Why did you choose this program?
I chose this program because I wanted to make an impact that was different from the usual volunteer trip. I know community is important, and I love the aspects of community that my trip held, but I also loved knowing that we were helping the environment; which in my opinion doesn't always get enough attention. Also, traveling to a place as beautiful and diverse as Costa Rica was just something that I could not pass up.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
My program provider basically just laid out what to bring on the trip and how to take the independent steps to get ready. There was a lot of things we had to do on our own. Getting ready for the trip was a process. There were things to buy and I also had to purchase insurance as well as a passport. Figuring out your flight and booking it was also an independent task.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
One thing I wish I would of known ahead of time is that when it says bring dry-fit clothing - they weren't joking! I didn't realize how the humidity was going to make our clothes wet basically 24/7. But besides that, I really felt prepared for the trip. It went so fast, so I advise future volunteers to take in every moment. It really is life changing.
Just relax, and have fun! Take it all in, because it truly will be one of the best experiences of your life.
Another thing for prospective travelers to know is DON'T freak out at the airport. It is super confusing, scary, and overwhelming. A few of my friends said that they even started crying because they were super overwhelmed (and I was very very close to crying as well).
Just know that everything will work out. You will find the group, you will make it to the hotel, and everything will be great. And P.S. - the meeting start time isn't as strict as ISV makes it seem.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
In this program, you wake up around 5:30 every work morning. Then you go to your host family to eat breakfast. We meet up at 7:00 with the whole group, and hike anywhere from 30 minutes up to and hour and a half. We then begin working until around 10:30 or 11:30 when we start to hike back. We then go to our homes and have lunch.
After lunch there is about an hour to an hour and a half of free time. Our group normally went to swim in the ocean and relax. It was so refreshing after a long day at work! Then from 2-4:30 we would do some easier afternoon work (no hiking!) After 4:30 we had free time until 6:30.
During free time our group would go to the beach, or sometimes we would just sit and talk at El Rancho (the meeting spot for our group) for the whole two hours! Those are some of my favorite memories. After dinner we would hangout, talk, play cards, and just mess around until about 8:30.
You are expected to be inside your host families house around 8:30 because they will worry about you if they don't see you before they go to bed. This seems early, but trust me, after all the hard work you will be ready to be in bed before 8:30 sometimes.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?
My biggest fear going abroad was that I would not be able to communicate at all with people whom only spoke Spanish. I overcame this fear by breaking out of my comfort zone and using the Spanish skills I knew that I had.
My Spanish improved so much over the two weeks and it was literally an incredible feeling when you could hold a conversation with your host family! It really honestly was quite beautiful.