Spanish Courses & Volunteering
in Costa Rica

Spanish Courses and Volunteering in Costa Rica

EXIS language- and voluntary work programs in Costa Rica combines Spanish lessons with volunteering in social institutions or in national parks.

Volunteering in Costa Rica offers a unique possibility to experience the country, its culture and population from an inside view while doing a meaningful job. Volunteers must be independent, open minded, and minimum 18 years old. You can, of course choose to follow Spanish lessons without volunteering.

The school
The school is situated in the town of Carrillos, a short distance from Juan Santa Maria International airport and the capital San José. The area has a pleasant climate all year round and some of the country’s most impressive sights can be found here, for example the volcano Poás, the town Sarchi, La Garita and Grecia.

The local population is known for their friendliness and helpfulness. Here you will enjoy the advantages of a small town.The classrooms are roomy and pleasant and the school is surrounded by gardens containing tropical plants, flowers and fruit trees.

Make sure you bring your own laptop, tablet, smart phone or any other electronic device that you can use for international communications.

Lessons
Lessons take place every morning and there are all levels, from absolute beginners to advanced. There are 20 lessons a week and a maximum of 4 students per class, which means you receive intensive teaching, based on individual qualifications. The school’s aim is a high academic standard, so it is important that you are motivated and attentive during lessons. Teachers are well educated and trained in teaching Spanish to foreigners.

The school is international with students from Europe, USA, Asia and Canada. Students practice Spanish actively all day long; for example only Spanish may be spoken in the school area. During high season (from May through September) there will be a maximum of 5 students per class.

Accommodation
Accommodation is in single rooms with half board, with a Costa Rican host family. Linguistically and culturally, this is the best way to make the most of your stay in Costa Rica. Host families are open and friendly, and help you use your Spanish actively throughout the day. Usually host families only speak Spanish, but it is our experience that even absolute beginners soon relax and from the first day use their new Spanish skills to communicate. There is only one student per family to ensure maximum benefit for all.

The first days
Airport pick-up will be available if you arrive to Costa Rica before 10:00 p.m. If arrival is after 10:00 p.m. the school will help you find a hotel close to the International Airport and you will meet with the host family the following day.
Your host family will explain to you how to get to the school the first Monday, using public bus service during high season or taxi transportation during low season.

The first day at the school you will receive an orientation session and you will be tested in order to determine your Spanish level. Site visit to the city of Grecia will help you find out the location of banks, shops, bus stations, etc. The next day your language lessons starts at 8:00 a.m. and finish at 12:00 p.m. with a 25 minute break at 10:00 a.m.

Afternoon activities
Besides the intensive Spanish lessons in the morning the school will provide information for afternoon activities for you to discover different aspects of the Costa Rican culture and society. If you wish to participate in these afternoon activities be aware that transportation and entrance fee are not included in the program price.
Examples of afternoon activities suggested week by week:

Site visit to Alajuela city and the local museum
Site visit to Grecia and the historical metal church
Visit to the weekly farmers market
Visit to a public or private local schools
Visit to the local day care center
Visit to the local Ebais clinic
Visit to the central markets in Alajuela, Grecia or San José
Los Chorros waterfalls located in Carrillos
Los Manantiales swimming pool in Carrillos Alto
The birds Zoo rescue center
Visit to the museums in San Jose capital city (Jade, Gold, Art or National Museum)
Visit to the National Theater in San José
Visit to the artisans town of Sarchí
Visit to the snake farm in Grecia
Mini-courses about cultural aspects of the country will be included during class time with topics such as:

The Costa Rican education system
The Costa Rican health system
Traditional games
Fruits of Costa Rica
Cooking lesson to learn how to prepare typical dishes
The Costa Rican oxcart
The coffee of Costa Rica

Holidays
There are no lessons during the following official holidays:

1st January,New Year
11th April, Juan Santamaria
1st May, Labor day
25th July, Guacanasta
2nd August Independence day
15th August, Mothers day
15th September, Independence Day
25th December, Christmas
Easter, Semana Santa

If you are planning a stay and will be in Costa Rica during Semana Santa (Easter week from March 19 to March 27, 2016), you will not be able to follow lessons this week. Many volunteer workplaces will be closed as well. Fees for accommodation are due, even if you intend to travel during this period.

Language Courses in Costa Rica

The language program is for students who wish to learn or improve their Spanish. The international language school is officially recognised by the ministry of Education and can teach at every level, from beginner to academic levels.

