Review Volunteer Rachel Connell in Costa Rica San Jose at the PreMed Program
1- How was the local ABV Coordinator/staff and the support provided in-country (airport, orientation day, follow up, communication, emergencies)?
The airport pick-up was very convenient and necessary given the difficulty of reading addresses in Costa Rica. The driver was very professional and welcoming. Communication was efficient, all of my questions were answered promptly and helpfully. I did not experience any emergencies or major issues during my time here.
2- What was the most positive surprising thing you experienced?
a.- Program: I really enjoyed getting to know the long-term patients and forming a relationship of mutual learning and fun.
b.- Host Family: Alice was an amazing host mother. She is kind, knowledgeable, and always willing to repeat herself or slow down to help with the language gap.
c.- Country: Meeting the local people was my most positive experience in Costa Rica. Most were more than willing to converse and help me to improve when I made mistakes in Spanish.
3- What was the most challenging thing you experienced?
a.- Program: In the beginning, it was difficult to know what was acceptable behavior as a volunteer. Now I feel very comfortable interacting with the patients and their families, but in the beginning I was unsure who I was supposed to approach or what I was allowed to do with the babies (changing diapers, how best to hold the very small or frail babies, etc.)
b.- Host Family: It is occasionally difficult to communicate a particular idea or issue or to understand what is being said to me, but it generally works out fine.
c.- Country: Navigating the bus system was very difficult. Many of the bus stops are not marked for local buses and it is difficult to determine their routes. The bus terminals to other cities also change, making internet directions confusing and contradictory.
4- Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations, gift for the host family)
- A nice gift for your host family shouldn’t be something big. Bring food or items that are unique to your state or country. Also, they drink a lot of coffee here, so a mug from your home city is always a great addition.
- Bring a duffel bag or backpack that you can easily store under your feet or on your lap for long bus transports during weekend travel.
- Try to plan ahead for weekend travel, it is often cheaper and less stressful if you book hotels or hostels a couple weeks in advance once in country.
- Embrace the Costa Rican culture. Step out of your comfort zone and try to do things you would not have the opportunity to do at home to make the most out of your time abroad.
5.1-Other things volunteers should know before coming here:
- For the hospital, dark jeans without rips or holes and long socks are necessary. You just need dark jeans, long socks and tennis shoes.
- The host homes are far away from the hospital and school. Be prepared for a 45 morning commute and a 55 min evening commute if you travel by bus, you can also take a cab that will cut the commute in half.
- If you take the Spanish lessons, they are private lessons. If you would like to learn with other students, ask to switch to group lessons as soon as possible.
- Ask if there will be other ABV volunteers at the same time as you. You might be living with up to two other volunteers. If you will be alone it is still possible to travel, just do your research and prepare ahead of time to be safe.
6- Personal Paragraph about the entire experience (ABV Program Testimonial) give as much detail as you can:
Overall, I really enjoyed the ABV Program. I learned a lot about the Costa Rican culture from my host family and by exploring the city each day. My Spanish comprehension skills have improved exponentially, though my speech still leaves a lot to be desired. Taking time on the weekends to travel allowed me to experience the beautiful Costa Rican landscapes, exploring mountains, rainforests and expansive beaches. There are so many places to see and activities to do that I know I will have to return in the future. My host mother has been the best resource, friend and provider I could have hoped for in a foreign country. The volunteering itself was an extremely rewarding experience. The opportunity to connect with and offer help to such a wonderful group of individuals was priceless.
7- How would you describe: your accommodation, what meal did you enjoy the most, security in the house/neighborhood, friendliness, quality others:
I love rice and beans, so Costa Rica is the place for me. Alice cooked a different delicious meal with a different juice every day. It is very possible that I have gained about ten pounds from the massive meals she provides. I felt very safe in the neighborhood, though the city definitely just felt dangerous after the sun set (6pm). The entire host family was very welcoming and I enjoyed getting to know Alice and Edgar and their children and grandchildren.
8- What was your favorite memory of this trip?:
a.-Program: I enjoyed developing a relationship with a couple long-term child-patients who were excited to see me day after day.
b.-Host Family: The food was amazing. Alice was a fantastic host mother and I loved our daily chats about politics, travel, experiences with past volunteers and life in general.
c.-Country: One of my favorite memories from Costa Rica is probably enjoying the beautiful beaches in Manuel Antonio with monkeys playing and walking by just a few feet away.
9- How was the ABV USA support prior traveling?
I was surprised by how quickly ABV staff responded to my emails. It was very easy to use this program and it seemed well organized. All of my questions and requests were answered promptly and sufficiently.
9.1- What do you think about the reservation system online?
It worked well enough for me, but it is difficult to log on to your account from the abroaderview website unless you go in from the links in the emails. A more prominent log in option should be available on the main site. The login link is in each page on the right upper corner “MyABVProject”
9.2- Who did you find Abroaderview website
I found it on Google while searching for pre-med volunteer opportunities abroad.
10 – Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?
Yes, I am.