COSTA RICA / PANAMA DETAILED ITINERARY
IN-COUNTRY ORIENTATION: Week 1
After spending your first night in the bustling capital city of San Jose your group is whisked away to the Irazu Volcano where gazing into the crater offers your first look at the natural beauty of Costa Rica. As the clouds descend into the volcano, you depart for the remote rainforest outside of the small town of Brujo, a magical place well off the beaten path. As a reward for your two-hour hike into the rainforest lodge, you can begin to rest, adjust, and get to know your fellow interns and your Global Routes in-country director. Over the next few days, you have the rare opportunity to climb giant trees, forage for medicinal plants, zip line, and learn how to make tortillas from fresh corn and chocolate from cacao you gather with your own hands. Naturalist guides lead the group on hikes through this amazing landscape, and you have a chance to participate in the creation of a hydroponic vegetable garden. Cool off by taking a dip in the nearby river, rappelling down a cascading waterfall, and exploring local caves.
These exciting destinations serve as the backdrop for your training and preparation for your upcoming volunteer placement. Your in-country director facilitates lectures, discussions, and activities designed to deepen your understanding of the culture, customs, and life in rural Costa Rica. Your teacher training will include lesson planning, teaching techniques, approaches to classroom management, and a visit to a local school. Your in-country director will also facilitate initial conversations about ideas for Independent Projects and strategies for ensuring their viability and sustainability in the community.
Your orientation concludes in San Isidro, a town in Costa Rica’s fertile agricultural valley, the residence of your in-country director, and the hub for your program. Most residents here are small subsistence farmers who raise cattle or cultivate beans, corn, coffee, or sugar cane. In your brief stop in San Isidro, you learn the specific details of the village, family, and school in which you will be placed. You also have the chance to purchase supplies and make other preparations for the first days in your community.
SERVICE, TEACHING & INDEPENDENT PROJECTS: Weeks 2-11 (including 10 day mid-program break trip to Panama)
You live with one other intern in a rural village outside of San Isidro. You are placed as a pair in the same community, sharing a home with your host family. This is an unparalleled opportunity to truly become immersed in a community. You may wake early in the morning to help your host mother prepare coffee or fresh juice or sit at the table after dinner to share stories, play games, or tutor your host brother in English. While your volunteer efforts are a wonderful asset to your community, it may be these small, quiet moments and rhythms at home that you and your host family cherish most.
Your primary responsibility in the village is to teach in the community school. Depending on your skills and interests and the school’s needs, you may teach English or any number of other subjects. Generally, the few local teachers these schools have are overworked, and thrilled to have your support and energy as an asset with their students. You and your fellow intern may choose to collaborate on lesson planning and team-teaching endeavors, and your in-country director will visit you weekly to provide ideas, strategies and ongoing support.
While providing much needed assistance in the school, teaching also provides an excellent framework to begin building connections and trust within your community. Your Independent Project offers you yet another opportunity to engage with the community. Once you have begun your teaching responsibilities, your in-country director guides you through assessments and proposals for possible service projects of your own design. You can attend community meetings and social gatherings, volunteer at a local health clinic, work with a women’s cooperative, renovate classrooms, build a playground, start environmental initiatives like recycling, composting and tree planting, run an after-school sports or arts camp, design and paint a mural, create academic scholarship contests, or initiate programs for health education, adult literacy, or microfinance.
Through these experiences, you will see your language skills blossom and experience the joy of communicating in a language that may have previously been confined to an hour a day in a classroom.
Weekly visits to your village from your in-country director and alternating weekends spent as a group are great opportunities for ongoing support and adventure throughout the program. While a weekend may be spent working on an Independent Project or gathering as a group to cook dinner, there are also other nearby destinations that your group may choose to visit.
Weekend Excursion: Your group may decide to take a weekend excursion to the infamous costal area of Manuel Antonio.
Placed halfway through your program, the Mid-Program Break in PANAMA is a well-timed opportunity for reflection, rejuvenation and renewed goal-setting. For 10 days, your group heads south to the Gulf of Chiriquí in Panama to soak up the sun in the quiet beach town of Santa Catalina. After a few days of relaxing, exploring the black sands beach, and even testing your balance on a surf board, head out for a multi-overnight adventure to the remote Isla Coiba. This newly identified UNESCO World Heritage site offers amazing marine life. Your group will explore the National Park on kayaks and you may even spot the famous Whale Shark!
FINAL TRAVEL, Surfing, Rafting, Reflection: (Week 12)
Final Travel: After a heartfelt goodbye to your host community, travel together as a group south to Uvita to get some R&R on the shores of Uvita. Enjoy this quiet coastal town and take surf lessons. Spend time with your group members enjoying new friendships and reflecting about the entire program, orientation, in your host community, and Panama. As a final adventure and celebration, your group braves the rapids of the Pacuare River on an exciting whitewater rafting trip through a beautiful forested canyon. To finish the program, your group returns to San Jose, the official end point of the program.