Review Volunteer Sarah Nasiff in COSTA RICA San Jose at the PreMed Program
How was the local ABV Coordinator/staff and the support provided in-country (airport, orientation day, follow up, communication, emergencies)?
The local staff was able to give me an orientation as soon as I was settled into the house here in Costa Rica so I had my schedule and was able to figure out where and when I needed to be places. Also, when I got lost or needed to reschedule something it could be done no problem, which was very helpful.
2- What was the most positive surprising thing you experienced?
a.- Program: The most surprising thing that I experienced at the hospital was how there is a consistent group of ABV volunteers that help at the hospital everyday and when I came I was able to meet other volunteers who consistently work at the hospital and they were able to show me how to do the job I came here to do. And many of the ABV volunteers that live here speak English and Spanish so if I did not understand something they would translate it for me.
b.- Host Family: My host family was very welcoming, especially when I first arrived and was shocked at how terrible my Spanish was. They were patient until I got a little bit better at understanding Spanish when it is spoken so fast. The food I ate at the house was very good and it makes the transition a little bit easier when you eat home-cooked meals because it makes it feel a little bit more like you are at home.
c.- Country: The best part about the country is that there is wildlife everywhere. There are quite a few birds that can be seen in the city but the better wildlife is not here. On my trip to Jaco Beach I was able to see so many wild animals on the beach. I saw iguanas and snakes which is very different from the animals that you see on the beaches near my house.
3- What was the most challenging thing you experienced?
a.- Program: The most challenging part of working in the children’s hospital was the fact that there were many kids that are sick and because they are sick they are very sad. And once you get over the initial shock of all of the sick children you are able to connect with them and cheer them up even though they may not speak the same language. Just being able to color and play games with them they were in a better mood and their parents appreciated the company that I could provide to their kids while they were not there.
b.- Host Family: The most challenging thing I experienced with my host family was that I didn't speak Spanish. So I was shocked when I first arrived at how fast everyone spoke and how they didn’t completely pronounce words so I didn’t understand very much. But after a few days I was able to understand more and sometimes asking them to say it in a different way helped me to understand.
c.- Country: The country is (obviously) not set up like the United States. But prior to coming here I did not know how it was set up because it is very hard to understand when looking at a map. The most challenging part was the directions and the set up of the city. San Jose is divided into many districts so it is a huge city with many places inside of it.
4- Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations, gift for the host family)
1. Do not forget to bring a sweatshirt and long pants because the nighttime got very cold.
2. Also you must have bug spray and you must use it.
3. My gift for the host family was a collection of things that represent where I come from, Massachusetts, so for example I gave them a gift from my college (University of Massachusetts)
4. A lot of times it can be faster to walk because there can be a ton of traffic in the city (especially at about 5pm)
5.1-Other things volunteers should know before coming here:
a. I was not told that I would be the only volunteer from ABV until I got here which was really not that great because there was nobody else here to go exploring or site-seeing with.
b. I was the only student in my Spanish class so it was very hard to meet other people there.
ABV: Volunteers arrive at different days and are placed in different host families, once the program starts to get full the local coordinator will set up meetings, also each ABV volunteer account has a list of volunteers that will be in country it shows in each account one week before traveling (check: “Volunteers in Country” Tab).
6- Personal Paragraph about the entire experience (ABV Program Testimonial) give as much detail as you can:
This was an experience that I will never forget because working in a hospital is a goal of mine for the future so any experience know will help me greatly. This country is very different from my own so it is also interesting to experience another language and culture. I had also never done anything quite like this (living with a host family) so it was interesting to live with total strangers and then get to know them and be welcomed into their home.
7- How would you describe: your accommodation, what meal did you enjoy the most, security in the house/neighborhood, friendliness, quality others:
The meal I enjoyed most was empanadas. It is a classic food that you can get pretty much everywhere. I also liked how everyone here is very friendly and will always greet you warmly with a hug and kiss on the cheek. It makes for a very warm and pleasant environment. I also enjoyed the proximity the hospital had to a lot of shops so you could walk through them on the way back home afterward.
8- What was your favorite memory of this trip?:
a.-Program: My favorite memory of the work at the hospital was being able to spend quite a lot of time with one patient who was about 12 years old. I spent a lot of time with her because her mom could not always be there so I was able to play games with her, help her color, and I even taught her a little bit of English. She was very fun to be with and I enjoyed all of the time I spent with her.
b.-Host Family: My favorite memory with my host family was the first night I came to Costa Rica and we took a walk to the store. It was a good amount of walking so I was able to see a lot of the stuff that was around where I was staying and how to get to them. The plaza we walked to had a soda which was the first I had ever seen and it also had a grocery store in it so we walked in a few places.
c.-Country: My favorite memory in the country was the trip I took to Jaco beach to visit my parents at their hotel. The area is very nice and the beach was beautiful. I enjoyed watching the people surf at the beach, they needed to practice for the tournament that was coming up. And I enjoyed seeing all of the animals that roam around in that area.
9- How was the ABV USA support prior traveling?
The ABV support in the USA was very good and anytime I had a question to ask in an email they responded within the next 24 hours which was extremely helpful. They also sent me several confirmation and reminder emails to make sure I had everything in order that I needed to prior to coming to Costa Rica. I believe there were multiple people who helped and sent emails not just one.
9.1- What do you think about the reservation system online?
The online registration worked well because it was easy to do (with many step-by-step instructions) and you could fill it out at anytime. With this system the time differences did not matter so you could apply at anytime and fill out the information at anytime. And anytime anything was completed they sent a confirmation email to me. They also had a real person who sent out emails when something extra was needed or some information was missing.
9.2- Who did you find Abroaderview website
I went on the internet to search for different volunteer opportunities and I came across the ABV website. It was highly ranked for its programs and they even had a program at a hospital for pre-medical students which fit me perfectly.
10 – Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?
Yes I can speak to any other volunteers to try and answer their questions.