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Costa Rica - Teaching and Social Work in San José

Get involved with the local communities of San José in beautiful Costa Rica by joining a social work project helping children or the elderly.



Fast Facts

Location of ProjectSan José, Costa Rica
Project LengthMin 3 weeks - Max 12 weeks
Arrival AirportJuan Santamaria International Airport (SJO)
Volunteer WorkTeaching or social work (orphanages, school for disabled children, home for the elderly)
Age18 - 80
Spanish Requirement Intermediate level of Spanish (Contact your GoEco adviser to discuss option of additional Spanish classes if you are a beginner)

What's Included

AccommodationHomestay with half-board in a private room
FoodBreakfast and dinner
SupportLocal in-country team and 24hr emergency support
Airport TransfersIncluded on arrival and departure day
Spanish Course One-week course depending on fluency level
Services Access to telephone, free internet and WI-FI connection, mail service
Orientation Includes cultural enrichment activities like cooking, dancing, etc.
Pre-Departure Kit Full project details will be sent following registration
Insurance Comprehensive travel health insurance with volunteer abroad coverage

What's Not Included

Flights, visa (if required), personal expenses, lunch, daily transportation from homestay to and from project or language school


Though a small country, Costa Rica offers a variety of interesting contrasts:  scenic coastlines with white and black sand beaches, tropical rain forests as well as cloud forests, mangroves, volcanoes, canals, and turtle nesting beaches. Located in Central America, Costa Rica shares borders with Nicaragua on the north and Panama on the southeast; to the east you find the Caribbean Sea and on the west and southwest, the Pacific Ocean.  You will begin your adventure in the capital city, San Jose, surrounded by green mountains and spring-like temperatures all year round as well as lots of activities to enjoy in the evenings and over weekends.


About the Program

This program offers several social work-related projects in and around the city of San José.  The project aims to assist disadvantaged communities by providing them with much needed social services.  From teaching at public schools, to helping out at a home for abandoned children, to supplying warm meals at a soup kitchen, there are plenty of opportunities for you to utilize your social work skills and experiences to positively impact the community. This program is very flexible and allows you to choose where you wish to volunteer.

Orientation and Spanish Course

The first week of this minimum three-week program consists of Spanish lessons ( 5 hours/day, Monday - Thursday schedule) and cultural enrichment activities to facilitate communication at your project and help you acclimate to Costa Rica. During the Spanish course, you will learn vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and conversational skills.  Participation in the orientation week is mandatory.  

On the first day of your Spanish course, you will take an oral exam to determine your current language level. After you register and submit your application, you will also submit a written exam. Both the oral and written exam will be taken into consideration to determine which class you will placed in upon arrival.  During your orientation week, and after receiving detailed information on the options available, you'll also select a project (if you have not already).

Here is an example of an orientation week schedule:

9:00 am - 12:00 pm                                             Spanish classes
12:00 - 1:00 pm                                                    Lunch break
1:00 - 3:00 pm                                                      Spanish classes
3:00 - 4:00 pm (Mon.-Thurs.)                             Latin dance classes
3:00 - 4:00 pm (Tues.)                                         Yoga class
3:00 - 4:00 pm or 4:00 - 5:00 pm (Wed.)        Costa Rican cooking lessons
4:00 - 5:00 pm (Tues. & Thurs.)                         Additional conversation sessions

If you speak basic or no Spanish, you'll need to enroll in extra Spanish lessons for an additional fee.  

If you speak fluent Spanish before coming to the project, an exception may be made to waive the language course (though it is highly recommended in order to have the most fulfilling experience). Your fluency will be determined by your written exam and during your phone interview. Please contact GoEco to discuss this option prior to registration.


Volunteer Work and Contribution

Your volunteer work in San José varies depending on your chosen project and may include, but is not limited to:

  • Teaching arts-and-crafts
  • Teaching English
  • Teaching computer skills
  • Preparing extra materials for lessons
  • Organizing games and recreational activities
  • Organizing and participating in sports and outdoor games
  • Helping out with light chores necessary for the day-to-day running of the homes or centers
  • Helping in the improvement and embellishment of the project facilities
  • Providing warm and caring attention to the children, adolescents and the elderly
  • Assisting the teachers and administrative staff with different tasks

IMPORTANT: Volunteers are also encouraged to be creative and to bring any of their own personal skills as well as materials to donate to the center. New ideas are always welcome!

A typical day: You will take a public bus from your home stay to your project location to arrive by 8:00 am.  In the morning, you might be helping teachers with reading or painting activities, before helping to prepare and serve the children a mid-day snack and preparing them for naptime.  In the afternoon, you could be helping older children with their homework or assisting teachers in the preparation and design of material for the next day. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays will be your free days to spend as you wish.

These institutions are usually flexible with schedules and will allow you to work full-time or part-time. However, they require independent, proactive volunteers with initiative and creativity.


Living Arrangements

Accommodations: You will live with a host family in San José who will provide you with a comfortable, basic private room in their home, which is a short bus ride away from the language school.

Food: Your host family will provide you with breakfast and dinner.  Meals include vegetables, fruits, rice & beans, pasta and occasionally meat, fish or chicken. 

Internet: Most families will have Internet at their homes and you are welcome to use the Wi-Fi at the language school, which is open until 5:00 pm, during the entire length of your stay.


Minimum Requirements

  • Minimum age 18
  • You must have an intermediate level of Spanish.  If not, you should be prepared to enroll in additional weeks of Spanish lessons
  • Written Spanish exam must be completed and emailed back prior to arrival in Costa Rica (oral skills will be tested on the 1st Monday)
  • Open-minded and flexible attitude
  • Creative and highly independent
  • Experience working with children

Here's an excerpt of Breana's experience:

  "The Costa Rican Language Academy was great. There were people from all over the world. We had an orientation, took an oral exam and then were assigned our class.The classes had 4-5 people in them for a better learning experience. In addition, the school offered dance class, cooking class, and extra conversation classes."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog

Here's an excerpt of Emily's experience:

  "The second place that I volunteered was at the Escuela Granadilla Norte. At this school, I volunteered as aid in a kindergarten classroom. I felt incredibly welcome and at home as I volunteered at the school. The teachers there were very sweet and willing to speak slowly to me in Spanish to help me understand things. I learned a lot about the culture and language in Costa Rica from the teachers at the school as I helped out in the classroom."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog

Here's an excerpt of Bailey's experience:

  "When my plane landed in San José, I was as nervous as I was excited. It was my first time traveling on my own, and I had no idea what to expect fro the. However, after five minutes of talking to the driver from the Teaching and Social Work program in San José, an incredibly friendly man full of stories about his city and himself, I forgot to be nervous.My host family matched his friendliness; my host mother was always willing to work with my level of Spanish..."

Read the rest of her story on the GoEco blog!


Here's an excerpt of Kelsey's experience:


"The Costa Rica volunteer experience was nothing like I expected, and I had an amazing time. I met friends and worked with people f


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