Alumni Spotlight: Jessica Forster

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program for a few reasons.

Firstly, Costa Rica has some of the most amazing biodiversity and I had been told it is a uniquely stunning place.

Secondly, the extremely remote nature of the camp appealed to me as an amazing chance to disconnect from the outside world and focus on my time there.

Thirdly, from what I had read and heard, the work they were doing at the Jalova project was so important and I was keen to be a part of it.

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

GVI was fantastic at helping with the organisation and planning for the trip. I did have to sort my medical form and documentation, but they did all the work of submitting and sorting the scientific passports.

Accommodation, meals and all parts relevant to the project are arranged for you. Flights, insurance, and vaccinations are the volunteers' responsibilities. But they provide as much support as you need in preparation for your trip.

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

I recommend going in with no expectations; no amount of research or questions will prepare you for what it's like there and that's one of the best things about it. It's an unpredictable environment that teaches you a lot about yourself; if you go in with an open mind, the jungle will provide.

You're in safe hands and it's one of the best experiences you can have, so go and take it as it comes - you will surprise yourself.

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

Activities vary; you'll have some very early mornings walking the beach for nest check, some very late nights working the turtles and their nests, some surveys trekking through the jungle, some bird boats down the canals, some practical camp maintenance like cooking and cleaning, some downtime getting to know your fellow camp-mates.

You get such a good mix, but guaranteed: no days are boring.

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

For me, one of the biggest fears was being in such unusual unfamiliar environments.

It's not often you're waist-deep in muddy jungle water or face down in the dark in a turtle's nest. But you just have to have trust in the program - the amazing staff that works there and yourself. You would be surprised how quickly those things become normal and you look forward to the weirder activities.