Projects Abroad Volunteer Programs in Costa Rica

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Projects Abroad has been providing volunteer placements in the developing world since 1992. Our volunteers in Costa Rica directly impact local communities through service projects arranged and coordinated by in-country staff.

We offer a wide selection of volunteer opportunities, ranging from child Care and Teaching English or French to coaching Sports to Conservation & Environment. We also have Business, Physical Therapy and Journalism internships. Visit our site for more details.

Questions & Answers


based on 16 reviews
  • Impact 8.6
  • Support 8.7
  • Fun 8.4
  • Value 8.7
  • Safety 8.6
Showing 1 - 15 of 16

My Most Fulfilling Experience

I did the Business Program

Going to Costa Rica for 4 weeks through Projects Abroad was without a doubt the best decision I have made thus far. I'm currently 21, still in college, and it was my first time traveling out of the country (and alone). As the day was approaching to leave home I was honestly getting really nervous. But the second I stepped into my home-stay and my house mom approached me I felt instantly at home. Costa Rica is in general a really relaxed and friendly country (the rumors are true), so everyone is always willing to lend a helping hand to foreigners; the Projects Abroad team is no exception. They really went above and beyond to make every volunteer feel comfortable and right at home. They would even put you at ease if you felt home sick or worried. From taking you out to breakfast on your first day, to giving you a map of the city, hosting volunteer events so everyone could get to know each other, and helping you plan out fun weekend trips. Within a week I genuinely felt like I had been friends with them for years. My only regret was not saving enough money to stay longer.

The families you stay with are complete angels. My house mom felt like a second mom considering how caring and generous she was. She introduced me to neighboring families and volunteers who I stay friends with till this day. She was also extremely accommodating to any volunteers she had who didn't speak spanish. She would talk really slow and make sure you learned spanish at a speed that was comfortable for you. I met a girl from Ohio who would only communicate through writing on a phone app, yet by her lat week she was speaking full sentences.

When working I helped out 2 local businesses in Heredia; a cool burger shack that doubled as an art gallery, and a man who was trying to kick-start his Jade jewelry business ( if you end up going the restaurant is called La Galleria and their burgers are to kill for). The work I did for both businesses was really interactive and not at all boring. I was helping them solve real life problems. I put all that I learned in my marketing classes to use and had a great time doing it. The businesses also really want for volunteers to help them grow and reach as many people. They want a different perspective so they graciously welcome opinions, advice, and all sorts of unique ideas.

I could honestly go on for hours on why Projects Abroad is so ideal and worthwhile. But long story short If you're looking for an affordable immersive volunteer program, with staff/families willing to support you 24/7, and the perk of meeting amazing young people from all over the world--- then this is your program.

How can this program be improved?
can't think of anything
Yes, I recommend this program
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In May of 2016 I was surrounded by the idea of ​​participating in an international volunteer program and one day at work someone told me about Projects Abroad. I began to inquire a little about who they were and what possibilities they offered me.

Immediately I discovered very interesting programs and soon I decided on Costa Rica, because the idea that I had of this country was "good climate, extreme landscapes, friendly people and safe environment".

Preparations for the trip and this new experience were quite simple. From Projects they offer a very detailed and useful information about how the stay will be and what are the things that should be taken into account.

In relation to the thoughts before my departure for this new adventure, to be honest, I have always preferred not to have them. Before I start something new, I just like to know what things to take to make sure everything is going well there. But I like to discover things and not carry preconceived ideas. The fact that every day is something new and full of surprises I think is part of this great experience, that for me, without a doubt, has been one of the best I have had in life.

Being able to live with a local family in a different culture and helping in the field of education to disadvantaged children makes you reflect on your real life in the country of origin. I guess when you get back there's something about you that's changed. Even if you return quickly to your everyday reality there is something, small or big, that is no longer the same. I have met excellent people and a whole example in many ways, perhaps the greatest, the spirit of overcoming. No doubt I have taken a part of them with me and I feel a lot of respect and admiration for what they have shown me. I greatly appreciate the love and appreciation with which they have treated me.

