One of the experiences that let me mature the most - GVI Costa Rica After a gap year full of experience I look back on the past 12 months and once more I have to realize how amazing my time with GVI in Costa Rica was. Firstly, let me introduce myself shortly. I’m Christiane, now 19 years old from Germany. Last year in June I graduated from German High School and took a gap year to travel, improve my English and Spanish and decide what I wanted to study. I started as a Short-Term-Intern (3 months) in September 2016 at the base for Community Development in Quepos. At the time GVI had two concrete and regular teaching projects in El Cocal. Every week started off with preparation for all the classes of the week on Monday. There is a outline for the structure of the classes and week as an orientation for volunteers and staff. Monday was the perfect day for everyone in the house to gather around the table, be creative, listen to some Spanish music, joke around and prepare for the rest of the week. Tuesday to Friday I went to El Cocal for the Childcare and Teaching English classes. El Cocal is hidden on a sandbank that is separated by the sea from busy Quepos, where you’ll find a lot of backpackers catching a bus from the main station to Manuel Antonio. After a 30-second- cruise you will find a lot of friendly Ticos and next to the beach GVI’s community center that seems to have gotten more colourful with every week that I’ve been gone now. I worked with both groups - the older one (8-13 years) but mainly with the younger kids (3-7) in the childcare project. The main aim is to teach them social skills, play games and spend time with them, as school only covers a few hours of the day and a lot of their parents work the whole day. Sometimes it can be hard to get the little ‘sapos’ to sit down and concentrate and even if you may get frustrated sometimes the happier you’ll be when they want you to play with them during break. By the way if you don’t speak Spanish that’s no problem - the kids couldn’t care less and always find a way to show you what they want! In the evening GVI offers free English classes for adults in the community center. Even though their English isn’t perfect they are very eager to learn and you’ll always have a good laugh with them. Maybe, probably most definitely, there will be lovely man who sells coconuts in Quepos in your class and you’ll get a free coconut the next time you meet him because you are “good teacher” :D. Every now and then we did smaller projects concerning community development. For example painting the community center, advertising English Classes and organising the Corona Cocaleña, a surf and body board competition at the beach in Cocal where the whole community and people from Surfer hotspots in Costa Rica join together. If you want to (!), you’ll quickly get along and know a lot of people in the community, that are very thankful for your work. The house, where staff and volunteers live together, is located in Quepos just around the corner of the bus station. You can find basically everything you need here. By bus it takes you 10 minutes to get to beautiful Manuel Antonio, where you can watch the in my opinion most incredible sun sets, go for a quick swim on the beach after project or visit the Parque Nacional. I met and lived together with very interesting and lovely people. Of course there were some arguments every now and then (most popular: who forgot to put new toilet paper in the bathroom), but things were usually sorted out in no time and after that we would go to work-out classes together, play a round (or 10 rounds) of extreme charade or take the bus to Manuel Antonio to watch the sun set. If you need a moment for yourself I can recommend reading a book in one of the hammocks on the roof top. As an intern you will spend a longer time on base (3 to 6 months). I got to know every project and you can get involved where and as much as you want very easily.If you have the possibility to do an internship with GVI - I highly recommend it! Several presentations and workshops help you with difficulties that you may face and teach you useful skills (not only for the project). Every intern has meetings with their mentor to keep track of their development and talk about their problems. On the weekends I tried to discover as much of Costa Rica as I possibly could. Costa Rica is perfect for everyone who is looking for impressive nature and a lot of adventure. You don’t have to go far: 30 mins by bus, a short hike and you will be at the amazing waterfalls in Dominical! Tico-Land offers you canopy tours, whale watching, amazing Caribbean beaches, animals you’ve never even heard of and a lot more. My time in Costa Rica ended after we had to flee from a Hurricane (Costa Rica had not been directly hit by a hurricane since the records began in 1851) to San Jose just a few days before my departure. Saying goodbye to all the people I worked and lived with for 3 months was utterly hard and I hope I can return to El Cocal some time in the future to see how it’s developed. My experience with GVI is something I am sure I will never forget as at the end I realized that I was part of something that truly helped improve people’s lives by showing them how to help themselves. So if you want to make an impact, meet like minded people, enjoy Pura Vida and in exchange can renounce hot showers and share your home with toads and geckos then GVI Quepos is the way to go! ¡Ándale pues!