PROGRAM TYPES

CONNECT WITH US

Music students performing on stage Music students performing on stage

Music Volunteering in Costa Rica

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

The best four weeks

Going to Costa Rica this summer for four weeks was a truly incredible experience. While in Costa Rica I stayed with a wonderful host family who made me feel right at home. I loved living with them and getting communicate more with them and get to know them better as my Spanish improved. I loved my volunteer work as well. It really is true that once you get there, you just need to be ready to go with the flow, but I was ready for that and was so happy that I got to experience volunteering at a few different places. Each volunteer placement was so different and I really enjoyed being able to connect with different types of people and getting to share my love of music with them. I got to teach saxophone which is exactly what I thought I would be doing which was so fun, but I also got to teach general music to kids which was scary at first but so fun and rewarding! I also really enjoyed getting to know the other volunteers who really get you through the first couple weeks where everything is still super overwhelming and confusing. They all reached out to me and invited me to travel with them and we all still talk in a group chat we made regularly! Every single person I came in contact with at PAA throughout my entire process was so incredibly helpful and encouraging which I appreciated so much. Going to Costa Rica was incredible and I can not imagine a better organization to go through.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

PAA: Costa Rica 2016

This program was a great introduction to the teaching abroad experience. I was able to make valuable and sincere connections with other students, volunteers, and teachers while having the time of my life. I look forward to going back in the future.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Best experience I've ever had

I had a great time in Costa Rica! Everyone there was super supportive and responsive when we needed help with anything, from lesson plan ideas to weekend travel. The other volunteers were also wonderful and I loved that there were other volunteers at my placements, and I was still able to teach my own classes and have my own experiences.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Music Teaching at the Sion School of Music

I had an incredible time volunteering at the Sion School of Music in Costa Rica and studying at the Costa Rica Language Academy. While I was there, I learned so much about teaching, volunteering, and music. I picked up invaluable skills from my students and peers, and would love to go back someday.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    8

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    7

  • Social Life

    7

MÚSICA-PURAVIDA! : A Student Perspective On Teaching Music In Costa Rica

I would say this trip was absolutely amazing. The homestay was so warm and generous and I can't thank them enough. I loved having the opportunity to teach individually in the Elementary School and assisting the after school program. The sites are unbelievable whether it's seeing wildlife species in Manuel Antonio or going zip lining in Monteverde. This country is phenomenal and I hope to return someday. PURAVIDA!!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    8

  • Social Life

    10

It was awesome!

My experience was awesome. The director of sinem really made me feel at home, and have me a lot of opportunities in and out of the organization. I couldn't have asked for a better placement.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Meeting people and making good friends from other foreign countries as well.

The program is a great opportunity and an excellent learning experience. It is not as organized as i'd hoped on the Costa Rican side of things, but it was flexible and a fun time all the same!

I had very few challenges with my living situation, except for maybe a few miscommunications due to the language barrier. Other than that, everything was very comfortable.

I felt very lucky and grateful be able to teach, i learned so much from the kids that i taught. I learned a lot about the culture, and my favorite part about the volunteer program was the inspiration i felt after teaching a child music and having them enjoy it so much and want to learn.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    8

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Impact

    8

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    9

Violin teaching in Costa Rica

This was a life changing experience by far. I was able to learn a new language and culture and do what I love. I was able to make new friends from all over the world and even some new music connections. I hope I can travel with a friend next time since I came alone this time, but I do hope to return again one day and teach again!

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    7

  • Community Impact

    9

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    9

Costa Rica June 2015

I am very glad i decided to participate in this program. I feel I really got the most out of my experience: teaching private lessons, volunteering with a public school music teacher, traveling and performing in another country, meeting people from all over the world. I hope to go back soon and recommend this program to anyone interested in gaining teaching experience abroad.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    8

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Community Impact

    9

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    9

I learned how to really be independent

Mostly i just learned how to really be independent, and how to know when to change things for yourself. I really had to make the decision that i would rather do a different project and i don't regret it one bit.

I personally had an amazing experience and wouldn't change a thing, but the experience might have been different for a different person. I learned so much, partially because it wasn't perfect, but for a person who is less independent or travel savvy it might have been hard.

