What it’s really like to volunteer abroad

A Student’s Perspective

Volunteering abroad in high school not only gives students an opportunity to make a real difference in communities outside of their own, but it provides new cultural perspectives creating real global citizens in the process.

Don’t just take our word for it! Student Representative, Chloe Green, is sharing her experience as a student on our March Break Community Service program in Costa Rica.

Chloe with her volunteer program in Costa Rica

In July of 2018, I had the pleasure of travelling with Blyth Academy’s Community Service program to Costa Rica to volunteer abroad. This program was by far one of the best experiences of my life, and I’m honoured to share it with you!

Volunteering Abroad Challenges You to Try New Things

Over the course of my two-week program, I had the privilege of volunteering at three non-profits, as well as the opportunity to experience the best that Costa Rica has to offer. Upon arriving at our first hotel in La Fortuna, we were greeted with open arms and a buffet of fresh homemade Costa Rican food. If you’ve never tried Costa Rican food, I can almost guarantee that you’d be hooked by the time the two weeks were over.

We spent the first three days in La Fortuna volunteering at Proyecto Asis, a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre that works extremely hard to help animals recover, and eventually be released back into the wild. Over the course of the three days at Proyecto Asis, our group of 25 hard working students cleaned cages and fed the animals, and we also had the chance to expand and essentially build a new pig habitat. On the last day of volunteering in La Fortuna, our tour guide took us to a beautiful waterfall where we had the chance to relax, swim, and explore the natural beauty of the country.

The next day before we hopped on the bus to travel to Arenal, a few of us decided to go on a cacao tour— freshly made chocolate was one of the best things I’ve ever consumed!

Chloe and friends at Arenal Waterfall

Volunteer Programs Open Your Eyes to New Cultures and Ways of Life

After we said goodbye to La Fortuna, we headed south to one of the nicest hotels in Arenal, famous for the Arenal Volcano National Park and local hot springs! While our stay only lasted one night, we all made sure to take advantage of every aspect of our incredible hotel. From the waterslides, to the farm, to the incredible view of the Arenal volcano, there was never a dull moment.

After our fun night, we embarked on a journey up to the very top of the mountain in Monteverde, where we encountered our second opportunity to volunteer, this time for two days at Life Monteverde, a sustainable coffee farm. Aside from the work that we did maintaining the farm, the people at Life Monteverde gave us insights on the value of nature, not only from a environmental standpoint but also from economic, social, and personal points of view. Life Monteverde also gave us the opportunity to see how the coffee beans are roasted, and even allowed us to do a coffee tasting. Being an avid coffee lover, this was one of my favourite experiences of the program.

After leaving Monteverde, we made our way to the Guanacaste Coast, where there’s a beach at the corner of every street, and the sun was always shining (even in the rainy season)! This was sadly the last stop on our program. Here, we had the chance to volunteer at the Salvation Army, spending time with about 30 kids. I will never forget the moment we walked into the building with gifts for the children. Their eyes lit up, and even with the language barrier between us, the fun, laughter and joy never stopped. I can say with 100 per cent certainty that this program changed my life for the better.

Chloe holding up coffee bags at Life Monteverde

Volunteering Abroad Gives You Perspective

On top of giving me the opportunity to meet so many extraordinary people and to help those in need, this program gave me a new perspective on life. I will forever be grateful for my parents giving me the chance to see the world from a point of view that often times goes unnoticed.

If you’re on the fence about going on a Blyth Academy March Break Community Service program, I leave you with this: the value in volunteer abroad programs and the experience you get can never truly be understood unless you experience it yourself. I hope reading this inspires and motivates you to see beyond what you think you know about the world and take the leap to make a difference, while also experiencing the best life has to offer!

Chloe Green

To join us for our summer Community Service program in Costa Rica, please view our program page for more information.

Though our physical doors remain temporarily closed, the minds of our students stay open. Summer classes are continuing to meet on their regular daily schedules, in virtual classrooms with face-to-face instruction and peer interaction.  The Blyth Academy model of small class sizes, flexible scheduling and individualized approach have enabled us to remain faithful to our standards. Our commitment to ongoing and meaningful communication between school, teachers, students and families has been critical to this effort.

Although our students have transitioned into summer mode and COVID-19 restrictions have begun to loosen, we are looking ahead to what September will hold for our campuses and families.
We want to be clear - our preference and our priority is to get students back to our campuses, but we must ensure this is done in a safe and effective way. While we await official guidance from Public Health and the Ministry of Education, a "return to school" task force has been hard at work putting concrete operational plans in place for all likely scenarios. This includes a full return to campus with safeguards, a blended model of virtual and in-campus learning and the continuation of fully virtual classrooms. All scenarios will provide robust learning and live, daily instruction and interaction with teachers and peers. 
With ten campuses across Ontario, we realize that each one of our schools is a unique space and community. We will be implementing across-the-board policies on hand washing, facility cleaning and social distancing measures. Each school is also prepared to pivot individually based on the guidance of local health authorities and to best serve students and families. 
Our recent survey showed that over 80 per cent of Blyth Academy families are eager to return to campuses, and we are hard at work to prepare for this day. As September's scenario becomes clearer and more information becomes available, we will continue to communicate. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!