There is something that makes you see your life different and value it otherwise.

As for the family that hosted me I could not have more luck. I have lived with two siblings, Maggie and Dani, who have treated me as one of their own. They have made me feel at home; something easy to write, but difficult to do. I have taken two friends that I will never forget and hope to see again someday. I have certainly taken part of them with me.

Finally and in relation to other volunteers and volunteers I can tell you that there are always many people from different countries with which you can also discover other styles and different ways of life and above all, travel and know this country so beautiful and so full of PURA VIDA :-)

If you have the possibility, travel, meet, share and get the best of you. When you return, you will not be the same!!

How can this program be improved?
I do not have anything to say!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Care Volunteer in Costa Rica

After graduating college with a degree in communications, I was still unsure of the direction I wanted to head in with my career. After talking with a friend of mine who volunteered with Projects Abroad, I just knew I had to take some time off and volunteer abroad. I contacted Projects Abroad, still unsure of what my future would hold, and they helped me sort through the details seamlessly. I was able to decide where and when I wanted to volunteer with complete flexibility, and they supported me in my choices 100% (unlike some other companies that require rigid time periods/destinations). I decided that I would volunteer in Costa Rica for one month. They soon provided me with all of my host family information and location prior to leaving, as well as dates for orientation and information booklets on the country I was going to live in.

Once I got to my new home in Costa Rica, the staff supported me from day one. On top of transporting me to my host family, introducing me to my fellow volunteers, and giving me an orientation of the program, they also took me around the city and showed me helpful locations (banks, restaurants, bus stations, etc). Also, they came to my placement with me the first day of volunteering to make sure everything was okay. Knowing that you have an organization behind you full of support and information makes the entire transition much more comfortable and enjoyable.

My host family was great and welcomed me with open arms, including me in their family traditions and get-togethers. Since I was also living with another volunteer, the two of us would spend time with our host family but also explore Costa Rica on our own. I had as much independence from the company as I wanted, knowing that I could reach out if I had questions or concerns, but also explore the country, have fun, and experience things on my own. I was able to travel the country and also create new projects at my placement (repainting chairs, etc.) I loved my experience with Projects Abroad so much, that it actually led to me teaching English and living abroad for another year and a half in other countries. I am now back home getting my Master’s in Social Work, but I owe all of my experiences and future goals to that first step I took with Projects Abroad! It really changed my life!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Volunteering in Costa Rica

I really enjoyed volunteering through Projects Abroad. From the very start, I was given very specific and clear instructions on how to prepare for my trip. I was confident that I could always get in touch with a staff member and receive the proper assistance. Once I actually arrived in Costa Rica, I had a great time. I enjoyed having the opportunity to live with a host family, which came with many benefits, such as learning about Costa Rican culture, as well as being able to participate in the activities they enjoy, such as taking a Zumba class. Furthermore, I was able to live and volunteer with another volunteer, so it was nice having another person there while I was trying to figure out how to get to and from my volunteer location. As for the volunteering itself, I loved it! I worked with a classroom full of hyper 3 year olds, and while it was exhausting, it was well worth it. Intially, I was concerned that my inability to speak Spanish might be an issue, but I quickly learned other ways to communicate, such as through gestures and body language. There seemed to be a good balance between volunteering and free time. Most of the time, I was free by 4pm, giving me the chance to explore a little and/or rest early, to combat the exhaustion. My general tips for people are to be prepared for how different the climate it: I got dehydrated easily, and really had to drink a lot of water to combat that! All in all, I had a wonderful experience, and I would recommend this program.

How can this program be improved?
One thing I recommend is connecting past volunteers with those who are either considering the program or are definitely going to use Projects Abroad. Having the perspective of someone who actually has completed a particular program would have been great, as it offers more than just a review or what a staff member can share.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Conservation in Costa Rica- PURA VIDA!

