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  :: Volunteer Feedback - Costa Rica

Adam Shearn & Katie Mulrooney: Monteverde Conservation League
Marie Horton: Taste of the Country 3 Week Programme
Lesley Wilson: Museo de Arte Contemporáneo
Nick Hall
: ASVO Costa Rican National Parks
Hannah Meir
: Butterfly Garden
Giles Winstanley: ANAI Leatherback Sea Turtles


Adam Shearn & Katie Mulrooney: Monteverde Conservation League, Nov 2004

Hi! Feedback from us: in general we really enjoyed the school and the volunteer placement, had a great time in Costa Rica, and really improved our Spanish (mainly through interaction in the homestay).
Some specific points:
1. Our first host family in Heredia weren't particularly talkative or helpful, but we were able to change easily through the school if required.
2. The language school was brilliant; my only comment is that I felt there was a little too much focus on grammar rather than usable Spanish.
3. The volunteer placement (Monterverde Conservation League) was a good experience but we had to find things for ourselves to do. This probably made it more rewarding in the long run but it was a bit frustrating and we had a few days with not much to do. We fed all this back to the Amerispan rep (Joaquin), but it's probably worth noting that volunteers need to be fairly independent and self motivated.
4. The service from Cactus was excellent, so many thanks to all involved!
Your rates also compare very favourably to companies like i-to-i, and we'd certainly recommend you to anyone else interested in language or volunteering abroad. Best regards, Adam."

Marie Horton: Taste of the Country, Aug 2004

"I had a wonderful time in Costa Rica - the country was beautiful and the families I stayed with really looked after me. I am hoping to keep in contact with them. I wish I could have stayed longer but I am hoping to return there in the next few years as part of a trip around Central and South America. Working with the children volunteering has made me realise that it is something I might like to do in the future so I am hoping to find a TEFL course soon so that I can volunteer during my trip. I feel that I learnt a lot about the culture and people, and my Spanish did improve from the amount of practice I did, but we did not have enough time to see everything in just 3 weeks.

I would suggest that maybe 2 weeks in the school at first would be a better idea (although I know it would make the trip 4 weeks long) because we could not do some of the trips we wanted because we had to have meetings to organise the 2nd and 3rd weeks, so we missed out on some things. Also it would give people more time to adapt to the country and the way of life there before travelling around, and practice more speaking Spanish with the family and in classes before being on your own.

Thank you for all your help. If you have any information that you think might be useful to me about volunteering and travelling around South and Central America I would be very grateful if you could send it to me. Thanks, Marie."


Lesley Wilson: Museo de Arte Contemporáneo in San José, Jan 2004

"Hi , good to hear from you and I had been meaning to write with some feedback. I finished up in Costa Rica at the end of January, travelled to the US for a few weeks and am now in Ecuador doing more Spanish lessons and travelling. My stay in Costa Rica was absolutely brilliant and my Spanish progressed in leaps and bounds even though I say it myself! I would like to give you some proper feedback so give me a few days and I'll send another email.

I've been back on your website looking at TEFL courses as that is something I'm now considering doing when I come back to the UK around April time, so hopefully it will be ok if I fire over some questions to you regarding the courses. Will be in touch soon, Lesley. "

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Nick Hall: ASVO Costa Rican National Parks, Oct 2003

"My host family was very friendly and the language school was generally very good. The 4-hour classes were a bit long some mornings, and the homework could sometimes be repetitive. But I had a fantastic teacher and she really helped me to improve my Spanish. I moved from a Level 6 to a Level 8 in Spanish, and was considered high intermediate when I left.

Overall, my Spanish improved quite a bit. I learned a lot of vocabulary - especially at my volunteer placements. I am pleased that I can now express myself a bit better. I can have simple conversations and I found it quite easy to do the basic things like buying things, ordering meals and getting around using my Spanish.

My volunteering experiences were quite varied - I was placed in three 2-week placements (I added an extra one when I was there). The Volunteer Coordinator, Joaquin, was extremely helpful and let me choose the national parks I wanted to go to.