Courses start every Monday all year round, with accommodation starting on Sundays. If you cannot find a flight with arrival on a Sunday, you can still be picked-up at the airport, but if you arrive earlier, you will be charged 30 US dollars per extra night. Payment is to be made directly to the school on the first day of classes.

Weekend Excursions
Weekend activities are also available through tour operators and include 1 or 2 meals, private transportation, guide and entrance fee. All trips can be booked at the school but the pick-up point will be in hotels of the area. Some examples of very popular weekend excursions are:

Rafting adventure
Canopy tour
Pacific Island Cruise
Site visit to a Volcáno (Poás, Arenal, Irazú, etc.)
Visit to the hot springs
Visit to Tortuguero canals (rain forest adventure)
Etc.

 

Volunteering in Costa Rica

EXIS organises a language and volunteer work program in collaboration with the school and local Costa Rican organisations as well as the National Parks, a language course followed by voluntary work of different kinds.
You must be independent, open minded and at least 18 years old to join the program, and have the desire to do social work or work to preserve the environment. This voluntary work is a unique opportunity to experience the country, its inhabitants and culture. At the same time, you are doing a meaningful job. The voluntary work also demands adaptability, as you must often work closely with Costa Ricans.

The language school has a special coordinator to help you before and during your working period.

The work program is constantly evaluated. It includes the following working areas:

Voluntary social work
Work in national parks

 

The voluntary work programs are offered all year round, although in some cases it is necessary to adjust the start of the preliminary language course to your voluntary work due to summer holidays. If you choose to work at a school, for example, job possibilities are limited during Costa Rican summer months from December to the 15th of February.

A Voluntary social work

It’s possible to volunteer at local social organisations and institutions, or at the University library. During the last week of your language course you will be introduced to the relevant leader of the organisation or institution by the job coordinator. He or she will also be your contact person during the voluntary work. At the end of your work program, you will be asked to present a report in Spanish to your job coordinator. These reports will help the next volunteers to take over.

If you have never studied Spanish before and want to volunteer at a social institution, you will need to follow minimum 4 weeks Spanish lessons before volunteering. Volunteering in a national park does not require any particular level of Spanish, so even beginners in Spanish can work here after only 2 weeks preliminary lessons.

For all these social work positions volunteers have to accept to help in all areas required by the institution, such as organising activities, helping the children according to their needs, maintenance, cleaning and so on. The director of each institution will supervise the volunteer and assign functions.

This is a plubic elementary school, kindergarten to six grade, only 10 minutes from downtown Alajuela. The chidren are from six to twelve years. Work schedule is Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Volunteers help the teacher with many activities, from assisting with English and Spanish to art and sports.

This governmental organisation in Alajuela takes care of children who have been abandoned or abused and come from very poor families who often struggle with social problems. The elder boys and girls must help take care of the smaller children. You will help the children with different activities, both play and educational. You may also help to feed and tend the youngest. If you choose to work at this institution, you are urged to bring toys, picture books or other things that could brighten up the day for these children who lack almost everything. Patronato can be a tough place to be, so it is important that you are mature, well balanced and prepared to give the children love, comfort and security. The children’s home is run by “tias” or “aunties”, who organise work and give volunteers the necessary training and introduction. As a volunteer, you work max 8 hours per day, Monday-Friday. You may not smoke at the children’s home. There are two locations, Naranjo and Alajuela.

This is a public elementary school. You will help in different working areas. The school offers rotating work schedules in the following areas: working with children who have brain damage, helping the physical education teacher, participating in the children’s sport activities and assisting the English teacher. You will work on all different levels, from kindergarten to sixth grade. You will occasionally help the principal in his office. The school has a shifting schedule: from 7.00 to 12.00 and from 13.00 to 17.00 from Monday-Friday. The principal will sort out your work schedule.

Smoking is not allowed. Female volunteers are not allowed to wear pants or short dresses during work, except on the days they assist with sports. Male volunteers are only allowed to wear shorts during the physical education class.
The school is closed during the months of December, January and the first two weeks of February, and the first two weeks of July.

This is a private bilingual kindergarten for first and second grade children. Volunteers work with children from 2 to 8 years and assist the English teacher and/or help during Spanish classes as well as play-related activities. Working hours are from 8.00 a.m. to 12.00, Monday to Friday.