I went on the environmental conservation project in Costa Rica through Projects Abroad as part of my gap semester and I really loved it. If you are at all interested in living in a tropical forest and meeting wonderful people from all around the world, I would highly recommend you check out this program! My biggest concerns prior to the trip were about my safety and the authenticity of the experience. By the end of my first day at Barra Honda National Park, both of these worries were put to rest. The staff are so friendly and were always ready to help. The living conditions are simple, but comfortable, and they provide you with wonderful meals and safe drinking water. In terms of the experience itself, I cannot imagine a more enjoyable program. The projects were engaging and so much fun to work on. My favorites were the bat projects and bird surveys, but all of the work I did there taught me something new and kept me laughing everyday. The relationships I made with the staff members and volunteers from all over the world are ones that I will treasure for years to come. Do not pass up this opportunity! Pura vida!

How can this program be improved?
I was pretty nervous leading up to the trip because I didn't really know what to expect. I had a good feeling about the trip, but if I could change one thing about the program, I would say there should be increased communication between future volunteers and the staff at the park and/or past volunteers. There were just a couple of things I would have liked to know before I left that could have been easily solved by talking to past volunteers or someone who knows what life in the park is like. For example, I was really worried about the phone situation because I needed to at least let my parents know I was okay for the two months I was there, but when I got there they told me there was at least limited Wifi in one area of the park and I could Skype home for free. I had such a fantastic experience and I don't want other volunteers to arrive feeling nervous and worried about whether or not everything is going to work out. It is an amazing program and you will have a blast!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Amazing Opportunity

My time spent in Costa Rica was highly beneficial and amazing. The support of the staff was more then I could have expected. For example, my roommate fell ill at one point, and the staff was quick to act and took her to a professional right away. Our guide stayed with her the entire time and made sure she was okay, constantly checking in on her throughout the following days. In addition, the staff was very accommodating, and catered to our needs when they arose. They were very flexible and made sure we got to do as much as we could during our very limited free time.

The host family they set us up with was great! They were warm and welcoming and made us all feel at home and a part of the family. The one thing that I would recommend for someone who is staying with a host family is to look into the traditional food that is eaten in the country. I am a picky eater and was open to trying new things, but there are some things I do not like. Such as beans, which is one of the foods they eat with almost every meal. Do not hesitate in stating your diet needs and what you like and do not like! Your host family will not be offended and will make sure to meet your needs as best as they can.

The day care that they arranged for us to work in was great. It was different then any other day care I have worked in, and was a great chance to push me out of my comfort zone. The staff was very welcoming and was excited to have our support and guidance. There was a bit of a culture shock in the school and how things are run. Which was expected, but still throw me off the first day.

Overall, this was a great experience and I would do it again.

How can this program be improved?
If I could change one thing, it would be is the communication with the host families on what our dietary needs and likes are. When filling out the forms, it only asks if you have any specific dietary needs, like are you a vegetarian or allergic to anything. It caused an issue when we got there because several of the girls in our placement did not like some things, like beans or fish, but it is not necessary a dietary need, but a preference. In addition, I went into my placement with a small background on my host family. I knew I was staying with a family that lived together, but I did not know which family member I was staying with. Also, what would be available to me such as laundry options. The information provided before the trip was vague and open. I think that it would be better to create more a chance to communicate with the host families before the trip.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Overall, the Projects abroad staff was incredibly supportive, helpful, and accommodating. Not only did they make us feel comfortable and welcome as soon as we got off of the plane, but they continued to offer their assistance in any way possible and the staff member that accompanied us throughout our daily activities was amazing and certainly added to the overall experience I had in Costa Rica. I was there for two weeks and always felt safe and taken care of. They helped plan activities, like dinners, trips to the beach, and other excursions before we arrived, as well as planned last minute activities that we wanted to try once we had arrived. They were able to make last minute zip lining reservations and figured out ways to fit it into our incredibly busy schedule. They made sure that we were happy and could do what we wanted. Our placement in a local host family's house was great and we had no problems with our living arrangement. Any minor issues that arose, like food preferences, the staff was able to help with if students felt uncomfortable talking to their host family or simply did not know how to communicate with them. I went with a group of 14 girls, and they were able to house almost all of us in the same home. The volunteer placement at a local daycare was only a 25 minute drive, and they provided transportation that was never a problem. The first week we were there, we were arriving to the daycare before the children, and we were a bit confused as to what our role was. But, they quickly adjusted the time that we were picked up, and we arrived an hour later the next week. We felt a little uncomfortable in our placement at first, as we were unsure what our role was and what exactly we should be doing. After a couple days, we got the hang out of and felt more comfortable. Projects Abroad also has a lot of information on their website for people to read before they travel to their destination, it was specific and incredibly helpful to read and have a checklist provided for us of things to bring. The travel guide on the website covered all of the possible elements to expect, like what to bring, what to expect with our host family, and the general culture that we would be immersed in. The staff contacted us multiple times via email and phone before our trip in order to make us feel comfortable and answer any questions we may have. Overall, I was extremely happy with the accommodations and staff. They really care about you and want to make you happy, the projects abroad staff even attended dinners with us and truly just wanted us to enjoy our time in the country. This was my first time traveling abroad and I would definitely do it again with this organization. If you are new or nervous about traveling, this organization will make is easy and comfortable for you, as they are happy to do so.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Pura Vida

