Valentina Carrillo was the winner of our first-ever uVolunteer travel scholarship. To help future volunteers see what the experience is really like, she wrote four blogs for us during her stay in San Ramon, Costa Rica––covering everything from her life in the dormitory to her project working with children with special needs. This is blog post #1 on her travels.

July 17th, 2015

My journey so far has been nothing but wonderful. This trip has exceeded my expectations in every way possible. uvolunteer-travel-scholarship-winner-valentina-arrives-in-costa-rica-3I arrived on Friday at 2 a.m., and I was very nervous as I was traveling alone. The only person picking me up was a cab driver (a very trusted one by the company) due to the late arrival time. As soon as I walked out of the airport, I saw my driver holding the AVIC/uVolunteer sign. He helped me with my luggage, and welcomed me by talking and asking questions. He was very sweet, and he helped me get settled in the dorms. He even gave me his business card and personal number in case I needed another ride or advice when traveling the country. I actually called him once, and he found us a great price for a van that brought the seven of us to Poas Volcano! After my arrival, six other volunteers came, and we immediately started caring and looking out for each other. We introduced ourselves, talked, and enjoyed meals together. I can now say that we have grown very close and plan to volunteer abroad again together in the future. On Saturday, we had our orientation where we saw San Ramon, visited a cathedral and a museum, and ate lunch in a typical restaurant––where we enjoyed Gallo Pinto and fresco. On Sunday, we went to Volcano Poas and enjoyed the ride, as well as the famous chocolate-covered strawberries. Today, everyone began their programs, and everyone seems to have deeply enjoyed it. Personally, I loved working in the special needs program. Not only was it rewarding, but I also thought that I was needed, useful, and appreciated. Everyone welcomed me, and the kids were very kind. Most of the kids have autism, but their teachers were so professional that I realized how far the kids had gone and how much they had learned. Today was not easy, but it was rewarding and worth it, and I cannot wait to return tomorrow. The school was a 15-minute walk away, and the facility was humble but had everything that they needed. I helped with coloring, eating, reading, brushing their teeth, playing, and doing arts and crafts. uvolunteer-travel-scholarship-winner-valentina-arrives-in-costa-rica-2The meals in the dorm are cooked by Virginia, and they are very healthy, homemade, and fresh. We always have traditional food, and we include vegetables and fruits in every meal. Frank and Nat have been very useful and available, as well as sweet and caring. San Ramon is very safe and calm. There are a mall and bank nearby, and many groceries where we buy locally grown tropical fruits. We even went for a run today, which we enjoyed due to the view of the mountains and picturesque houses. I am excited for all the memories yet to come, and I am so happy to be here, with this group of people, in these great accommodations, in the beautiful country of Costa Rica. Thank you, uVolunteer, for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and scholarship!

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