Carly Mellon - 2017 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

I was really craving adventure. I felt like I was so stuck in my city and needed to go away and experience something else. I wasn't quite sure if I could manage planning a trip all by myself, so I figured travelling with some sort of volunteer organization would give me the experience that I wanted and be organized. I have always had a passion for animals and wildlife, so I wanted to do something around that.

Volunteers collecting garbage on a beach in Costa Rica
Collecting garbage off the beach

Why did you choose GoEco?

I chose the turtle project because I knew I wanted to work with animals, and I knew I wanted a different experience from where I live, so the beach fit perfectly with that. After more research and learning about how endangered sea turtles are in Costa Rica, I instantly became inspired and knew that this was the program for me.

What was your favorite part about Costa Rica?

The culture and the vibes. Costa Rica is such a beautiful country with such friendly and welcoming people. I had such a pleasant experience. Also, the scenery. Driving past lush green forests and waking up to beautiful mountains everyday, it doesn't get better than that.

What made your experience abroad unique?

I traveled alone so I was forced to get out of my comfort zone and make new friends. All of the other participants were super friendly and made that a lot easier for me. I also think my experience was unique because I was able to hold baby turtle eggs, something I never imagined I'd do.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

They were super helpful when it came to me not knowing Spanish, and they also trained all the participants really well. If there were any questions, they were always open to answering.

Beach in Costa Rica
The beach that we worked on

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

More research about turtle season. In the end it didn't matter that it was low season, but at first I was definitely disappointed.

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

After breakfast we had free time until 9 a.m., when we would have our first shift of work. First work would either include cleaning up the common area, cleaning the volunteer house, maintenance around the administration house, painting landmarks, or other maintenance work. Then before lunch we had free time, so I would either go on hikes and explore the surrounding wildlife or just hang out with the other volunteers.

After lunch we had more free time, when I would usually go to the beach and hang out and write in my journal. Afternoon work usually consisted of clearing logs off the beach, picking up plastic and garbage off the beach, or fixing up the hatchery.

After dinner I would typically nap, because we had night patrol. Night patrol was either walking up and down the beach looking for turtles and nests, and collecting the eggs. Or it was sitting and watching the hatchery to make sure no raccoons broke in and no poachers tried to steal the eggs.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

I enjoyed hiking up the surrounding mountains or walking the trails through the forests. I also enjoyed sitting on the beach, reading or tanning, and swimming in the ocean.

Olive Ridley Turtle under infrared light in Costa Rica
A beautiful olive ridley turtle

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

The accommodations at my project was a volunteer house with five rooms, four beds per room. It was great! There were only five volunteers, so we each had our own rooms, which was nice. It was a newly built house and there were lots of toilets and showers, which were not bad at all since it was our responsibility to clean them. I think my favourite part was that they were secluded from the administration and staff, so we could fool around and hang out just us volunteers.

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

New participants of my program should come in with low expectations and open minds. It's not glamorous work and I often found myself being bored, but it's important to go out there and make the most of your experience no matter what.

Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?

I am so ready for my next adventure and continuing to volunteer. I am so passionate and inspired that my friends can all tell I have changed and gotten a totally new perspective on life.

Would you recommend your program to others? Why?

I would 100 percent recommend my program to others. The provider has SO many different opportunities, such as community work and social projects, if animal and wildlife isn't for you. I had the most amazing experience and it truly did allow me to grow as a person.