Elyse is from Ontario, Canada. She studies Sociology and English at university. She was a volunteer with the World Endeavors Teaching volunteer program in Costa Rica.
How do you feel looking back on your experience in Costa Rica?
It was amazing. I’m already considering going back!
I was a little nervous before I left because I didn’t know much Spanish, but when we got to Costa Rica everyone was really welcoming and accommodating. When we landed at the airport, we got a little lost at first, but people were so nice and they directed us where to go.
Tell us about your volunteer placement.
I was placed with a kindergarten class and a second grade class. Basically I was just helping the students with their English and writing, and I would help the teacher with her English too. I taught the teacher a few children’s songs in English because she was very into teaching through music. When I got home I even sent her a few CDs of children’s songs in English.
I would get to the school in the morning and pretty much follow the teacher around to whatever class she was going to. We would either do an English class or help the children work in notebooks, or work on English pronunciation. I was also in charge of supervising at recess and any other assistant teacher duties they needed. The school actually provided lunch for us so that was really nice too.
What was a favorite thing about your volunteer placement?
The kids were SO appreciative. I brought pencils, crayons, and markers and the looks on their faces showed that they were so thankful. Everything that I did they were appreciative of.
My cousin and I were sitting and talking about what we are going to do with our lives. We figured that it was our last year in the university, so when else would we have this chance? My cousin and I began looking at programs online since we didn’t know anyone that had personally gone on a program. We emailed a lot of places but only World Endeavors was very quick and friendly about responding, and I never felt like I was asking too many questions. It really seemed like World Endeavors cared, and that’s what made the difference.
What was the biggest challenge for you in your volunteer placement?
The most challenging part at the beginning was the language barrier. The kids would want to know about my family and I would want to know about theirs but we couldn’t exactly communicate right away.
In the classroom I was supposed to be speaking English, so that wasn’t difficult. At recess they wanted to tell me things and it was frustrating sometimes because I couldn’t understand. In just two weeks, though, my Spanish improved a lot and we began to be able to communicate and see where we each were coming from!
How was transportation in Costa Rica?
The placement was two minutes away so it was very easy. We were outside of the main city however, so we would usually walk into town or take a cab. When we did a little traveling on weekends we took buses and I was so surprised at how well the bus system was set up!
Tell us about your host family.
They were hilarious. They were the nicest people. The mom and dad didn’t speak much English, but they were so nice, accommodating and patient when we were trying to learn about each other. By the end we did learn a lot about each other because they took the time to understand.
On weekends we traveled and did a little sightseeing. We went into San Jose and also went to the beach. During the week, we spent a lot of time with the family in the evenings. We would also go into town to internet cafes and call home. The first night there it was the father’s brother’s anniversary so they had a big party for them. We got there and they said “we’re going to a party in an hour, get dressed!”
What was a typical meal in Costa Rica?
Lots of beans and rice – it was pretty much every meal! There was a lot of fruit too. We had avocados and papayas growing right outside the door! The food at our homestay was great. Both my cousin and I don’t eat red meat so they made a lot of chicken for us and were very accommodating.
What was the most important thing you gained from your time abroad?
I’m currently in my last year of college as a sociology major, and I want to be a teacher eventually. I had always thought of working with older students, like 5th and 6th grade, but now having worked with younger children in Costa Rica I’m leaning towards teaching younger kids instead.
Before going to Costa Rica, I had always wondered if I had the ability to teach and if I was going in the right direction with my career. Seeing the kids learn from me gave me the confidence in my teaching abilities.