No smoking. The school is closed during the months of December, January and the first two weeks of February, and the first two weeks of July.

This institution takes special care of old people. The volunteer will help with daily tasks which also include chatting with the residents, playing games, reading newspapers or books, helping with handcraft. All residents are over 60 years old. Some elderly people live in their homes and use the centre as a meeting point. Working hours are from 8.00 to 3.00 p.m. Monday -Friday. Work schedule is arranged together with the leader of the home. During Easter holiday and from the 24th December until 2nd January the institution is closed.

This nursing home is a under the supervision of the Costa Rican Ministry of Culture. Volunteers help the residents work with handicrafts, read newspapers or stories, participate in dancing, singing, traditional games, or group dynamics. All activities that keep the elderly people occupied and stimulated. This organisation offers volunteers lunch and snacks during the day. Working hours are from 8.00 a.m. to 11.00 a.m. and from 13.00 to 16.00 p.m. This institution works hard to reinforce self-esteem through group or individual activities. This home is open all year round. It is a beautiful home, located in a park.

This library was founded in 1979. It has an extensive bibliography covering current topics, international economic relations, international political relations in Central and Latin America and Costa Rica’s foreign policy.
The library is a depository for Costa Rican documents from the United Nations since 1980. Volunteers will work in the library, participating in data processing of bibliographical material, word processing the information in the database and helping university students to find specific books or documents. Working hours will be Monday-Friday from 9.00 a.m. to 16.00 p.m. The library is closed during the months of December and January. The University is located in the province of Heredia. Volunteers will need to take a bus from Alajuela (45 minutes bus ride).

This is a public elementary school for children suffering from Down syndrome, deafness or other physical disabilities. Volunteers will receive special indications and instructions about how to work with these children. He or she will help in the area of the children’s development and assist the teacher. Working hours are from 09.00 to 14.00 Monday to Friday.

This institution is a public hospital that takes care of children. You will assist this organisation with different activities, such as recreation, feeding and therapy.

This nonprofit organization for people suffering from cancer is located in the town of San Ramón de Alajuela, about an hour’s drive from the international language school. Since 2007 Funcavida has been working with prevention, care and support to patients and their families, something which is not offered by the Costa Rican public health system. The organization has been officially recognized by the Ministry of Health. Their aim is to provide counseling, care and support to patients who are being treated or have been treated, in order to adapt their lives to new circumstances and create opportunities to maintain or improve the quality of their life. No medical treatment is provided.

The staff consists of a professional psychologist and therapists offering psychological counseling and physical therapy. The staff is very friendly, caring and they are strongly promoting a diversity of activities to collect funds for their projects to help people with the illness as well as their families and friends. The average number of patients is 50 and there are about 25 local volunteers, most of whom have (or have had) a family member with cancer.

Volunteers without health education can get tasks like distributing food supplies in packages to patients, organizing larger or smaller activities, such as a big Christmas party in December, bingo, trips in the local area, helping out in the kitchen with lunch, which is served each day to volunteers and patients or simply just chat with patients. You can work with people at all ages. This is an ideal work place for students or professionals in social work, psychology, nursing, yoga or creative subjects. Internships can be arranged. Your accommodation will be with a local host family, at walking distance from your work place.

This institution helps young people who require special education. You will work with young adults after instructions from the direction. A good place for those who can help teaching skills for local industry and handicraft centres.

Esquela Pública Jesús Magdalena is a public elementary school from kindergarten to sixth grade. You will be able to help in many areas. The school offers a rotating work schedule in the following areas: Working with children in the classroom, helping the physical education teacher, participating in sport activities with the children, or assisting the English teacher.

B Voluntary work in National Parks

A non-Governmental and non-profit organisation co-ordinates the conservation of Costa Rica’s national parks.

oluntary tasks vary from park to park. During your preliminary language course, you will be accompanied to the head office in San José to decide which park you want to work in. Previous participants have worked in the following fields: construction, infrastructure, environmental education, park maintenance, opening new paths, making signs, tourist information and patrolling along the beaches etc. The local leaders of each park distribute the tasks. You will have at least one free day per week and be accommodated in or around the park with other participants and the staff. Volunteers enrol for at least 4 weeks and can extend their stay at the local office. You can also change park after the first 4 weeks and thus experience another part of the country. The working hours are from 6 to 8 hours per day. Transportation from Alajuela to the parks is not included. The school co-ordinator will help you organise your bus trip. You must respect the park rules, for example no alcohol or smoking during work.
This program has been a big success for years. Many volunteers from different European countries have increased their knowledge of Spanish while working in this fantastic natural environment.

