My GIV experience was a fantastic break for me during the winter months to advance my experience and knowledge. I researched many programs before settling on GVI, and the reason for that was direct impact. A lot of study or volunteer abroad programs are just eco-tourism programs disguised as research. I choose this particular expedition with GVI because the surveys being done in Tortuguero would not happen without GVI, and perhaps one day will facilitate a greater investment in research in the area. As a volunteer, I felt as if I was making a difference and contributing to the incidental knowledge of Tortuguero. The base camp sits alongside a critically important sea turtle nesting beach which is also home to the elusive Jaguar. As not much is known about the interactions between the two species, GVI is aiding in knowledge gathering that otherwise would not happen. As a volunteer you take part in ongoing research started and maintained by the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC) during the nesting season. We also set up camera traps to monitor the jaguars in the area and collected information on how they use the beach. I took part in wildlife surveys along the canals of Tortuguero as well as the surrounding forest. This allows for a better understanding of the biodiversity of that area of Tortuguero, as there currently is no funded research being done in that particular area. There truly is a great mix of people and everyone has different reasons for going on a GVI program. I had co-volunteers who were receiving college credit, to people between jobs, or attempting a career change. Some volunteers were young, while others were older and above 30. In addition I had the chance to see amazing animals; including a jaguar far off in the distance (a rare site), several types of monkey's and elusive forest creatures (sloths!), wonderful birds such as toucans, mankins and trogans, tons of insects and notably butterflies, as well as amphibians and reptiles of the tropical rain forest. It was a unique experience that inspired me to begin pursuing my passion for conservation work. While on the expedition, I choose the optional certification in Biological Survey Techniques. This allowed me to not only have great memories, but take something back with me that can be added to my resume. My only regret is that I could not take more time off from work and stay for a longer period of time!