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During the summer of 2015 I spent a month in Costa Rica volunteering with GVI on their U18 programme. The first week was cultural immersion, which meant four hours of Spanish lessons a day, salsa class, and cooking class and staying with a host family for a week. This was one of my favourite parts of my whole trip. Staying with the host family improved my Spanish more than the lessons did because my family didn't speak much English so it was up to me to make conversation and pass along information in Spanish. My tican family (tico is a term Costa Ricans use to refer to themselves) were absolutely amazing and I loved spending a week as part of their family. I got to experience every part of tico life in a welcoming environment, which gave me a more authentic and real view of Costa Rica than many other visitors could hope to get After spending a week in Quepos with our host families, we moved to a hostel in the neighbouring hillside town of Manuel Antonio. The next two weeks were spent doing construction work at a school in a community called Roncador. It was hard work under a hot sun but we got through a massive amount of work, more than anyone expected. We dug drains to stop the playground flooding, cleared, levelled and landscaped an area behind the kindergarten classroom for a new playground for the kindergarten kids, wire-brushed and painted tin panels for a new roof for the GVI English classroom, filled in the holes in the wall with cement and gave the lunch hall, kindergarten classroom, outside wall and English classroom all a fresh coat of paint! One day we got to have a sports day with the kids, and while we'd seen them in their lessons and running around during their breaks this was the first time we got to interact with them. They practiced their English on us and we practiced our Spanish on them, and we got to really meet the people that we were doing all this work for. The kids are the life of the school, their smiles, their laughs, their eagerness to learn, and knowing that we could help them was very rewarding. It reminded us all why we were there, where all our sweat and effort was actually going. They day we left the project for the last time after two weeks there was a sad one and I think part of us wished we could stay for another week and do more. I am so proud of what we achieved throughout those two weeks and I know that the difference we have made will have a very real impact on the kids. It gives them a safer, cleaner, nicer learning environment to learn in and be proud of. After two weeks of hard work we moved into our adventure week! We started with a trip to the Manuel Antonio National Park where we saw everything from monkeys and baby boa constrictors to spiders, lizards and crabs climbing trees and even a sloth! The next day we took to the beach where I learnt that surfing is just as hard as it looks (which is hard!) but about a hundred times more fun! For our next adventure we drove across to the other side of Costa Rica to Turrialba and went zip-lining and abseiling in the rainforest before embarking on a rafting trip down the Rio Pacuare, one of the best rivers in the world for rafting. We spent two days navigating down class III and IV rapids and on the day in between we hiked to an indigenous village. When it was time to leave Costa Rica, I was heartbroken. It is such a beautiful country, from the stunning landscape to the warm, welcoming people and I didn’t want to say goodbye. Costa Rica will always be very special to me and I will never forget the things that I saw and learnt there. I share a very unique connection with the people I met while on this trip and I now have a family that is spread all over the world. This trip has ignited a desire to travel in me, one that was already there but has now sparked. It has also shown me the way I want to spend the rest of my life – seeing the world and helping as much of it as I can. So until next time – ¡pura vida Costa Rica!