The school was great--free coffee, internet, great teachers, and many friendly people. There is a small restaurant in the school and a mall just a couple blocks away where i could usually find things i needed. Also walking distance into the center of San Jose.

Overall Rating

8/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    9

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    5

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    7

PAA San Jose music volunteering

My host family/home in Costa Rica was amazing, and the teachers/staff at the Costa Rican Language Academy were extremely helpful and supportive of my Spanish learning and volunteering. The people at Sion were very helpful as well throughout my week of volunteering there.

Overall Rating

8/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    6

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    7

  • Health and Safety

    8

  • Social Life

    9

Navigating tourism and volunteering: My adventure in Costa Rica

Going abroad to Costa Rica through a volunteer music program was the adventure of a lifetime! I say this mainly because it was my first time in a Central American country, and I went with absolutely zero knowledge of Spanish. But, you'll be pretty amazed at how much language you can learn through, as I call it, "the sheer terror of a situation". At the end of my first week, I had no problems taking a bus from San Jose to Manuel Antonio by myself (though this is likely a result of the goodwill and patience of Costa Ricans and not my Spanish learning curve). In addition, I felt that there are two Costa Rica; the "touristy" Costa Rica, and the "normal/non-touristy" Costa Rica. This difference was a difficult thing for me to process, because I did a homestay in San Jose, where I experienced the closest thing I could get to a "normal, Costa Rican life", and spent all my weekends abroad in the wealthier, resort areas. Costa Rica seems to have capitalized on their natural resources for tourists' benefit, and I had an absolute blast travelling across the country, hiking in rainforests, swimming in rivers, ziplining through a cloud forest, and finding as much wildlife as I could. In these areas, you will have no problem getting around without speaking Spanish. Indeed, it will be very odd if you don't take advantage of all the wildlife that surrounds you in this country! San Jose was very different; a lot less beautiful and a lot more dangerous. Utilize the buddy system as much as you can!

The program I applied through (Performing Arts Abroad) was excellent because they prepared me to the best of their abilities about what I should expect, which was essentially, to be prepared for anything. I do not mean this in a negative way, of course, but Costa Rican society is much less "structured" (read "on-the-go") than what people in the United States are used to, and this can be the hardest thing to internalize. For example, I volunteered for three weeks at a school that promoted social empowerment through music, arts, and sports (my intention was to hopefully provide children in less affluent areas with musical skills and/or a joy for music), and the director of the school probably showed up for two days out of that entire time. As a result, I ended up having to improvise (and embarrass myself) a lot, especially because what I ended up doing was different than what I set out to do (due to a lack of resources, I taught general music inspired by Dalcroze Eurhythmics, as opposed to general flute lessons). However, I found Costa Ricans to be such generous, wonderful souls (especially the children I worked with), and I was encouraged to have an open mind and heart about my travels and volunteer placement. I'm very glad I had the opportunity to see two different sides of Costa Rica, and I encourage anyone who is interested in volunteering to apply, because this way you will get to interact with the locals in a way you wouldn't able to as much otherwise. Even if you aren't interested in volunteering, Costa Rica will offer many other diversions (especially for nature and wildlife lovers), and it will be a memorable trip!

Overall Rating

8/ 10

  • Social Life

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Community Impact

    8

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Volunteer Experience

    8

A great experience, for me

First, I would like to say this was a really great experience, and also probably the only possible experience that fit my search. I had wanted to visit a Latin American country and teach piano, and this program was the only one I could find easily. My volunteering experience could have been more fulfilling, but it was definitely an unforgettable month.

The one very annoying part to me was how little information there was. The website has nothing but a short, vague description about having a fun time teaching music, and maybe because the organization is still pretty young, but I couldn't find much of any information. The week before I left I had no idea how many hours I were to be teaching, what age group, if I were teaching groups or one-on-one, what level of ability, or any other basic knowledge. It all felt so mysterious when applying that I was really afraid about going.

