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Circus Arts (Theater) Volunteering in Costa Rica

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    8

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    9

  • Health and Safety

    8

  • Social Life

    10

Lessons that I learned on my trip will stay with me forever

The human connections that I made and the life lessons that I learned on my trip will stay with me forever. I am sure of it.

Know that in Costa Rica the clock does not matter as much as it does to the average person in the US. So, learn to go with the flow and realize that time is what you make of it regardless of the number on your watch. Also, you cannot flush your toilet paper in Costa Rican toilets because of the state of the pipelines.

The children who I worked with granted me the most precious gift: the gift of perspective. My experience volunteering in these less fortunate neighborhoods altered my view on life in the most positive way possible. Each day I was lovingly greeted by children with barely any clothes upon their tiny backs but with smiles large enough to warm any heart. They would grab onto my hand without hesitation and speak as if they were physically tearing down the language barrier between us. Almost every child was itching to learn, to fly and flip, to play and laugh. They were like little monkeys and I was their vine. They made me feel like a hero, when in reality each and every one of them are heroes to me. Their instant affection and fearless demeanor filled me with inspiration. They are living proof that life is worth living.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    8

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    8

  • Social Life

    9

Costa Rica theater volunteering

I had a wonderful experience in Costa Rica. The people I met had an incredible impact, as did the culture. After being there I feel like I've matured and learned about myself. It made me really want to travel and experience different cultures. I loved experiencing how the arts can be used to make a difference. Overall it was truly a life changing experience.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Social Life

    10

  • Health and Safety

    6

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

Performing Arts Abroad Theatre Internship in Costa Rica

A fabulously enriching program with so much to offer both artistically and humanly. The mix of social outreach and performing arts was beautifully crafted. The relationships fostered during this experience were priceless and the sights to see were limitless. I most definitely recommend this program to others seeking a rewarding artistic adventure.

Overall Rating

5/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    5

  • Program Administration

    5

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Community Impact

    4

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    3

Expectations not met

Unfortunately, my experience was tainted by lack of preparation and inadequate information about the program. I definitely take responsibility for not asking more specific questions about before going, but I was disappointed to find my experience much different than advertised. I knew that I should be as confident in Spanish as possible, but was not expecting that absolute fluency would be necessary. A previous participant told me that she needed no previous Spanish practice and that she always had English support, so I was expecting the same. At CRLA, this was true for the most part, especially in the course of Spanish classes, but my volunteer experience teaching kids relied solely on Spanish fluency, making the classes in which I was trying to teach theatre skills incredibly difficult.

When I arrived in San Isidro to work with the Circo Fantazztico, my assignments were given to me entirely in Spanish with no English translation, both from the program manager, Roland, and from the volunteers at the circus. While I would identify my Spanish at being at an intermediate level, I was often left with more questions to clarify in simpler Spanish. After my first day, Roland was not there for the remainder of my program, making my only “local” program contact in San Jose, a 4 hour bus ride away. Throughout the three weeks, my Spanish did improve, however, not having anyone to speak to in a language of which I could communicate clearly was extremely isolating.

One awesome thing about Circo Fantazztico is that it is run almost entirely by volunteers in university or older, which provides an awesome opportunity for young people to have leadership roles. In my case, I was greeted by a group of German students who had all already been at the circus for months, and who spoke German to each other, and Spanish to any native Costa Ricans. This also left in me in the awkward position of being unable to join an established social group in addition to speaking their language. I very rarely spent time with the group of volunteers that I was there with, and they were also surprised at my short time (3 weeks) spent with the Circus.

Finally, my program was also scheduled for the week after a culminating festival, Brinca Brunca this year, which meant that as I arrived, volunteers were starting to go on vacation, classes had less of an end goal, and the volunteers were generally tired and preparing for their trips home coming in August. This also changed the mood of the volunteers and the classes we would be teaching, in one case leaving me in a position to teach a class of older students alone. Had I been prepared for these factors, I would have found a way to succeed, but it felt as though I was never established as a valuable member of the volunteer team and that my role was dispensable. I felt as though it would have been better for the group and the students that I got to work with for me not to have been there at all, since relationships with the students had already been established with other teaching artists and my role felt more to my benefit than to the benefit of anyone I worked with.

Had I been more prepared for my lax schedule (I only worked about 3 hours, 4 days a week, I had to ask for more opportunities to train and work at the circus), foreign volunteers with little to no English experience, and need for advanced Spanish skills, this program would have been amazing. If you feel comfortable with these skills and a lot of free time, the circus itself is a valuable and impactful organization for the community, and San Isidro itself is a small, but very cute town. The artists at the circus were incredibly talented, and I attended every training session offered to me. I hope that future volunteers are better prepared to teach a specific skill, in Spanish, and feel comfortable and confident communicating so that they don’t feel as alienated and unnecessary as I did.