Want to gain experience and build your resume with a marine conservation nonprofit? Costa Rica is undoubtedly the perfect destination for internships related to environmental sciences and sustainability. For many students and young professionals seeking to explore interests and consider diverse career paths, internships abroad provide a welcome, entry-level experience. Read on to learn about Emily’s experience and her advice on what to expect on a Sustainable Business & Tourism internship in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.
Want to learn how you can do this internship online? Check out our remote NGO Support for Marine Conservation internship (hosted out of Costa Rica).
Hi Emily! What can you share with us about your internship in Costa Rica?
I did not know what to expect of this internship program but I was pleasantly surprised. My experience in the first week settling in was smooth. It was memorable to eat lunch with the other interns on the first day. They showed me a hidden spot which was just a window in the plaza we work in that had plates of food. It was delicious and the fresh juice was a lovely addition. We also tried a frozen dessert item that came from another window from someone’s house. The environment of interns was welcoming and friendly, creating a group of friends to spend time with outside of work.
For the Sustainable Business & Tourism internship itself, I managed multiple responsibilities during my time abroad in Costa Rica. I worked with a marine conservation nonprofit on the business management side, assisting daily with administrative tasks and gaining insight toward the many responsibilities of nonprofit founders. Specifically, I created the executive summary, worked on sustainability assessments, and the membership program. I also was tasked with journal entries and reflections, as well as socializing with interns and exploring the new country on the side. While it was overwhelming at times, this experience was helpful practice for time management.
What is the location of this internship program like?
The internship itself is located in an outdoor plaza, which offers a variety of shops and restaurants. It is also near the town of Quepos, which has a very down-to-earth feel with many sodas (cafes) that we often went to for lunches that are cheap and good. This access allows us to experience more of the community alongside many locals. The town also has public transportation that allows us to get to other towns relatively fast and inexpensively.
What were some of your highlights from this experience?
One of my favorite memories from the program was when a bunch of interns went to Manuel Antonio National Park. It was so much fun and a great bonding experience. We saw a sloth and swam at a gorgeous secluded beach.
I feel more empowered in any field because of the information I learned about nonprofits. I had a behind the scenes look at the operations that go into this type of organization, with some information applying to all types of companies.
From here, I would like to keep traveling and continue having new experiences and meeting new people. Professionally, I am not sure exactly what I will be doing in the future but regardless this international nonprofit experience will be of great benefit.
Did you have to navigate a Spanish language barrier at all?
Yes, English was not as common as I expected, so I wish I had studied more Spanish in advance. Luckily, I was still able to get around okay and the help of other interns assisted me as well. The biggest communication challenge during my internship program was likely at the homestay. The mother does not speak English and myself and other interns unfortunately speak no Spanish, so we used Google Translate. The host family’s adult daughter also spoke English and it was nice to discover that she had a similar sense of humor to us.
What was it like being accommodated in a Costa Rican homestay?
Integration in the local community is very important, and I think the homestay is a great way of achieving this. We get to have Costa Rican food every breakfast and dinner, assimilate into the home and neighborhood, and interact with locals. My accommodation hosts were very generous. They took care of our laundry, served nice meals, and did not allow us to wash our own dishes!
What advice would you give others who are interested in doing this internship?
I would give the advice of making sure to keep an open mind for anything that they may experience. Various things across all aspects will be different than what they are used to, but they should welcome changes and new experiences, for that is the purpose of traveling and expanding your perspectives. I would tell them to know some basic information about the culture and its norms for where they are going to be, but also advise that an element of surprise is beneficial as well.
Ready to start planning your own internship abroad? Here’s how to started!
Our step-by-step guide on how it works provides you with more information on how to get started. The process is user friendly - just submit your application to get started. It doesn’t cost anything to apply and won’t take more than 5 minutes. However, your formal expression of interest provides the foundation for us to help you take the next steps.