Working in a National Park means you will have to bring your own sleeping bag, towels, boots, rain jacket, mosquito net, flashlight and toilet items. Some of these items are much cheaper in Costa Rica than in Europe.

There are three different projects along the Pacific Coast, working with two species of turtles, the critically endangered Leatherback and Olive Ridley. Volunteer tasks can include:

Patrolling and clearing the beach.
Preparing, relocating and repairing protection around nests.
Taking temperatures in nests.
Counting, recording and handling eggs
Helping to release baby turtles
Tasks follow the seasons and weather conditions. All volunteers work night and day shifts on a rotating basis. A normal day’s work is 6 to 8 hours. There is one free day per week, negotiable with the director of the project. In case of extreme high tides or flooding due to heavy rain or hurricanes, volunteers will be sent to another conservation project further inland. The nesting season is from June to February. It is during this period that the last baby turtles appear. Most work is done during the night. During the day volunteers work with the personnel at the refuge, keeping the area clean and occasionally helping with the cooking. Volunteer projects last from June to the end of December.

In the spring, before the turtles arrive, the projects continue with different tasks at the same site or in other projects in the same region.
Accommodation is in a room at the entrance to the park. No luxury! There is a small kitchen with refrigerator and a microwave oven, bathrooms with showers and a laundry room. Volunteer meals are in a small restaurant in Portegolpe town, 1.5 km from Monkey Park. Volunteers can use a bike to travel to Portegolpe to eat. A weekly day off can be negotiated with the administrators. There is a guard at night, so it is very important to report to him when you leave and let him know when you will be back.

 

Internships
Send a mail to info@exis.org and ask which of the institutions mentioned above offer internships. Other possibilities are at hotels, art schools, supermarkets and a butterfly farm. We will be happy to send a more detailed list.

In 1502 Christopher Columbus called this land “The rich coast”. Costa Rica has natural borders at the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Towards the north, Rio San Juan and Lake Nicaragua form the border to Nicaragua, while Panama forms the southern border. The Pacific coast is mountainous with cliffs and bays protected by peninsulas, the largest of which are the Nicoya- and Osa-bays. The Caribbean coast has almost no bays. In many places the jungle grows onto the coast. With only 50.900-km2 Costa Rica is the third smallest state, after El Salvador and Belize in Central America. In many ways it is an unusual country; not least because of its natural beauty. No other country in Central America is so varied and full of contrast.

There are picturesque landscapes with waterfalls, unspoiled beaches and interesting archaeological areas. 12% of Costa Rica is protected national parks – an El Dorado for scientists, geologists and biologists. Large jungle areas, underground caves, warm water springs and coral reefs make up a large amount of the national parks. The country is crossed in its length by the mountain range Cordillera Volcánica, which includes the partly active volcano massifs Poás Barba and Iranzú Turrialba. Each turn of the road in the heights reveals exciting new scenery.

A position only 10 degrees north of the equator means a perfect tropical climate, described by many travellers as “an endless spring”. The summer months are from December to April and the winter is from May to November. The winter period is the rainy season, where it rains 2-3 hours a day. There is not much difference between summer and winter temperatures, which are 20-30 degrees. However, temperatures vary with height. The mountains are cooler than the jungle or the coast. Here is a link to the weather forecast: http://www.wunderground.com/global/stations/78762.html.

Costa Rica is the only country in Central America with a mainly white population. The original Indian population lives in isolated villages, especially in the jungle areas, and on small islands off the country’s coast. The Caribbean coastline is unique culturally and linguistically, no one should miss a weekend in Pueto Limón on the east coast. This is the home of the black afro-Caribbean population. Here they do not say “adios” but “all right” or just “OK,” the music is reggae and the language “English.” A very special experience in an otherwise homogeneous Latin country. 

Spanish Courses

Spanish Course with 20 lessons/week

 

Weeks EURO
1 688
2 1312
3 1864
4 2322
5 2745
6 3102
7 3593
8 4017
9 4440
10 4864
11 5288
12 5712
 
Courses start every Monday all year round, with accommodation starting on Sundays. If you cannot find a flight with arrival on a Sunday, you can still be picked-up at the airport, but if you arrive earlier, you will be charged 30 US dollars per extra night. Payment is to be made directly to the school on the first day of classes.

