Rhiannon Griffin - Teaching English & Other Subjects in Costa Rica
When asked to write a story about my experiences teaching English in Costa Rica, I didn’t know where to begin. I saw so many wonderful things and took part in an equal number of adventures that it is a hard task to condense my month into a matter of words.
When I first arrived I felt rather apprehensive but the very friendly Projects Abroad assistant met me at the airport and instantly reassured me that I would have an incredible stay in Costa Rica. I was taken to the house where I would be staying and introduced to my host family, who welcomed me into their home with open arms. My Spanish was very limited which made communicating with the host family difficult to begin with but I picked up the language as time passed and it gradually became easier.
On my first day I was quite nervous but meeting the children at El Peloncito school instantly put me at ease. They were enthusiastic, kind and generous and were very keen to find out about myself and the UK. With the help of the English teacher to translate, they fired question after question! It was not an easy task to teach English when my Spanish was so limited, but the use of photographs, pictures from magazines and diagrams was invaluable.It definitely helps to be prepared and take teaching materials with you and the children really loved seeing photographs of my family and home life back in Wales.
The English teacher Ulises spoke English which was a great benefit to me. I became responsible for teaching the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Grade. Whilst I was there the children had exams and in two of my classes a number of children received 100%. It was great feeling to realize that my voluntary work with these children had a positive impact. On my last day I was extremely sad to leave especially as every child had written me letter. I am still in contact with the school via email and I plan to return in the near future.
I spent the majority of my time teaching whilst in Costa Rica but there were always plenty of opportunities to socialize and experience the country with the other volunteers. It was great to meet and learn about many other people from around the world. In the evenings we would all meet up and chat about our days, visit the cinema and or plan our weekend trips. A personal favorite of mine was going to salsa lessons which were extremely fun especially as we learnt from a true professional.
We were often spoilt for choice when it came to deciding on our next place to visit; whether it was seeing the volcanoes, walking in the rainforest or relaxing on the fantastic tranquil beaches. We traveled using the local buses which were very cheap and stayed in hostels, which provided yet another great opportunity to meet people from around the world. During my stay in Costa Rica I visited the national park named Rincon de la Vieja where we trekked through the rainforest, swam in a waterfall and saw the lava pools and hot springs created from the active volcano.
Another visit was to the lively town of Tamarindo with beautiful beaches perfect for learning to take surf lessons with a local Ticco. The following weekend a group of us went horse-riding through the rainforest, where we were lucky enough to see a great deal of local wildlife! My favorite weekend trip was to Manuel Antonio- another national park, where we saw beautiful beaches and a host of animals including a group of monkeys, sloths, leaf carrying ants, a variety of birds and a couple of cheeky raccoons who tried going through our bags!
The Projects Abroad staff made the whole experience of traveling and volunteering very straightforward. They were quick to deal with any problem or question that I ever had and arranged meals once a fortnight for all the volunteers, which was brilliant for us all to get together. Every Thursday Projects Abroad organized workshops to give us ideas of games to play with the children on your project which was very helpful and fun.
I was extremely sad to leave Costa Rica and all the lovely people that I had met, especially the children and my host family who had looked after me so well. Yet I was also excited to tell all my friends and family at home about everything that I had been doing. My month in Costa Rica flew by and it has made me very eager to return again and explore more of the country that I did not manage to see. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and am extremely grateful that I had to chance to see and do all that I did and I would definitely recommend it to anybody who is considering taking part in a project in Costa Rica.