|Name: Emilie Covell||Project: : Special Needs|
|From: USA||Age: 28|
My experience living in the dorms had its ups and downs. The dorms were comfortable and very nice for the most part, but sometimes it proved to be very difficult living with eleven other people. That being said, it was nice to have the opportunity to meet people of all different ages and backgrounds, and I don’t know if I would have had the chance to establish friendships with these people if I was living with a host family.
During my first two weeks in San Ramon, I was volunteering at an orphanage. My experience there was frustrating at times because the caretakers or tias of the children barely acknowledged me and I often felt lost and uncertain of what I should or should not be doing. It would have been beneficial to know what the tias expected of me and what my main responsibilities would be. It was also very difficult when the children were misbehaving, which occurred often, and the tias did not intervene. On the more positive side, many of the children of the orphanage were very cute and very appreciative of the attention given to them by the volunteers. I really liked spending time with the babies at the orphanage, who were in desperate need of attention and loved to be held and played with.
The last two weeks of my stay were spent in a special needs school for students around 6 months 21 years of age. I spent my time working with the children who were around 3-5 years old. The teachers at this school were very welcoming, and appreciative. They also acted very loving to the students and seemed to genuinely love their jobs. The children at this school were adorable and I really enjoyed spending time with them. I did feel sad at times though that the education they were receiving was so minimal and not meeting the full potential of these children. One of the main struggles that I had teaching at this school was that I couldn't communicate well enough in Spanish to the students and the teachers. This made it very difficult to really get to know them and establish a relationship with them. I would strongly recommend that future volunteers learn a great deal of Spanish before working in an educational setting here. I think my experience would have been more positive if I was more fluent in Spanish.
In terms of my free time outside of volunteering, I will have to say that I was really grateful to have Fridays off since traveling around Costa Rica can be a lengthy process. One of my favorite places that I visited was Manuel Antonio and I highly recommend it to anyone who is a nature or beach lover. It was stunningly beautiful there, and has tons to do, including a great nightlife scene. If I could do my trip over again, I would have planned out better what I was going to do every single weekend, because I found myself running out of time in Costa Rica and not doing half of what I thought I was going to do. I think that if I had done some research before coming here, I would have made better use of time.
Overall my experience with AVIC was a very pleasant one, and I would highly recommend this program to future volunteers.