I spent three months in Liberia, Costa Rica, volunteering as an English teacher in a public arts experience. I choose Costa Rica because I wanted to improve my Spanish skills and the country is beautiful. I had the most amazing time! My host family did not speak any English, but I arrived knowing enough Spanish to speak with people. When I arrived in Liberia, I was met by a staff member who took me to my host family. The family was very accommodating and cook vegetarian meals for me. I really did feel like part of the family. Everyday, I would come home from work and we would have a family lunch together. Luis would always come in yelling "Charlotte, Pura Vida" and his daughter, Maria Jose, would ask me about my day. Carmen was very accommodating to the fact that I am a vegetarian, and also tried to give me some traditional Costa Rican food. Of course, this involved lots of rice and beans, but I got used to that. On night she even made me plantain ceviche as a substitute for the raw fish version. Since I really did not want gallo pinto for breakfast, Carmen would just cut me some fresh fruit, which was always delicious!

I work at Colegio Felipe Perez with students from the ages of 13 to 18. They often had problems maintaining focus in class but they were happy to practice with a native English speaker. They always invited me to sit with them during the breaks or in assemblies. One of my students even taught me traditional Costa Rica dances so I could perform with her at the English Festival. I had a lot of responsibility in the classroom. I helped my teacher grade exams, created activities, and even taught the class by myself if my teacher had a meeting. I also was able to experience Costa Rican culture as the school would host assemblies on holidays and showcase traditional dances and songs. The kids were all really talented.I even got to help stand up for the rights of students in my school. When I first arrived, the school didn't have access to potable water or clean bathroom facilities. They administration needed more money from the Department of Education to fix the problems. Off and on for two weeks, classes would stop and we would march around the "barrio" or the town in protest.

I also worked at the Parque National Barra Honda for my final week. The park is famous for the many limestone caves in the area. As part of the project, I got to go into the caves and see the amazing formations. I also helped to clear trails and work on the construction of a waste recycling system. The volunteers lived in cabins in the park. The bathrooms were a bit dirty but it wasn't too bad. The staff was amazing and they always made an effort to come over and chat with the volunteers in our down time. I really wished I could have stayed longer as I did not get to work on the butterfly or bat project. After Liberia, traveling from Barra Honda on the weekends was more difficult. There was only one bus that ran from the national park into the nearby town and it took a very long time. To get back to the park on Sunday evening, I had to get a taxi, which was expensive.

I also had an amazing time traveling on the weekends with the other volunteers. We really had the chance to see all of Costa Rica, but we arranged it ourselves. We would either take the public buses or rent a private bus, neither of which were that expensive. I traveled to Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side, to the cloud forest of Monteverde where I went bungee jumping, to Jaco and Manuel Antonio, and to the numerous beaches on the Nicoya Pennisula. While I was in Liberia, there were always about 15 to 20 other volunteers from the ages of 17 to 35. All of our crazy adventures exploring the country bonded us together and we still keep in touch even though we live all over the world. I am so glad that I took the time to work and live in Costa Rica. I had the most fantastic time!

