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Costa Rica

July 18 to 27, 2018

The land of presidents and poets, as they say in Costa Rica, is known for its near-perfect weather and lush coffee-growing conditions. Upon arrival, you’ll spend a night in the capital and briefly tour the city the next morning before heading northwest to your home base of San Ramón. Take a step off the beaten tourist track and discover what makes Costa Rica the pearl of Central America. At the same time, you’ll see firsthand what challenges the education sector still struggles to overcome.

Cost — $1550 plus airfare

Included —

  • in-country group travel
  • overnight accommodations
  • most meals
  • trip organizer
  • group interpreter

Grant Opportunity — Grants of up to $200 are available to current and retired school staff and university faculty who are paying full cost out of pocket. In order to be eligible, you must complete the following requirements:

Wednesday, July 18 — Arrival in San José

You’ll fly into Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) where you’ll be greeted by an easily identifiable, local representative. You’ll quickly learn that you aren’t actually even in San José, yet, but 10 miles away in Alajuela. The hotel shuttle will take you to the team’s lodgings in the capital city.

Thursday, July 19 —  San José

Meet the team at the hotel breakfast and then do a loop through the downtown area, including a stop at the National Museum. Afterwards, you’ll have the chance to walk the renowned pedestrian walkways, peer into the markets and observe some of the well-known monuments of the city. In the afternoon you’ll visit an animal rescue center where you’ll have the chance to see many rainforest animals including monkeys, sloths and parrots.

Friday, July 20 — San Ramón

This morning you’ll tour one of our partner schools, make introductions and have a chance to observe some of the classes. The team will eat lunch at the school and then spend the afternoon in San Ramón to get a feel for the local culture. You’ll have a chance to check out the museum, church, park, and sample the coffee and baked goods from the many cafés that surround the downtown area.

In the evening the team will visit the farmer’s market to learn about all the agricultural products produced in the San Ramón region.

Saturday, July 21 — San Ramón

Today’s adrenaline rush is sponsored by the San Luis canopy tour. Located just a short drive north, you’ll zip along a variety of cables of different lengths and heights all designed to give you the best bird’s eye view of the rainforest. Hanging bridges are available for those with faint hearts. For lunch the team will visit a campesino family farm and truly eat local.

Afterwards you’ll continue onto La Fortuna to relax in the hot springs. You may choose to spend the night in La Fortuna on your own for an extra charge or return with the bus to San Ramón.

Sunday, July 22 — San Ramón

If you’re in La Fortuna, you’ll choose from a variety of adventure tours such as whitewater rafting, rappelling, hiking, boat tour or horseback riding.

If you returned to San Ramón, then take the day to do what locals do or organize a trip out to the beach for the day. The coast is under an hour away, and beautiful beaches are within an hour and a half of San Ramón.

Monday, July 23 — San Ramón

Today you’ll travel in small groups to different area elementary schools to observe their classes. During breaks and at lunch, you’ll have a chance to converse with the teachers and learn more about their school. Be ready to share how your own school in the US operates as they will be quite curious to hear about another system.

After today’s work is complete you’ll re-energize on the dance floor, sampling the popular rhythms of salsa, merengue, and bachata.

Tuesday, July 24 — San Ramón

Today your small group will venture off to another area school. If yesterday you were in town, then today you’ll probably be out of town in the countryside, and vice-versa. Taking into account your previous day’s observations you’ll see how they compare to your new surroundings today. You’ll enjoy lunch at the school with teachers and staff.

In the afternoon the team will tour a coffee plantation, where you’ll see the birthplace of the coffee bean. You’ll learn about how coffee travels from the field to your mug.

Wednesday, July 25 — San Ramón

Today is a national holiday to commemorate the annexation of Guanacaste, the northwest province of Costa Rica. The cultural heritage of this part of the country dates back 10,000 years. In the morning, you’ll participate in civic activities at the schools, followed by a nice, relaxing afternoon.

Thursday, July 26 — San Ramón

Today is the last day of observations at local schools. You might visit yet another school or return to a previous one. You’ll have time to share with your host teachers different teaching strategies and activities based on their expressed wishes. You might have an opportunity to demonstrate an activity for a class.

Friday, July 27 — Departure

Now fully loaded with coffee, lizano sauce, and other souvenirs, you’ll make a despedida (farewell) from your new favorite place and board the airport shuttle en route to your home city.

While staying in San José, your tourist-class hotel will be safe, clean, and comfortable. Lodging in San Ramon will be in the charming Hostel Sabana, a small, locally-run family business. Located on the outskirts of downtown, it is within quick walking distance to the town square and minutes from the University of Costa Rica. Up to five participants may share a room, depending on the size of the team. Limited single rooms may be available for an additional cost at the hostel or nearby hotel.

Breakfast will be served daily at the hostel and dinner will be catered in by local cook Xinia Castro.  A housewife by day, she’ll serve a variety of Costa Rican dishes, from the quick and easy rice dishes, to the traditional casados and soups. If you are used to eating like an American, pizza and burger options are all within walking distance of the hostel. Wifi is available at the hostel and all rooms come with private bath/shower, cable TV and a fan (air conditioning is not necessary due to the altitude). Sheets and pillows are provided as well as soap and towels. Laundry is available at the hostel for an additional cost.

Notes —

  • On school days, lunch will be cafeteria food eaten at the schools
  • First night dinner is not included in program
  • Local bus fare ($1-2) not included for travel to schools
  • Water is safe to drink
  • Because it will be rainy season, you’ll need to have an umbrella or raincoat and fast drying clothes
  • Walking or public bus will be the primary modes of transportation on school days
  • Be prepared to walk in 15 to 20 minute stretches to get from hostel to bus station and schools

Location —

Our partner on this trip is the immersion travel organization Costa Rica Frika.

Some of the schools where you will be working are located in the Spanish-speaking town of Piedades Sur, which has approximately 5,000 residents. The area is primarily agricultural, although some people run micro-businesses.

The primary school, Escuela Monseñor Juan Vicente Solis Fernandez, was founded in 1939 and has 10 teachers and 139 students in grades 1 through 6. The secondary school, Colegio Técnico Profesional de Piedades Sur, has 63 teachers and 700 students in grades 7 through 12.