Have you ever wondered what it would be like to intern abroad in Costa Rica? We caught up with Tanya from our local team in Costa Rica, to give insight and guidance for internships…
- What do you love about living in Costa Rica?
- What type of person is best suited to interning abroad in Costa Rica?
- What does a typical day look like for someone interning in Costa Rica?
- Tell us more about the food and accommodation in Costa Rica!
- What do you love about working with international interns?
- How can interns make the most of their internship placement in Costa Rica?
- What are the cultural customs unique to Costa Rica, that interns should be aware of?
- How can interns spend their weekends?
- What advice would you give to someone who is considering an internship in Costa Rica?
- Sign me up! How can I start planning my internship in Costa Rica?
What do you love about living in Costa Rica?
What I love the most about living in Costa Rica is the peaceful environment found throughout the whole country. Moreover, I love the fact that there is no army here, so “Ticos” (the affectionate name for Costa Rica people) have a “Pura Vida” mindset and non-violent values as a culture. Costa Rica is a small but environmentally diverse country, so we get the chance to spend time in the highlands, enjoying exotic views of cloud forests and wildlife, while also enjoying access to some of the most beautiful tropical beaches in the world.
What type of person is best suited to interning abroad in Costa Rica?
I think that anyone can join an internship in Costa Rica. Our culture is welcoming, easy-going and peaceful. Interns who come with an open-mind and the ability to be flexible will have a wonderful time here. There’s lots to see and do, so if you’re fit, friendly and ready for an adventure, we’d love to host you here on any of our internship programs.
What does a typical day look like for someone interning in Costa Rica?
International interns can expect to become highly immersed and integrated within the local culture, so a typical day for an intern is almost like a typical day for any Costa Rican. Interns wake up in a family environment, as they receive home-stay accommodation on the program, and would probably start the day with some Costa Rican coffee, prepared and served Tico style! After a typical local breakfast - which may consist of things like bread, eggs, gallo pinto, and fresh fruit - interns head out to their projects, taking public transportation. Public transportation here is reliable, affordable, and very user-friendly. Interns have the opportunity to meet locals and their communities, and usually also spend time with other international interns and volunteers. On the whole, the environment is pretty family-orientated, fun and social!
Tell us more about the food and accommodation in Costa Rica!
Since interns are accommodated with host-families, they can be completely introduced to the local lifestyle. Host families see interns as not just a guest, but as an extension of their family, so we really encourage interns on the program to enjoy the experience and be an open, active guest during this time. Within the home-stay accommodation, interns are given their own room and they can expect basic amenities. Although all families are different, there are similarities between the habits and routines which can be expected. It is typical for many Ticos to eat rice and beans, which are prepared in a variety of ways. For example, Gallo Pinto is a very traditional breakfast dish, where beans and rice are cooked together with additions such as cilantro and onion (try with some Salsa Lizano!). For lunch, the typical meal is a “Casado”. A casado is a hearty meal, which provides protein, vegetables and carbs. Since we live in a tropical country, there is an enormous variety of fresh fruits and vegetables available, which are almost always loved by interns. There are always sweet-juicy fruits to be eaten and many vegetables to be cooked, and these types of food can create a totally new culinary experience for everyone visiting.
What do you love about working with internationl interns?
I believe that working with international interns gives you the opportunity to broaden your horizons and open your way of thinking, to experience another style of life, that you are not used to. Personally, I appreciate this because it helps me to become more of a sensative and empathetic person. Beyond this, it’s an immense opportunity to meet new people and form strong relationships - not just with the interns, but also with the staff that work in the various internship placements around the community.
How can interns make the most of their internship placement in Costa Rica?
Internships are focused on personal and professional development, so there is a degree of personal responsbility and independence that are important for all internship participants to keep in mind. I highly recommend asking questions - people are a great resource and will be happy to provide guidance and answer questions, so one should never be afraid to proactively engage with others.
What are the cultural customs unique to Costa Rica, that interns should be aware of?
There are some unique characteristics of Costa Rican people and culture, such as “Tico Time”, which means that people are not known for their punctuality! This means that people can often be constantly running about 30 minutes later, or more. This can be frustrating for international interns who are not used to this kind of behavior; however, it’s important not to be offended or take tardiness personally. The best advice is to go with the flow! The Pure Vida (“Pure Life”) culture sometimes means that locals take a laid-back approach to many things and are less inclined to worry about details that do not seem overly important. That being said, Costa Rica is also predominantly Catholic and traditionally conservative. Interns should be aware that views on topics such as religion and marriage remain quite conservative - but this is more common in small towns and rural areas, than big cities or busy tourism “hot spot” areas, with large international ex-pat communities.
How can interns spend their weekends?
There are many things that interns can do over the weekends - one of the great things about our program base, in San Ramon (Alajuela Province) is that it’s very central to the whole country. Costa Rica is a small country with good public transport infrastructure, so it’s very easy to travel around and see a lot of what Costa Rica has to offer. The Pan-American Highway is easily accessible to the south and a northern route provides direct access to the popular tourism destination of Volcan Arenal. If interns want to spend the weekend relaxing with their host family or other people from their placement, they can explore the local surroundings. Otherwise, the country offers opportunities to visit beaches, volcanoes, rivers, mountains, waterfalls, caverns, National Parks, Museums, theaters, parades, and more. Interns can spend their free time going dancing, to karaoke, visiting farmers fairs or festivals. To be honest… usually the problem is not finding things to do. The problem is having enough time to do it all!
What advice would you give to someone who is considering an internship in Costa Rica?
If you’ve never experienced Latin American countries and culture before, then be prepared for something very different. We encourage everyone to come with an open mind and willingness to experience a totally new style of life. If you expect everything to be the same as it as in your home-country, then you may be disappointed to find that things are less familiar than you assumed they might be. It’s also important to be prepared for a language barrier if you have little understanding of Spanish. There are many people in Costa Rica who do speak English, because there is such a booming tourism industry here. However, in small towns, rural areas, or cities that are less touristic, there are also many people who only speak Spanish. Even if people understand some English, remember that they too can feel shy or humble about their abilities. We recommend all interns to make an effort to learn basic Spanish before their arrival, so that you’ve got some “ice-breaker” material up your sleeve. We can also arrange Spanish language lessons for you to take here, which we encourage for everyone who’s not already fluent. Enhancing your understanding of Spanish will definitely elevate your experience, cultural immersion and enjoyment, to a whole new level! (Plus - don’t forget how great a second language looks on your resume!)
Sign me up! How can I start planning my internship in Costa Rica?
Internships in Costa Rica are available beginning on the first and third Monday of the month, from a minimum duration of just two weeks. Opportunities are flexible and there’s something for everyone. It can be challenging to take the first step, but once that decision has been made, the experience only gets better and better!
Apply online first. The application process is non-obligatory and free.
After applying, you’ll receive more details on how to confirm your internship placement.
To confirm, you’ll register online after your application has been accepted. This means taking care of the US$299 Registration Fee, which enables us to provide services and pre-departure support. Costa Rica internship fees can be reviewed online.
Once you’re registered, the adventure begins and your Internships Manager will support you with prepping for your trip.