Casandra Fountain - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

The purpose for this trip was to "find" myself.

Why did you choose Maximo Nivel?

I love Turtles and have one of my own at home. His name is Scobby! I wanted to work with them as I felt I would be more help in that aspect because I knew a little about them already. Also, Costa Rica is beautiful with its large mountains and warm beaches.

Volunteers on a conservation project in Costa Rica
The gang.

What was your favorite part about Costa Rica?

The Tico time. I felt at peace and relaxed the entire time there.

What made your experience abroad unique?

Making new friends from all over the world.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

I traveled solo. So I was nervous. They made me feel comfortable and helped me not get lost.

Coffee and travel journal
My favorite things. Coffee and writing.

What surprised you most about Costa Rica?

 When I landed in Costa Rica - San Jose I was surprised by the weather, I half expected it to be more sunny and less cloudy. But, I quickly understood that November - December was the rainy season.

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

I wish I stayed longer.

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

Wake up, eat breakfast, do morning chores, eat lunch, sit on the beach, or swim before work started at 2:30 p.m., which is when we would do work around the community (i.e. beach clean up, building nest, cleaning or checking the hatchery, putting signs up to protect wildlife, sorting garbage). Then dinner, clean dishes, and hang out with the other volunteers before patrol which would be 8 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., on rotation of course. Then I’d have a shower and go to bed.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

Writing in my daily journal and napping.

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

Dorm like. I shared a room with five other girls at one point. But, clean. That was a daily chore keeping everything tidy and clean.

Baby Olive Ridley sea turtle in Costa Rica
Squirt. (Baby Lora Turtle)

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

Make sure to bring one pair of closed toed shoes and make sure you have LOTS OF bug spray. And pants that cover to your ankles. The snap flies are mean at night.

How difficult was it to communicate with locals?

It was a little difficult, though I did learn some Spanish before going and I had a Translating app that helped wonders.

What was the hardest part about volunteering abroad?

The hardest part of volunteering abroad would be knowing that I was leaving soon and couldn't stay and help forever.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before volunteering abroad in Costa Rica?

I wish I knew about the pesky bugs (Sand flies to be exact). I got eaten alive while I was there. So I left with scars and blisters on my legs. (FYI if you know you’re going, take V D13, apparently that helps keeps the bugs away... or go eat a load of bananas every day).

Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Costa Rica?​

Pack light. You will NOT need a load of stuff. All you really need is clothes to last you a week - there will most likely be a way to wash your clothes while you are with you host family or group home. Bring a camera and an extra memory card. Sunscreen and bug-spray. First aid kit stuff - anything can happen. Bring closed toed shoes. A raincoat, believe it or not a sweater some days it does get cold. A book or two for your spare time, though there won't be much. Except the bus rides to and from places. And last but not least an open mind. Don't come with high expectations, the places you'll be staying won’t be like you are use too. But they will be welcoming, comforting and full of love.

Sea turtles on a beach in Costa Rica
Surfs up dude.

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

I am more relaxed and sad, not in a depressed way; I miss my home away from home. Verdiazul became one of my favorite places and I can't wait to go back.