How can this program be improved?
I would have liked to have lived with another volunteer. I lived the farthest away from the center of town and from the other volunteers but it only took about 15 minutes to walk to the Central Park in Liberia. The program was also pretty expensive.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Passionate, Proactive and an Unforgettable Experience

Being the younger sister of two, I occasionally feel the need to assert my independence. So when it came to my gap year, I was pretty keen to do something different. The year before me, my sister had travelled to South Africa for a couple of months with Projects Abroad and ended up loving it so much that she extended her stay for a month longer than planned (much to my mother’s dismay!). She’d come back buzzing with stories of friends and experiences, not to mention considerable heartache at having left them all behind… But I wasn’t going to let myself be convinced that easily: I was going to do my research properly! I quickly realised, however, that the service provided by Projects Abroad is pretty unique.

What first struck me was the wealth of opportunity available, both in terms of the choice of countries and the range of projects. The second deciding factor was their flexibility; due to their extensive networks between and within counties, Projects Abroad could really take to my plans into account and help me customise a trip that involved two countries and three projects (I really couldn’t choose between them!) which, compared to the other companies I researched, was impressive. So a month later, partially prepared, very excited, and a little nervous, I was off! My first stop was Costa Rica, where I’d be learning Spanish for a month. I’d then planned to fly over to Peru to teach for a month, followed by a week of conservation in the Amazon.

The arrival procedure in both countries was very supportive; I was met by a Projects Abroad member of staff at the airport and taken straight to meet my host family (with the added bonus of receiving a whistle-stop tour of the area on the way). After a night of settling in, I then joined a few other volunteers for an orientation of the surrounding area in which I was living and how to get to my place of work/study, which was invaluable. As for my host families, I couldn’t have wished for more. The warmth I felt on arrival put me at ease almost instantly, and they were so caring throughout my stay – staying up for me if I got back late, or leaving meals in the microwave with a note. Recalling the chats we had over the kitchen table, my early attempts at Spanish, or running around with my host mum chasing cockroaches still makes me laugh. The accommodation was also a lot more luxurious than I expected (I had an en suite in Costa Rica!), and I always felt safe in the area.

The teaching and conservation projects that I took part in were outstanding. The proactivity and passion of the staff out there is infectious, and I really did feel like I was making a difference during my time. The English teacher in the Peruvian school that I was assisting had a very low level of English herself, so I took up to the role of teacher from the beginning. It was daunting at the start, but the weekly workshops and regular contact with the project staff, plus lots of ideas and material from the office really supported me, and by the time I was leaving, both my pupils and my teacher were chatting to me in English! My week on the Taricaya conservation project was equally rewarding. Feeding animals, chasing baby turtles, picking fruit... I kept having to remind myself that it was real. I also joined at a really exciting time during the re-release of Spider Monkeys into the wild, which involved lots of cuddling of baby monkeys and treks into the depths of the Amazon to set up the pre-release cages. A few of the tasks I got involved in weren’t particularly glamorous, but the depth of involvement that volunteers are allowed to experience makes this project truly unique.

Lastly, the countries themselves were breathtaking. From triple tier waterfalls, volcanoes and beaches in Costa Rica to deserts, lakes and Machu Picchu in Peru, every day of my three short months combined to make it truly an experience of a lifetime.