I went to Playa Hermosa (Punta Mala, Punta Judas) first and I had a blast. Myself and some other volunteers worked in the night collecting turtle eggs and then setting baby turtles free in the mornings. My only concern was that we walked through a shallow river every night where crocodiles were seen! After Playa Hermosa I went to Volcán Tenorio National Park. It was also really fun. The only problem is that we spoke English the whole time...the i-to-i volunteers didn't speak any Spanish and the warden (Reynaldo) spoke very good English. It was hard work (digging trenches, varnishing the ranger station, and hauling sand bags to maintain the trail), but it was fun.

I had the most memorable trip of my life. It was simply amazing. The culture, the language, the people, and the environment were all new and wonderful. I will have to go back to Central America some day and explore the rest of the countries.

Sorry, that was a bit long. But it's hard to explain everything in a short email. If you need anything else let me know! Gracias otra vez y hasta luego, Nick."

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Hannah Meir: Butterfly Garden in Monteverde, May 2003

"I have taken 3 holidays with Cactus now. My motivation for taking these Spanish courses was mainly personal. I love
speaking languages and wanted to broaden my horizons. Spanish itself is a really upcoming language and is useful all over the world, so I'm hoping to continue with this and maybe even go back to Italian or French that I studied at GCSE level.

The volunteer placement at Monteverde Butterfly Garden was so much fun! I learnt so much and really enjoyed learning new things again. One thing I would say is that it's full of bugs!! It is important to have an idea of where you're going, but always be prepared for the unexpected! You can read up before you go, but once you're there, there's so much more than you would never have dreamt of seeing or doing! Facilities at the placement are basic - you need a torch as there are hardly any street lights, it's hard to wash & dry clothes quickly, etc. - but then you have the amazing experience of being in nature day and night and being completely immersed in it all. It's hard to describe the feeling. I just loved it. The work itself was really varied: one day I could be taking just one person around the garden and really getting to know them, another day it could be a group of 20 kids just staring up at me and asking questions.

Having come back I've found I'm so much more interested in bugs and nature! I love art and my trip to Costa Rica really inspired me - I paint with oils and pastels, on big and small canvases, and one day it'd be great to have my own exhibition. My paintings are simple and stylistic, and one in
particular that came from my Costa Rica trip was a painting of the butterflies being released - an amazing scene.

On the Spanish front, this of course improved no end. I've gone from only being able to say hello and yes in Barcelona to having full conversations now. I found the best way to learn the language was to just go out and chat with the locals - a great excuse to go out if ever I had one! Now that I'm back I find I meet more Spanish people and am able to talk to them. I really believe that if you're serious about seeing a country and learning about the country and people, you really need to learn the language. It makes travelling so much easier and you can talk to the locals and make loads more friends.

On a personal level I do feel more confident having learnt Spanish - I think it's a boost really to learn anything new. I also feel confident meeting new people, especially Spanish! I definitely recommend living abroad for a while - I think everyone can make something of it, even if it's just a great time in the sun!

Hopefully we'll be able to meet up sometime, and thanks again, Hannah."

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Giles Winstanley: ANAI Leatherback Sea Turtle Conservation Project, May 2003

"Thanks for getting in contact. All finished at this end and I had a great time so thanks for everything. Sadly the turtle project didn't go quite as I'd planned, but that's down to me not them. I had a great time there, but I injured my foot which meant that I was unable to patrol the beach and was
therefore fairly redundant! A shame, but I guess that's life, and I got to meet a few turtles before it happened anyway.

The site I was at was very basic as expected, and fewer people on site than I was imagining. Sadly that site doesn´t have many turtles coming to nest, but that's the luck of the
draw I guess. Generally I thought the place was well run and as described, so good info there. I just wish I had been able to do more there!

The language course was very good. When I arrived the school immediately gave me the option of transferring to the other two campuses in Monteverde or Playa Flamingo as well, so in the end I decided to do two weeks at each campus.
Monteverde CPI language school is very good as well, and the area has much more to do in the afternoons which makes it a good place to stay. Playa Flamingo has a fair amount to do as well, and suits the beach/watersports lifestyle, but the language school is definitely inferior to the other two, as the teachers are not as experienced in my opinion.

Overall I've had a great time and would definitely do it again.
Maybe I'll head over to Spain in future to do more language training. For now though I've got a job in Mexico so I won´t be home for some time...thanks for everything and take care, Giles."

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