Luckily, the experience turned out great, but definitely some clarity would have been nice. Furthermore, I got the impression that everything was a little disorganized. For example, rather than figuring out my exact schedule beforehand, it was not until the second day after arrival that the music teachers could make a schedule for me. The problem with piano specifically is that a piano is a very expensive instrument, so not many schools even had one. Students themselves, if they were lucky, owned a non-weighted keyboard. Luckily, there was a very popular music school in Tres Rios (about 30 minute bus ride from CRLA) that had enough piano students and five uprights. Talking with the teachers, since I knew enough Spanish to get by, they decided that it would be far more productive for me to be giving my own lessons rather than teaching alongside one of them. I am very glad for this because talking to my peers, you can feel a bit useless in a private lesson with an actual teacher. So they drafted a schedule of 30 minute lessons, and allowed students to sign up for classes.

This may have been a problem with piano specifically, but I really wish there had been more for me to do. Since there was only the one school, realistically I taught about 3 hours per day which felt a bit on the light side. The rest of the time I was able to practice piano at one of the CRLA instructor's house, or else explore San Jose. Sure, that was fun, but I wish I could have been more helpful. My advice is to be more demanding since I am more on the shy side. The lessons ended up being about 90% to young elementary students learning out of the classic flying piano adventure books. I had the most fun teaching the other 10% who were older, more skilled, and enthusiastic. After all, teaching the musical expressions is a lot more fun than talking about technical details, wrong notes, etc. Fairly often, a student would not show up for a lesson with no explanation or warning, but that was just part of the culture for that school.

The experiencing abroad aspect was definitely the reason to go. You start off with 1 week of CRLA Spanish classes which introduces you to lots of other students from the U.S. and Europe. The school also has plenty of information about how to go on tours and explore the country during the weekends, and you should really make the most out of this. There are so many awesome things to see in Costa Rica, and it's not all that expensive. The staff were friendly and spoke English if you needed. Taking one week (really 4 days) of Spanish felt pretty odd, but it gets you a head start. Please do look up a lot of music terms in Spanish and learn solfeggio (fixed do re mi fa sol la SI do), because you will need them to communicate. CRLA was great.

My host family was pretty nice. Oddly, they weren't too talkative, not even with each other which made me feel a little left out. The host mom had great cooking, and at least I got along well with the other student staying. If you're bad at directions like I am, be careful because they throw you into finding your way around after just one day. I got lost immediately on the third day because I took the wrong bus. I felt safe walking around during the daytime because there were so many cars, and that really helped me figure out directions.

Now, one bad experience that was just really unlucky happened while I was there. Again, I feel this could have been avoided had communication and organization been better. During my fourth week, suddenly all of the music schools had nothing for me to do. Tres Rios had exams, one in San Jose was experiencing strikes and had exams, another in San Jose only had a couple of students (4 hours for the week), so I was left jobless. Those exams had been there for months, but I only found out about this the week before. All PAA could do was give me some free Spanish classes, but luckily I was able to switch and volunteer at an orphanage with one of CRLA's other programs.

All in all, it was a great experience for me, although I wish there had been something more. Regardless, I would recommend the experience if you find yourself in my situation. Strings and brass may have a slightly easier time finding other programs to look into, or even find more to do here. But considering this was basically my only choice, I'm glad it was a good experience. Please though, get better at the communication, PAA, so others don't fret as much as I did before going.

Overall Rating

7/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    6

  • Program Administration

    7

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    8

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    9

A productive 2 weeks in Costa Rica

Music volunteering in Costa Rica was a great experience. I unfortunately arrived at a time when there were many holidays so my volunteer time was cut shorter than I expected. However, I still learned a lot about Spanish and music while teaching in Costa Rica.

Overall Rating

6/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    2

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    6

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    7

Music Volunteering in Costa Rica

Getting to Costa Rica was the easy part. I enjoyed my host family. When I arrived I had plenty of support from my host family, the staff at CRLA and the Performing Arts Abroad Staff. All of the PAA participants lived in the same neighbourhood so it was easy to travel around the city together. The volunteer placement itself was very poorly organized. There seemed to be a lot of miscommunication between CRLA and the volunteer placements. I volunteered at two places and one of them I felt like I was just babysitting, and at the other was far below standards for a music school. The instruments were not taken care of, and there was not adequate music teaching going on there. I enjoyed being able to make an impact either way.