All fees include

  • 20 Spanish lessons a week, Monday-Friday, with a maximum of 5 students per class
  • Accommodation with a Costa Rican host family, single room with half board
  • Airport pick-up at arrival
  • Welcome lunch at a Costa Rican restaurant
  • Educational material
  • Briefing and language test
  • Acces to all activities as described
  • Salsa lessons once a month
  • Laundry service
Enroll now

Voluntary Work and Spanish Courses

Social Work and Spanish Course, with private accommodation in single room/hafboard

Volunteers without knowledge of Spanish will have to follow min. 4 weeks lessons before volunteering, others can follow min. 2 weeks lessons.

Course Weeks Works Weeks EURO
2 4 2399
2 8 3243
4 4 3106
4 8 3950
6 4 3887
6 8 4731

Spanish Course with private accommodation/half board, followed by volunteering in a National Park

A minimum 2 weeks Spanish course is required. The minimum work stay is one week.

Course Weeks Works Weeks EURO
2 1 1780
2 2 2005
2 3 2230
2 4 2455
3 1 2167
3 4 2842
4 1 2487

If you would like a different combination of education and work, for example 3 or 5 weeks of training followed by e.g. 5 or 7 weeks of work, please send us an email at info@exis.dk to learn about the possibilities.

Not included in the fee
Bus transport to National Parks.

All fees include

  • 20 Spanish lessons a week, Monday-Friday, with a maximum of 5 students per class
  • Accommodation
  • Airport pick-up at arrival
  • Welcome lunch at a Costa Rican restaurant
  • Educational material
  • Briefing and language test
  • Acces to aactivities as described
  • Salsa lessons once a month during language course
  • Laundry service during language course
  • Support and advice from the Language school before and during the voluntary work
Enroll now

Please note
On the enrolment form you will have to state how long you wish to work. Most people decide on a period of 4 to 16 weeks.

The confirmation of enrolment for social work will mention the period of reservation and the invoice will include the whole period of accommodation.

If you choose to work in a National Park the invoice will only be for max. 4 weeks food and accommodation as extension of working periods can be done in Costa Rica and costs 224 USD for food and accommodation. This enables you to change from one park to another.

If you decide to extend your stay while working for social institutions in Costa Rica after arrival, please inform the coordinator at school, so that you can stay with the same host family.

For those interested in both volunteer possibilities, this is only possible if you start with social work. Please note that an extra 100 US dollars will be added to the program fee.

Luggage
If you wish to travel after your language course or work, the school offers a free luggage storage service. Luggage pick up is during school hours: Monday to Friday from 8.00 to 4.00.

Visa
Upon entry to Costa Rica you will receive a 3 month tourist visa. If you wish to stay longer, you can get a new stamp in your passport for another 3 months by leaving the country and enter again. You can choose a short visit over the border of minimum of 72 hours.

Please note that it is only possible to enter Costa Rica if you have a valid (paid) return ticket from Costa Rica or another country. Students planning to travel around before returning to Europe may travel to Mexico or other Latin America countries or to the USA and then fly back home from there. You should be aware of this policy before buying your plane ticket. Some Airline companies do not allow return tickets with return dates exceeding 90 days, because the US does not allow more than 90-day permanence. In this case it is better to buy a ticket allowing a change of return date free of charge. If you have a connection with a stop in the USA, make sure this is not an overnight stop. Europeans don’t need to apply for a transit visas as long as the stop over in the USA is a short one, for example no more than a 3 hour stop, please check with your airline company, as rules often change.

Vaccinations
There are no official vaccination requirements for Costa Rica, but especially when working in National Parks it is recommended, that you have vaccinations against typhoid, tetanus and liver infection. You can consult your family doctor or insurance company prior to departure for Costa Rica regarding malaria tablets. If you wish to travel to other Latin American countries, it may be necessary to have other vaccinations – some countries insist on vaccinations against yellow fever.

Travel expenses
Travel expenses are not included in the program prices. The costs of plane tickets vary a lot. Most people choose to travel with the following airlines: Continental airlines, KLM or Iberia.

Try to find a connection with an arrival at San José airport before 21.30 as airport pick-up is up to 22.00 o’clock in the evening.

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