Interview with a student about her internship abroad in Costa Rica
Which country did you visit and for how long were you there?
I was in Costa Rica for a total of five months and combined the internship with a final one-month holiday.
Why did you choose your host country and the respective internship school?
When it comes to flora and fauna, no other country is as diverse as Costa Rica in such a small area. There is everything here: volcanoes, mountains, huge rainforests, secondary forests, savannah-like stretches of land, lakes, oceans, dreamlike lonely beaches, ... the most interesting animals are probably the sloths, toucans, of course the bird of the gods Quetzal, hummingbirds, the beautiful blue morpho butterfly and so many more. Then there are the Costa Ricans, the Ticos, who are so incredibly friendly, open-minded and interested. With their "Pura Vida" attitude to life, they still have a lot to teach us Germans. Compared to German conditions, stress does not exist at all. They take everything calmly, don't like to argue, are happy all around and enjoy life at all times.
That's exactly how the internship at the Colegio Humboldt turned out: no stress whatsoever. We forgot to announce an appointment, but hey, Pura Vida! Sometimes it does get stressful, but the friendly nature, the nice staff and the wonderful children make up for it immediately. I have never felt as comfortable at a school as I do here, and that really from the very first moment. So it's quite clear why I chose Costa Rica: this country is definitely a must for nature lovers but also for the party people among you!
Did you do your internship at a local school or a German school abroad?
At a German school abroad, the Colegio Humboldt. My Spanish is not good enough to teach in that language. At the Colegio Humboldt, the basic subjects of maths, German and science are taught in German from the beginning of first grade.
How did your school abroad differ from those in Germany? How did the pupils learn in your host country?
The school was much better equipped than the state-run German schools: White-board in every room, swimming pool, a large sports field plus two indoor sports fields (sports hall doesn't quite hit the mark as they are open fields), a large cafeteria with daily changing fresh food at very reasonable prices (and still definitely very good to eat), fully equipped music, art and science rooms and so on. In addition to the equipment, I was also impressed by the fact that the substitution system is very well structured: those who substitute get the relevant material sent to them by the missing teacher. So I was able to stand in for a missing teacher at short notice (i.e. ten minutes before the start of the lesson) without any stress. Simply great!
If you like front-of-class teaching, this is not the place for you. This school likes to use station work, self-discovery, group and partner work and so on - everything that is NOT front-of-class. As a result, the children already work very independently in primary school and are familiar with many different methods.
Did you accompany or lead a special project?
It depends on what you mean by "special project". My project was setting up a 2nd grade class that surprisingly had to go through a change of class teacher after the first school year and apparently was not in school in the first grade. Social and work behaviour? What is that? It was incredibly nice to see how the class gradually internalised certain rules and grew steadily. As far as class management is concerned, no seminar in the world could have helped me better than this class.
Generally, as a trainee at the school, you can always bring suggestions for project ideas or even participate in the many projects and festive activities. If you want to experiment and try things out, the school is the right place for you.
Was it easy to get in touch with locals?
Easy does not even begin to describe it! I stumbled out of the airport, located my driver who brought me to my first hotel and was already involved in the first conversation about my life. The Ticos want to know everything, EVERYTHING! :D It's unbelievably great - here you can just chat someone up on the street and they won't look at you silly. For your information: Ticos are very happy to give out their mobile phone numbers. It's not a pick-up line, it's just their way of showing "Hey, you're nice, if you need help, I know someone who knows someone who can help you with such and such problem or question." If you can't strike up a conversation with anyone here in Costa Rica, sorry, there's something wrong with you. My Spanish is still not very good (it's barely good enough for small talk), but even I, who often forgets to smile or just doesn't answer because I was in thought, was always engaged in an interesting or funny conversation. Ticos are open, warm, always friendly and interested. As long as you don't say you think Costa Rica sucks, everyone will like you.
How high was the cost of living at your internship location?
Costa Rica is more expensive than Germany, that's for sure. Before you come here, ask Google about the prices. And if you're a woman, bring tampons with you - they don't exist here, for example. There is a so-called luxury tax here, which makes many products enormously expensive. For example, you can get sun cream for the equivalent of 15€ (400ml). So inform yourself and bring certain things with you from Germany. This applies to hygiene products, medicines, clothes, ... You will have to buy food here, but it is better to go out to eat. If you choose a normal restaurant, you'll pay as much for the food as you would have prepared in your accommodation. And you didn't stand in the kitchen for hours. I've eaten out here more times (almost every other day - minimum) than I ever did in my entire previous life ^^
Also, check out where you're staying beforehand. And when you read 3-star hotel, please do NOT assume German standards. My 3-star hotel for the first night would have been called a youth hostel room in Germany with goodwill. And that for a hefty 60€ is tough. Airbnb is more helpful...
So if you want to go to Costa Rica: inform yourself carefully, bring most things from Germany, have a little money on the side (not sooooo much, but so that you have a little pocket money besides rent and food), always compare the prices, no matter what and then don't worry so much. Pura Vida!