How can this program be improved?
The cost of the program is very high, which makes it difficult for young people to pay for it without significant help from parents, but the experience you gain from such a trip made it worth it for me.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Adventure with Projects Abroad Conservation

I decided last year I wanted to make a difference and get away, after lots of research I found Projects Abroad and after some emailing with the staff chose to volunteer through one of the many programs they offer. My first choice didn't work but the staff at the PA office helped me find another I would enjoy, and it became Costa Rica's Conservation Project in Barra Honda National Park. Getting there was easy, the staff helped me the entire way and everything was organized. The accomodations were much better than I was expecting, a massive washroom attached to your shared room (bunk beds, shelving on one wall, windows, and a front porch area). The work itself ranged from being very physical, to relaxing-- the work in the tree nursery was quite relaxing after a morning of doing something more physical. There are some staff members that live on site with you in another building and they are great! In the free time the staff, and other volunteers will go play football (soccer), the staff will teach you about Costa Rica, help you learn spanish, and help you plan trips to see the country on the weekends. Being away from the cities means you really bond with the other volunteers and the staff it quickly became a second home. The food is AMAZING!! They provide 3 meals a day and they are big, most times you actual ask for less even with all the work you are doing. The chef, Meciel will make custom dishes for people who have dietary restrictions, or just don't really like something. I think the staff at the park really made my trip, I enjoyed doing work that improved the park, working with animals (bats, butterflies, Macaw conservation, and monkey observation), getting to explore the one of the man caves in the park, and living right in the National Park really teaches you a lot about yourself-- no internet in the park, no nearby cities (but some really cool villages), and surrounded by nature is awesome.

You get to see a million stars at night because there is no light pollution, you will see monkeys daily, beautiful birds singing in the morning, I recommend this trip to anyone!! You can be any age to go, I worked with people 18 years of age up to mid 50's.

How can this program be improved?
The only critical feedback is while I was there, our supervisor would post what jobs people were doing in the morning but sometimes the jobs weren't posted until really late so if you do want to adventure down into the village for a drink you dont know if you are waking up early for the bird projects. But with what I have heard the problem has been solved with the new supervisor since I left.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Alternative Spring Break

After my initial Spring Break plans fell through I decided I wanted to do something more with my vacation than just lie on a beach with my friends- I wanted to give back. I was a little skeptical of volunteering abroad at first because I was essentially paying to volunteer, a concept I had never heard of before, but I just decided to go with it and take a chance. Once I was in Costa Rica and saw where exactly my money was going to I was elated that I could donate my time and money to such a great cause. Projects Abroad is a wonderfully organized volunteer program. Every single member of staff that I met was amazing and I learned so much from them while I was there. I felt so welcomed and like I was genuinely needed at my placement.
The other spring breakers and I participated in the Care program and spent the week working at a daycare, doing odd jobs for them and playing with the kids. I had the opportunity to practice my Spanish in every day conversations; an opportunity that I never got in my American classrooms. The work was definitely physically hard and exhaustive at times but we still had time to go out to the bars and restaurants and even to the beach. The other girls in my placement were from all over the world and I feel more knowledgeable about other cultures simply from living and interacting with them for the week.
I would recommend Projects Abroad to anyone looking to volunteer in a foreign country- you learn so much about yourself and people in general that the experience is not to be missed! The only drawback is the price (it is quite pricey) but the money is used for such a great cause that this issue can be overlooked. My only regret is that I was not able to spend more time in Costa Rica.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Environmental project in Costa Rica

I spent two months in Costa Rica, originally I was supposed to be on the conservation placement for 2 months but like most volunteers, I changed after a month. While Barra Honda is an amazing park with so much to offer, the facilites are well below standard. The bunk rooms were filthy and there were at times 6 in a room with only one fan to share. We also had a volunteer who was causing trouble however due the lack of accommodation there was no where else they could stay except our room.

The staff are knowledgeable and really happy to talk to you about the environment. I learnt a lot and got to participate in a huge variety of projects. The work is physically intense so be prepared for that!

After a month I transferred to the teaching project in Liberia. The staff were amazing and really happy to help. I had the best time of my trip with the host family I was placed in. I met many other travelers and my Spanish improved drastically. We had some fantastic weekend trips away and enjoyed things like going to the movies together every week.

I would recommend anyone going to the Conservation placement to be prepared for some hard work! I would also suggest you do some time in one of the other projects as well.

No, I don't recommend this program
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This and that about Projects Abroad

My first few days were a little bit too uneventful. Projects Abroad staff gave a quick intro to the town of Liberia and then let me go on my own. I didn't speak much spanish and was a bit shy about finding my own way around.

