an experience like this again!

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Costa Rica
Posted: Jul 14, 2016
Overall:
9
Support:
10
Value:
9

Institute for Field Research Expeditions - IFRE

I really enjoyed the program and the director of the program Lauren was really nice. She took me around the country and really made sure I felt comfortable in her home which was also the volunteer home. She was very interested in any improvements we wanted or any ideas we had for around the house . she wanted to hear everything we were doing and helped anyway she could and really went out and took care of whatever was needed. The orphanage was really really well kept and ran so well. The children had a routine that they showed the volunteers and helped us get to know what to do. It was really amazing. I really think ur level of Spanish should be at a level for basic conversation and basic child commands to be able to keep the children safe. Also bring a debit card to atm out money don't come with cash because you will need to exchange it. My only regret was I didn't stay longer because it does take time to get use to the Costa Rican coulture and day to day routine and you do want to travel on the weekend so I would really recommended staying as long as you could to truly get the experience you want.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Costa Rica
Posted: Jun 5, 2016
Overall:
7
Support:
7
Value:
6

Institute for Field Research Expeditions - IFRE

There were aspects of this program (IFRE Medical Project in Atenas, Costa Rica) that I enjoyed and aspects that I felt were unprofessional and not what I expected. Let's start with some of the good things. The overall price for the trip was very reasonable. I didn't feel like I was spending more money than the program deserved when it came to housing and accommodation and project placement. I also really enjoyed my host family -- they could not have been a better fit for me and they made this trip a great experience. My Spanish has improved dramatically and I feel like I have a deeper understanding for Costa Rica as a country due to my excellent host family. All my meals were delicious, I had my own private room, we have a clean shower and dependable wifi, and overall my host mom and sister were just very kind, accommodating, encouraging, and fun. I rate my home-stay experience 10/10. I also enjoyed the excursions very much. The Island Day Tour was absolutely beautiful and was organized so well -- someone picked me up, took me to the tour, I was taken care of the entire tour, and then someone brought me back to my host family. I felt very safe and comfortable. I really appreciate the opportunity to see different parts of the country and how smoothly those things worked. I also appreciated my country coordinator, Lauren. Lauren was great about being in touch with me and helping me through various issues and checking in with me to make sure the program was going smoothly. I felt like I had adequate support in this program and was grateful for that.

The biggest downfall with this program was, unfortunately, the medical program itself. I was extremely disappointed with my experience. I was volunteering in a clinic but it is 100% NOT a teaching environment, and I felt like I hardly learned anything. I was hoping that the doctor would explain things to me, involve me in making the diagnoses and assigning treatment, and allow me to do more of the history and physical. But it wasn't a matter of "You should jump right in and ask to be involved!" it was definitely a matter of "These people are here to do their job and will not go out of their way to make you a priority, even if you try." As a medical student, I felt like my skills were wasted on this trip. We had such few patients in the clinic -- which is beyond our control, this I completely understand -- and even when we did see patients, I was in a scramble to take their vitals and fill out the beginning of their chart before the doctor came in to start the H&P -- which she often did before I had finished. I would roll with this and try to be respectful of her time with the patient, but then I would get pressure from the paramedic to take the patient's blood pressure -- the whole thing felt disorganized and made me feel like I was in the way. In general I felt unvalued and in the way at my project. I didn't receive clear instructions and I felt like the knowledge and skills I had gained in my first year of medical school were completely wasted in three weeks of volunteering at my clinic. While I wouldn't recommend this experience to a medical student -- their skills are far beyond what they will be able to engage in in this program's medical project -- I also wouldn't recommend it to a high school or college student. If they don't know how to take blood pressure, I highly doubt anyone at the clinic will teach them, and it will be a waste for them. I think that, in order to make the medical project more successful, there needs to be an educational mentality that is established in the clinic. Linea Vital sees, on average, about 8 patients in an entire day. That is not much at all for an 8:30 - 4:30 clinic. I see no reason why (if we have so much time) the doctor doesn't make more of an effort to educate and involve the volunteers/students. Until that is remedied, I would not recommend this program to someone.

A few other things to note. When I arrived in Atenas for the start of my three weeks of volunteering, I found that there was a mixup in scheduling and I wouldn't be able to start volunteering until the following week. I spent my entire first week in Atenas doing nothing. This was extremely disappointing for me and I felt it was very unprofessional. I understand that confusion happens, but when I'm spending an entire week away from my school where I'm doing research and away from my loved ones, I expect to be participating in the project I signed up for. Another aspect that I found unprofessional was the attitude that the doctor I was working with had. At times she was friendly, but most of the time, I found the clinic environment to be unfriendly and unwelcoming. She had an attitude with me at times (and other times just ignored me), and I found that the doctor and the paramedic would often just gesture for me to do something without giving me clear instructions and then act annoyed when I asked for clarification. Again, this is NOT a kind of environment that fosters learning -- which is exactly what volunteers come here to do. I was hoping to work with a physician who wanted to encourage volunteers and help them learn and contribute rather than ignoring them or seeming annoyed by their presence.

Overall, I think IFRE is a great organization with great employees, and I loved my time in Costa Rica and with my host family. The problem is that the medical project needs some serious modifications in order to be successful. However, I believe this is possible, and I hope you will take my feedback to help make the program better.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Costa Rica
Posted: May 31, 2016
Overall:
6
Support:
8
Value:
7

Comments

Institute for Field Research Expeditions - IFRE

I had the pleasure of volunteering at a medical clinic in Costa Rica with IFRE for 2 weeks! It was an amazing experience and I would recommend it to people that are interested in experiencing a different culture and being exposed to medicine! The more Spanish you know, the more you will get out of the program because everyone speaks Spanish here. The volunteer house immerses you in the culture of the country. The house mom is amazing and cooks great food! On the weekends you can go out and travel the country if you want! The buses are very cheap to get around by. I feel like the volunteer house is the perfect setup because you are able to get an authentic experience while still living with other volunteers. I am sad to be leaving this program and hope to be able to do something similar again in the future!

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Costa Rica
Posted: May 20, 2016
Overall:
9
Support:
8
Value:
10

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