What was the biggest challenge related to your stay abroad?
Getting there... I had never travelled alone before, never been to another continent and never flown before. I had never even seen the inside of an airport before. My flight left at six in the morning, so I had to go to Frankfurt the day before and stay in a hotel. That night I would have preferred to back out because I was scared as hell and I doubted myself and this stupid idea enormously. But as soon as I was in Costa Rica and had left the airport, it was all over for me. I felt comfortable from the first moment (and that's not an exaggeration, I'm dead serious). I have felt at home here since week 1 - not "like home", but "at home", yes. I fell so hopelessly in love with the place that I don't even want to go back to Germany. So you see: Costa Rica is no challenge, not even for a rookie like me.
What did you miss most from Germany?
Well, admittedly, from month three I would have liked to have my boyfriend here or my best friend. But I could well do without them, since the reunion meant that I would have to go back to Germany. And quite honestly: who likes to wake up from a wonderful dream? Exactly, nobody.
German products abound here: be it the unbelievably delicious raspberry vinaigrette from Kühne, Ritter-Sport, Lindor balls from Lind or the ironing board from Leifheit. Costa Rica imports almost all its goods, which is why it's so expensive. The Ritter-Sport costs 5€, but if you don't want to do without it, you don't have to. PS: I even discovered Thüringer Rostbratwurst in a shop (especially for German products). The Ticos have real taste. And for those who don't want to do without German rolls: there's a German bakery (Mocapán) that sells original German rolls. God, I really felt like I was in Germany, Sunday morning at the breakfast table *-*.
You definitely don't miss the German attitude to life either. And German parties? What the hell are German "parties"? The Ticos know how to party. In Germany you only find laughingstocks.
What do you miss from your host country?
Thank God I'm still here. But I know what I will miss because I know what I will loathe in Germany.
I'll miss the positive outlook on life, the diversity, the nature, my pet spider Alice (remember the spider in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire that Mad Eye Moody used to illustrate the unforgivable curses? It's one of those! Completely harmless in reality, as it hates light and has no venom at all) and my three geckos - all wild animals that have taken up residence here over time (before I came to live here, that is).
I will miss my host family, the parties, the crickets at night, the peace and quiet, the serenity, ... It's a good thing that there are VPN servers, otherwise I would also miss the Costa Rican Netflix (they simply have the best series here!). The German Netflix is just a cheap knock-off :/)
I will miss the fresh fruits incredibly: the bananas, limes and mandarins that grow behind my flat, the mangos that are just so juicy here that the juice runs down your hands in streams. I'll miss the fresh melons and papayas. And damn: those avocados!!! I confess: in Costa Rica I became an avocado addict.
Basically, I will miss everything...damn. I hope I can come back here again. But then for longer!
What would you recommend to others who are thinking about a stay abroad? What are the three reasons for doing your internship abroad?
Three reasons? Why just three?
I'd rather list three reasons not to:
- You have to get out of your comfort zone.
- You have to break your previous student and life routine.
- You have to take a risk. If you go, you can't just call mum and she comes to comfort you. When you go, you can't chat with your boyfriend or your bestie every day because (unless you stay in Europe) you have a certain time difference. Here in Costa Rica it's always seven or eight hours (depending on the time in Germany).
If these three reasons do not deter you from doing an internship abroad, if you want to see and experience something new, get to know a new culture, new people and grow beyond yourself, then DO IT and GO! What have you got to lose? You already know German schools and German life.
What did you take away or gain from your country? Experiences, objects, friends or inspirations?
I will take too much with me to list here. A few examples:
A new attitude towards life: Pura Vida! That means in detail: I don't stress myself out. What I manage, I manage, what I don't, I don't. I always do my best, but if it's not enough, well, too bad. That's the way it is. Can I change it or could I have done better? No. So I don't give it any deeper thought. Time is money? God, where do you live?! MY life comes first, what I like, who I am, not what others expect of me. I live my life, I enjoy it, I do what I feel like doing and I do it when I want to. I'm happy and I don't have a face as long as a fiddle. If I want to talk to someone, I chat them up (gets hard and depressing in Germany, but never mind, I do it because it's healthy. People are social, remember?) I see the positive in life, even in moments when the negative prevails. I hope you've got an idea of what pura vida means. There is a lot more to it, but this was the most important thing,
a very good friend. Dear Anais from Switzerland, who I still keep in touch with now that we don't see each other every day in the classroom.
A Costa Rica mug. - In my defence, I got it as a gift!
My first two Spanish-language books *-*.
Thousands of beautiful memories, many of them captured as pictures, but not nearly as beautiful as the real thing.
Around a hundred and sixty journal entries plus pictures in Discord, which I will compile as a book in Germany and have printed for me.
Knowing what I really want in life (I thought I knew in Germany, but realised here that I was completely wrong): I want to travel, see the world, live here for a few years and there for a few years. And now comes the incredibly nice thing: as a teacher I can do that without any problems *-*.