Once I met other volunteers and started my placement, however, things picked up a lot. I would suggest doing the care program, teaching program, or conservation program as those are the ones with the most impact.

The friendships were great. A much younger crowd than I expected, but it was nice that we were most single travellers looking for friends along the way.

The schedule is pretty relaxed and weekend travel can be more expensive than you planned for if you aren't careful. I got lucky and was able to both take spanish lessons and volunteer while I was in Liberia, Guanacaste with Projects Abroad. I think for some of the people who only took spanish lessons, the days were a bit long.

Overall, living with my host family was the best part. I played with the kids in my family everyday and they helped me tremendously with my spanish skills. My lessons were also great being that they were one on one and my teacher was really invested in my learning.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Volunteering and experiencing Pura Vida in Costa Rica!

In Costa Rica I spent one month in Liberia (the second largest city in the country) teaching English in both an elementary school and an adult classroom. The second month I spent working conservation in a national park called Barra Honda. This included work with different species in the park as well as general maintenance and research work for the park service.
Liberia is crazy. It is a really strange cross between being very modern and Americanized, and being a typical Costa Rican town. For example- there are many signs in English everywhere, and they have a McDonalds as well as many other American fast-food places, and they have more technology some places than you'd expect, but- the only food you can order some places is rice and beans, everything is in Colones (the currency of Costa Rica), the owners of stores mostly don't speak English, and the locals really seem to resent foreigners.
That said, I am lucky to have taken Spanish since 4th grade and all throughout high school- so I was actually one of the best Spanish speakers out of all the volunteers that I met. This was infinitely helpful for me, especially when teaching English and communicating with my host family.
My mother, Carmen, and father, Luis spoke no English at all, and my sister, Maria Jose, was actually almost fluent in English (but she was almost never around!). Anyway, living with a host family was an incredible experience if only because it integrated me into the culture that much more quickly. I really felt like I became part of the family, and I learned a lot about so many topics I had never come into contact with having lived in the U.S.

Teaching English was actually very difficult. I am not sure what I was expecting, but teaching English to kids and adults who have never had it before is a nightmare.I actually spent most of my placement in a school which had never had an English program before. So, another volunteer (from Holland) and I had to kickstart the program with our own lesson plans and ideas from scratch. It was a great experience for me, but I'm not so sure how much the kids got out of it. Schools in Costa Rica are fairly disorganized, and it was hard to get kids to listen and pay attention. All the time, kids would just be chasing each other around, leaving the classroom, hurting each other, and just adamantly not listening. This was made even worse by the fact that other teachers and staff members just didn't seem to care about the kids or their education. Definitely a different world, but also ridiculously hard to adjust to considering my private school education in the suburbs of Washington DC.
I also taught adults, though. Twice a week I went to my "community class" at night at a local elementary school and taught a class of complete beginners. I was given a little more of a "curriculum" with lesson plans for this one, and it did help that it was a class of adults who were actually interested in learning. We didn't get very far (i was only there a month) but I did manage to teach them the alphabet, the verb "to be", negatives and questions with "to be", and some vocabulary and verbs to go with them. Teaching in Liberia was a mind-blowing experience. So difficult, but so worth it.

In my second placement in Barra Honda National Park we did a number of things within the park as well as maintenance of the camp area where we lived and work on the park futbol field. I was able to do research on butterflies and bats in the park by catching and identifying different species in order to determine which habitats and elevations were most appropriate for each. Barra Honda was definitely very challenging physically- but it was so nice to know that I was assisting the park service in making the park experience better for its inhabitants as well as visitors to the area. Barra Honda is actually famous for its caves! So one day I got to explore the biggest cave (that is open to tourists) with one of the guides and it was incredibly cool! I also got the experience of marking a trail, using a machete for the first time, climbing up a waterfall, and sleeping under a mosquito net. Also, Barra Honda provided an opportunity for a lot of introspection on my part, as it was a very remote area and we had limited access to any towns, internet, tv, or phone service.

