This summer I spent 3 months volunteering at a hostel in Jaco, Costa Rica. This was hands down, the best and most rewarding experience that I have ever had. Through this experience I was able to help a hostel by working behind their reception and through this work I was able to meet people from all over the globe. Whilst I was out there I made friends with a lot of the tico’s (locals) and through this I have learnt basic conversational Spanish, a skill I did not have before going to Costa Rica. Now I am home from this experience, I am taking online Spanish classes because it has spurred me on to improve on my Spanish for my next trip.
Whilst being out there I also took salsa classes, cooking classes and surf lessons, I really made an effort to absorb myself into Jaco culture. I also travelled a little around Costa Rica and managed to see some amazing wildlife including whales, monkeys, sloths and crocodiles. My most memorable experience was during a morning hike with guests, we looked into the trees to watch the butterflies and we spotted a sloth fast asleep in the trees.
As this was my first solo trip to a country so far away from home, I had obvious worries. However, all of these disappeared the second I stepped on to the plane. I made friends on all the forms of transport I had to get on including planes, boats and buses. One friend I made on the plane on the way out to Costa Rica even came to visit me before she left for Paris. I found it easy to learn basic Spanish, as I would interact with everyone I met and I would try to hold the conversation in Spanish until I could not understand anymore. I was part of a family unit inside the hostel I volunteered at, as I shared a dorm with 5 other people- this part of the experience was my favourite. I loved living so closely with people from all different walks of life, from different countries and different age groups; it really helped to change my outlook on the world.
In total, there and back, I had to catch 5 planes in 5 different countries and cross 5 different time zones. This experience showed me that I am completely independent and can rely on myself; I believe this is an invaluable life lesson. It also showed me that I am able to move to another country, with a different mother tongue and a different culture and create a new life for myself. I will cherish this experience, the memories and the friends I have made for a lifetime. Costa Rica made such an impression on me that I am going to spend the Christmas holidays there with the friends I have made.