Misha Studenkov spent part of his summer volunteering at a music school with PAA’s Costa Rica Volunteering for High School Students.
My music volunteering trip to Costa Rica with PAA was my first time traveling by myself. Going into the trip, I was excited but couldn’t help feeling a little bit nervous. I had gotten a lot of information from the documents and orientations at PAA; nevertheless, this being my first solo trip, I could not imagine what it would be like and whether or not it would go well.
Thankfully, the experience exceeded all my expectations. When I arrived at the homestay, I saw that it had all the amenities I needed and that the family was very nice, striking up conversations to make me feel more at home. Although my Spanish was still not very good, speaking it to the host family helped me out significantly and added to the love of language learning I already had. The same was true for the Spanish classes I took at CRLA. Working in a small group with a professional teacher was completely different from, and much more insightful than, the large language classes in high school. Thanks to the conversations and activities, I was able to understand what I was doing incorrectly and improve my confidence with speaking the language. On the days when I did not have classes, the school offered bus tours to sightseeing locations such as Manuel Antonio National Park and Irazú Volcano.
The main purpose of my program was to volunteer at the Misión Music School in southern San José. Before the trip, this had also been a source of nervousness for me; not only would I have to speak to the students in Spanish, but I also was not sure as to what resources there would be (e.g. whether there would be sufficient instruments and sheet music). However, the school turned out to be very organized and professional. Most of the students were young children, so talking to them was not too difficult. For the most part, they were serious about the music and followed all of my suggestions. I also got to work with some older students who were learning jazz (this was what I looked forward to the most, as jazz is the main style of music I play). I enjoyed meeting all of the students and giving them advice to help with their future studies.
Overall, the trip was an amazing experience. Everything turned out to be better and more natural than I ever expected – contrary to my initial worries, I am pleased to say that I did not have any significant issues at any point during the trip. I met many nice and interesting people and had a great time everywhere I went. Most importantly, I tried my hand at teaching music to children and found it to be a very interesting and rewarding experience. I recommend this program to anyone who is passionate about music and discovering new countries and cultures!