I also got the opportunity to travel around with other volunteer friends of mine quite a bit on the weekends as well. We went to several beaches in a few Pacific towns as well as one Caribbean town. I also climbed an active volcano, and went horseback riding, tubing, on a zipline canopy tour (!!), and to hot springs.
It was great to be able to utilize the public bus system right alongside the locals and to be able to negotiate our way to different locations and deals everywhere we went.
Systems don't work the same way in Costa Rica as they do in the U.S., and it was exciting (and scary) to have to figure out everything on the go, with a backpack on my back.

About the culture: Costa Ricans call themselves "ticos" and they are totally laid back. It is such a shock to arrive in a country where people just aren't WORRIED about things. They go to bars almost every night, they take naps whenever possible, and they always say "tranquila" (calm down) to people (me) who are too preoccupied with something that they think doesn't matter.
Beyond being relaxed-they love futbol (soccer) a lot and are intent on living the good life. They eat white rice and beans with every meal, as well as (sometimes) some meat and sometimes "salad" (tomatoes, cucumber, and possibly lettuce). The national slogan of the country is "Pura Vida", which means pure life. At first I kind of thought Pura Vida was just some sort of a marketing term to attract tourism, but the longer I spent with the Ticos, the more i felt pura vida to be truth.
Honestly- pura vida infiltrated my every action. Even after just two months I'd say im much more relaxed now, and much more able to take on new challenges without worrying as much. I believe in the concept of Pura vida more than anything else, and I believe in seeking it in whatever way possible. I think that is what it is supposed to be. I'm really happy to have learned about it through experience. So interesting.
Also- Guanacaste, the province that I lived in, makes the majority of its money on tourism. Tourism is a BIG deal there, and many people aspire to get jobs in tourism because they pay better and they are rather abundant. The tourism extends from the beautiful beaches, to the volcanoes and the endless miles of national parks that the country (and Guanacaste specifically) has to offer. Most of the locals think the tourism is great (because it gets them money!), but many others really resent the influx of foreigners that create need for English to be spoken and luxuries to be created in resorts and such that go way above and beyond anything that they are used to. By the end of my trip, I actually began to resent the tourism too...I just felt that my way of seeing and experiencing the country was far superior to lounging by the pool somewhere. I appreciate the income that tourism creates, but I do believe that it may be ruining Costa Rican culture, slowly but surely.

All in all- my experience with projects abroad was AMAZING and i would recommend it to anyone!

Yes, I recommend this program
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The Summer of My Life

I am a high school student in NC and my friend and I traveled with Projects Abroad for the past two summers. The first to Mexico, an amazing experience, and last summer to Costa Rica. Firstly, Costa Rica is the most incredibly beatiful, diverse place I have ever traveled to and the "ticos" (Costa Ricans) are all amazingly friendly and I completely and immediately fell in love with the place. I was in Projects Abroad's High School Special, which places only high school students from all different places around the world together. In the two weeks that I was there, I honestly got closer to these people than I am to some of my best friends. Also, the staff of Projects are all amazing. Luis and Andres were always there for any questions or to help with anything we needed, and Gunar was the funniest man I think I've ever met. At the day care, where we spent our first week, the kids were so fun and the owner was so sweet. At Barra Honda, the National Park where we spent our next week, we went on an at least 3 mile hike everyday. I also saw some of the most amazing things ever there, from huge groups of butterflies and tarantulas, to iguanas, bats and even one kinkajou. The landscape was beautiful, we were completely surrounded by enormous trees, calcium waterfalls, and the top of Barra Honda hill, which is basically only rock with an abundance of beautiful yellow, red, and purple bromeliads. Over all, this trip provided the most amazingly incredible summer that I have ever had. As soon as I got on the plane I was homesick for Costa Rica

Yes, I recommend this program


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Projects Abroad is a global organization formed around the need for gap year programs abroad designed for students taking a break from studying. Since its inception, Projects Abroad has expanded to offer high school volunteer programs, and a vast...