Alumni Spotlight: Renee Lim

A psychology student seeking adventure. Loves to meet new people and loves helping the community.

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Why did you choose this program?

Ever since of recent, I grew passionate about people and their different mindsets and lifestyles. I wanted to be able to meet everyone and listen to their story. This program was the first step to doing so.

I chose this program because I love children and really wanted to experience something that I have never experienced before. I also really wanted to improve my Spanish as I am passionate about the language. I love taking on new adventures within different cultures and keeping an open mind towards a different way of life.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

The cost of the program by IVHQ covered my accommodation and breakfast and dinner for the length of the stay. IVHQ had listed out a checklist of everything that was required of me and also gave me an extensive guideline on everything I needed to know. I needed to do such as book flights and organise travel insurance.

When I arrived, another provider called Maximo Nivel was extremely helpful when it came to any needed information based on tours to local restaurants. The staff were extremely friendly and made me feel very welcomed from the day I arrived. They went through everything I needed to know thoroughly and precisely, from taking me to my project on day one to helping me find the best local restaurants.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I would definitely recommend learning some Spanish before or during your stay! It would make the experience a lot smoother. However, I know other volunteers who still had an amazing time despite the language barrier.

Keeping an open mind is also one of the most important things when visiting a country that is foreign to your comfort zone. Being open-minded allowed me to accept all the different and unusual things that the program and country had to offer.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

I would wake up every day around 6/7am as my host mum gets up really early to make sure our breakfast is set out for us. I have breakfast at 7 and make sure I am out the door by 7:30 to catch the bus. There aren't any bus times or schedules so leaving with extra time is key to getting around. I arrived at 9 am to the childcare in a poor area of Costa Rica.

The kids usually have a morning snack (such as pineapple) then we head into the classroom to begin our morning activities. These included coloring, singing, dancing, and engaging with the kids. The second workshop involved an active role where the kids go upstairs in an open play area and engage in activities such as football, running around or building blocks. Lastly, we would go back downstairs to play out any activity I had brought for the day or something the teacher had planned.

I left the childcare at 12 every day after the kids had finished their lunch and would either explore or return to the Volunteer Hub. Mondays offered free salsa classes and on Wednesdays cooking class!

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I was so excited to go I don't think I had any fears. One small issue that I was worried about though was the host family and whether the living condition would be something I wasn't familiar with.

It turns out I was extremely lucky to be placed with the most generous and kind-hearted host mum. My fear completely went away when I first met her, and while she couldn't speak any English, I managed to understand her fairly well and we got along. I was really sad to leave her.

How was your overall experience with this program?

Overall, the experience was truly amazing! I definitely wish I talked to locals more despite the language barrier because I love talking to strangers and getting to know locals. Of course, always take precaution and use a good sense of judgement. I was always scared of my belongings getting taken from me but none of that ever happened and I still managed to meet some amazing people. I am definitely looking forward to doing something like this again!