GETTING TO KNOW OROSI VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL VOLUNTEERS
Costa Rica is the land of pura vida—the pure life. Sandwiched between Nicaragua and Panama and the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, this is a place where you will feel welcomed the moment you step off the plane. From the inviting smiles from all of your new neighbors to the breathtaking nature that makes every picture a postcard, Costa Rica has it all!
Learn About Costa Rica
Like most countries in the region, Costa Rica was once a Spanish colony. However, once it gained its independence in 1821, Costa Rica quickly stabilized and has remained one of the most peaceful nations in Central America. In fact, in 1949, Costa Rica abolished its military and became one of the first democracies in Latin America. If you’re a history buff, check out everything you’ll need to know about Costa Rica’s ancient & modern-day history.
Only twice the size of Connecticut, Costa Rica is a power house in Central America. Today, Costa Rica is a world leader in environmentally-conscious policy and practice. The country is known for its rich biodiversity and is an expert in ecotourism and successfully reducing their carbon-footprint. Socially, they have outshined their neighbors by offering universal healthcare and free education.
The discovery of the red coffee bean has contributed greatly to Costa Rica’s economic independence – Costa Rica has been caffeinating the world since the mid-1800s! Everyone in the country does their part to support this industry: ticos have a daily coffee break where business stops for 20 minutes mid-afternoon to enjoy a steamy cup. Many Costa Rican moms say that they’ll start mixing coffee into their babies milk as early as 6 months of age. So get ready for Starbucks on hyper-drive!
Watch the streets of the Orosi Valley come alive on Sunday morning as your neighbors join the hustle and bustle in the central market. Take in all the sights and sounds of the market like a real Tico, and pick up so fresh fruit to snack on! In Costa Rican culture, fast-food restaurants are considered fancy, so don’t be surprised when you see families in their Sunday-best head on into Pizza Hut!
The Orosi Valley is THE place to be - a vibrant epicenter for agriculture, religion, and culture. Head down to the town square for some major people watching in the park, head on over to the local stores for some souvenirs to bring back home, or just bask in the view of nearby volcanoes!
Cultural Do’s and Don’ts
Entering a new culture is an exciting and challenging experience. And just as you bring your own culture to share, it’s important to be open and respectful to the culture of those you’ll meet during your travels. You’ll often find that you have a much more positive experience if you are aware of and take into account cultural norms when meeting new people and getting to know your new community.
Picture this: You’re living in a country far from home. You can’t understand the language, and you’re trying to order food, but everything seems to be moving so slowly! Why can’t it just be like in your home country: fast and efficient?
Sometimes, these and other frustrations can build up, and you may even become angry or annoyed at with this new and unfamiliar place, its cultural norms, and its people. If this happens to you, you might be experiencing culture shock.
Culture shock can be a normal part of traveling to a new country, but it might surprise you that you can also encounter reverse culture shock when you return home. While everyone experiences some degree of culture shock, the impact that it has on your experience depends on how well prepared you are to handle its different phases. Here are some tips and tricks to get you assimilated (and re-assimilated once you’re back home) so you can enjoy every moment of your journey.
- Have a sense humor.
Try to see something of value in every new experience you have. While it can be challenging in the moment, try to keep it all in perspective. The ability to laugh and go with the flow are two key tools to coping with initial culture shock.
- Expect differences.
In any new culture, there will be some differences. If you’re prepared for there to be challenges and differences before you arrive in-country, it can make a world of difference in how you adjust.
- ...but look for what’s the same.
You will likely encounter differences in cultures, but you might not immediately realize the similarities. Take a moment to appreciate those attributes that make us more alike than different.
- Keep learning.
Immersing yourself in a new culture is a constant education. So continue making an effort to learn and understand what you’re experiencing.
Living and working within your new community is a great way to learn the local language. Whether you’re an advanced speaker or just learning a few key phrases, you’ll enjoy CCS-organized language lessons during your time in-country to help you through your journey. Here are a few important phrases to learn before you depart for your volunteer program. Even if your pronunciation isn’t perfect (yet), give it a try! Your attempts to connect with new friends in the local language will always be appreciated.
As with learning any new language, reading phrases is helpful. But listening is one of the best ways to grasp sounds and vocabulary. Click below to hear Country Director Jose Hernandez begin your first Spanish language lesson.
Ready for the next level? Practice your Spanish with these online sites:
Recommended Reading and Films
We believe that travel and firsthand encounters are the BEST education. But there are also plenty of resources to help you learn more about the history, travel opportunities, culture, stories, and language of Costa Rica so you can begin to immerse yourself even before you arrive. Here are just a few of our favorites to get you started:
Travel & Leisure: The New Costa Rica »
CCS Blog: Costa Rica »
YouTube: Discover Costa Rica »
Activities & Excursions
Between volunteering, cultural activities, navigating a new language, and immersing yourself in a brand-new culture, you’ll still have plenty of time to explore the local area and even the country during evenings and weekends with the CCS in-country staff. Our activities & excursions are an important part of your experience for exploration and self-reflection, and our in-country staff will always be there to guide you through getting to know the culture and country.
Here are a few of our favorite activities that might be included on your schedule.
If you’re ready to start learning more, review your online Training Sessions below (these are required – so make sure you allocate enough time to review each of these trainings, each under 30-minutes). About two weeks before your program begins, you’ll join your final pre-departure call with your group. We can’t wait for you to join us, meet your fellow volunteers, and explore all that CCS has to offer.
Volunteering in Orosi Valley »