Central America Costa Rica Working & Studying Abroad

Arriving in San Jose, Costa Rica


The reason for being in Costa Rica is to participate in a volunteer program with International Student Volunteers (ISV). My friend/ex Daniel and I both signed up for ISV when they came to our university back in New Zealand, so we traveled to Costa Rica together.

Flying via Panama we discovered the most confusing airport ever. Minimal signs made it a constant battle to find someone who speaks English to point us in the direction of our gate. Luckily a couple airhostesses’ come to the rescue. The stopover was supposed to be forty minutes, an hour later we are still waiting to board. There is no information displayed about a delay, so I simply think it’s an error on my ticket having traveled three time zones in one day. Finally we board the plane, unfortunately that sits on the tarmac another thirty minutes before taking off.

The flight over to San Jose, Costa Rica is simply beautiful. The plane was flying quite low, darting in and out of clouds against the vibrant green forest below. Landing at the same time as three other planes the line for customs is ridiculously long, especially as it isn’t a particularly large airport. Though, being an English speaker the customs officer doesn’t bother asking details and soon enough I am through.


Front yard of the home stay in Heredia


Back yard of the home stay in Heredia

The first week of the ISV program is spent learning Spanish at Intercultura. Located in the township of Heredia and staying with a local host family who picked us up from the airport. Though, unfortunately not many people in San Jose own cars, so my host mother hired a taxi and waited at the airport. This resulted in an unexpected cost of $80USD since our plane was delayed over two hours. There wasn’t too much traffic on the way back to my host mothers’ house. It was surprising to see that the no one really owned crap cars like you would see in New Zealand, they either had a really nice one or nothing at all.

Arriving at my home for the next week it was completely different from anything I have ever seen before. Security seemed over the top to my foreigner self, considering Heredia is generally a safe place. At the very front of the house was a massive gate, about four meters high with large metal bars and a large lock. The next was another gate, just as high with another lock, and then you arrive in the patio. The front door was shut with two deadlocks, a total of four keys needed to get inside. Once inside we shared a dinner of rice and beans, some amazing homemade juice. I attempted to converse in my very limited Spanish before heading to bed to get some well-deserved sleep.


Family animals of the home stay in Heredia

Oh, and on a side note, at the stopover in Panama I was busting to use the bathroom. Though, in a rush I failed to realise how ridiculously high the water levels are in the toilet. Wiping from the front, I actually managed to put my hand in the toilet water.


Observations in Costa Rica:

– The central Valley region is really mountainous

– All houses have crazy security measures

– There are way more people living here than I expected

– That I cannot speak a word of Spanish

I am travelling through Costa Rica with a volunteer program called International Student Volunteers or ISV. For the next  week I will be calling Heredia home while participating in the Spanish Immersion Week with Intercultura.