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Confidence to do Anything: Music Volunteering in Costa Rica

Bailey CookBailey Cook studies Vocal Music Education at Iowa State University. This summer she volunteered on PAA’s Music Volunteering in Costa Rica program.

Before I left for Costa Rica, multiple people told me that the trip would be “life-changing”. I thought that was just a cheesy expression, but that’s exactly how I felt when I returned. Throughout the trip, I was able to build my confidence within myself and confidence with the language immensely and I now feel as though I can accomplish anything.

I stayed with a loving and nice host family just outside of San Jose, and took Spanish classes for five hours a day during the first week. The language school I attended, Costa Rican Language Academy, was incredibly helpful as the employees went out of their way to make everyone feel comfortable. I was able to book weekend trips through the school and get a student discount. People from all over the world came to study at CRLA, so studying at the school was a unique experience as I befriended people from Austria, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, and the Dominican Republic.

Over the weekend, I traveled to Monteverde where I went on the longest zip line in Latin America! I was terrified, but my motto for the trip was “Do what scares you”. I found I enjoyed more of my trip when I set my anxieties aside and was brave for a few minutes. The next day, we went to La Fortuna, which is the town outside of Arenal Volcano. I hiked around the volcano in a thick forest for about 5 hours, and ended the day relaxing in a natural hot spring. I loved seeing a large and diverse population of foliage and animals (including a few sloths). Sunday morning, we hiked to a waterfall and swam for a while, even though it was freezing.

During the second week, I began my two volunteer placements. In the morning, I went to an elementary school for children. Working with them only reassured my decision to become an elementary music teacher, as all of their eyes lit up when they walked into the music room. The children were overflowing with passion and energy for music and they respected their teacher, or “profe”. I was in charge of teaching “Ode to Joy” on the xylophone for the class, and I even had the chance to run a sound board during a school performance.

The music teacher I worked with and observed was truly incredible and I am thankful for the opportunity to have built a lasting professional relationship. The teacher is also the director of the private music school, Sion, where I worked in the afternoons. I worked one-on-one with young students on piano and violin. The most difficult part of the volunteer work was the language barrier, but I was able to struggle through as the children were understanding and helpful.

I highly recommend this Performing Arts Abroad program to anyone who is interested in studying, volunteering, or working abroad. Now more than ever I am ecstatic when I think about my future as a teacher abroad.

Music Volunteering in Costa Rica

In a country with no military, many government funds support music education. Join a powerful movement to bring music to every young person in Costa Rica, and live with a homestay family in the bustling capital of San Jose.

Apply Now