Christine Rominski - 2015 Program Participant
Why did you decide to apply for an international program?
As an avid traveler, I was itching to go abroad again. I've traveled several times to Central America, and each time thoroughly enjoyed myself, so I was eager to return.
Chillin in Costa Rica with my new friends
Why did you choose Projects Abroad?
When looking for alternative spring break programs, my number one priority was finding a program that was reliable. There are tons of programs floating around out there, so it can take a lot of time to find the right one, but ultimately, it is worth it. I ended up selecting Projects Abroad because of all the positive reviews I read and all the recommendations to volunteer through this organization. People were extremely satisfied with how Projects Abroad runs things; they make sure their volunteers are safe at all times, there is a healthy balance between volunteering and free time, there is an opportunity to learn more about the culture of that place one is traveling to, etc.
What was your favorite part about Costa Rica?
Costa Rica is absolutely stunning! Everywhere you turn, you see beautiful volcanoes and tropical colors. More specifically, I liked living in a quiet town, and I enjoyed being able to turn the corner and spend time at a park, or walk across the street and find plenty of grocery stores and restaurants.
What made your program unique?
So far, this is the only volunteer program abroad that I have participated in, so it is hard to compare it to others of a similar nature. However, I truly think traveling combined with a volunteering component adds to the richness of an experience. For most of my travels, I do enjoy looking back on where I went and what I saw, but when I think back on my time in Costa Rica, I vividly remember my interactions with all the little kids. I can picture their smiling faces, and I remember how happy I was to just spend time either running around a playground with them or washing their hands before their snack time.
Having the chance to bond and connect with other people around the world truly is unforgettable.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
On the first day, the local staff provided us with a walking tour, making sure to show us all the bus routes so we knew how to get to and from our volunteer location. After that, they were always easy to get in touch with.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I think it never hurts to be more prepared. While I did have an idea of what I was getting myself into, I underestimated the effects of humidity and hot weather. It tends to be the little things that can make or break an experience, and while I did enjoy my time abroad, I do wish that I had taken better care of myself, so I could have enjoyed myself even more so than I already did. Small things like remembering to drink water frequently and getting plenty of rest is crucial.
The kids getting ready for snack time!
Describe a day in the life of a volunteer in Costa Rica.
In the morning, I would wake up around 7 a.m. and get ready for my day. The night before, I would set a time with my host family and the other volunteers to meet for breakfast, and after we ate, we would walk to our volunteer location together, which took about twenty minutes. Once there, for about four hours we would play with the kids: running around the yard, playing with toys, doing arts and crafts, etc. Then they would have lunch and be put down for a nap.
Then, I would have a two hour lunch break, so I would hop onto a bus and go to the city center. I had plenty of time to grab some food, do some shopping, or sit and read in a park. Then I would return to the daycare center around two o’clock in the afternoon, and volunteer for another couple of hours, basically repeating the morning ritual in reverse.
By 4:30 p.m., I would be back at my host family's house. From there, what I did varied from day to day; sometimes, the other volunteers and I would go explore other cities in Costa Rica, we would walk around the town we were already in, or we would just have a quiet night in at the house and spend time getting to know one another better. I typically was asleep by 10 p.m., and I still had plenty of time to skype with friends and family back home and have some time to myself to unwind.
What was one of your favorite moments from your time in Costa Rica?
I loved grabbing lunch on the first day. Our program coordinators treated us to lunch, and it was incredible! When I travel, I do love trying local food and drinks, and having their insider perspective allowed for us to have some of the best food in the area.
Where did you stay? What did you like best about your accommodation?
I stayed in a house, and had my own bedroom. I liked it because I was able to have my own space and some privacy, but if I was feeling social, it was easy to hang out with everyone else in the living room or yard of the home. I liked how cozy it felt, much more personal than if we had stayed at a hotel.
Now that you're home, how has volunteering abroad impacted your life?
I think through this experience I have built a lasting friendship with one of the other volunteers. Being able to share such a unique experience with someone else is awesome, and I can call her at any time to relive the memories. I value having the chance to meet people from around the country (and the world!) and keeping in touch with them. Besides that, I loved being able to work with three-year-olds. Thinking back on the experience never fails to produce a smile and/or chuckle.