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The Gap Year Blog

Gary Cripps - Costa Rica Teaching

1 Jun 2018 17:10 PM
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"My best memory was leading an intermediate adult class, and seeing the impact made through teaching English and how the students really took the information on board to help their conversational skills" - read about Gary's experience on our Costa Rica Teaching project!

1. Why did you choose this particular project?

I wanted to gain some experience teaching English to adults and children. I chose Costa Rica as I’d never visited the country before and wanted a real adventure. 

2. What kind of work and activities did you do during your project?

One of best aspects of the project was agreeing on the range of activities we would be doing at the start of the week. The main focus was on running adult English classes for beginners and intermediate students, and I was able to plan the lessons in conjunction with the project manager. I also spent time working in schools supporting environmental and conservation work, and joined in with other activities such as supporting the recycling program in the area and other community events.

3. How did the culture differ to home? What were the local people like?

The culture was very diverse with lots of different Spanish dialects. The project was located in a small town, Puerto Jimenez, on the south coast of Costa Rica, adjacent to Corcovado National Park. This was amazing as it’s one of the most bio-diverse parks in the country. The local people I met were extremely welcoming and friendly. The phrase ‘Pura Vida’ (pure life) personifies the Costa Rican way of living. 

4. What was the accommodation like?

The accommodation in the volunteer house was basic, with volunteers sharing the cooking and household chores. 

5. What were the staff and other volunteers like?

The project manager, Sara, was brilliant. She took the time to discuss the various activities and then planned an amazing week for me. She was highly respected in the local community and within the volunteer group, and was very supportive during the work activities and ensured I was getting the challenge I wanted! The other volunteers I met were from other NGO’s and were all very highly motivated and great company to be with. 

6. What was the most amazing moment and what’s your best memory?

The most amazing moment was being in a school surrounded by happy children who had just been taught about the importance of the environment and recycling. They were all wearing paper moustaches to look like the Dr Seuss character, the Lorax, having written their promise to the earth. It was a fantastic day!

My best memory was leading an intermediate adult class, and seeing the impact made through teaching English and how the students really took the information on board to help their conversational skills. It was a real privilege to share my story and aspects of living in the UK. The students wanted me to come back the following week! 

7. What sort of wildlife did you encounter?

I did a 2-day hike in Corcovado National Park before the project started, which I highly recommend. This was separate to the project and booked with a local travel company. I saw a whole range of animals - from squirrel monkeys, howler monkeys, anteaters, tapirs, boa constrictors and lots of species of birds.

8. What were you hoping to learn while on project and have you achieved those goals?

Most definitely. I wanted to learn how to teach English to both children and adults, and experience the differences in style, approach and context. I also wanted to learn how to plan lessons that would help with students’ progress, whilst helping me to improve my Spanish. I learnt a lot about myself and how important volunteering is to countries like Costa Rica.  

9. Any tips and advice you might like to pass on to future volunteers?

Go with an open mind. Expect to be challenged and feel out of your comfort zone. Be totally flexible and supportive of the bigger objectives for all of the projects taking place in the area. There are a lot of common goals shared to support the local community. 

If I had my time again, I would do a crash course in Spanish to build on my very basic knowledge. You are speaking English most of the time so any advance you can make in your Spanish translations before you go will really help. 

10. What do you have planned next?

I have applied to become a trustee for a local charity in Manchester, which supports people who have had a difficult start in life to get back on track. 

11. Anything else you would like to add?

The Frontier staff in London were excellent in helping me choose and plan the best teaching project in the time I had available. All of the team were very knowledgeable and the website really helped, particularly the volunteer stories. 

By Gary Cripps - Frontier Volunteer | Costa Rica Teaching

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservation, community, teaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!