Costa Rica Alumni Describes the ISV Experience

by on Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Osa Peninsula in the southern part of the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica is wild and beautiful (c) Martina Pesaresi

It’s feedback like this that makes all our staff work so hard to facilitate the ISV experience. Martina Pesaresi of University of Aberdeen (Scotland) thanks so much for writing to us (as below).


I volunteered with ISV in Costa Rica (Proyecto Carey)* a few months ago, and I would really like to share my experience with students that are thinking about volunteering too. Maybe you can post this on the website, or something else!:) Here it is:

 *[ISV has supported the Carey Biodiversity and Conservation Research Project, located in the Rio Claro Wildlife Refuge on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, since 2006].

It is exciting to volunteer inside the biodiversity hotspot of the Rio Claro Wildlife Refuge and the Osa Conservation Area (c) Martina Pesaresi

  • I have been living in the neotropical rainforest for two weeks, and my perspective on life has totally changed.
  • I have learnt to appreciate all the small things in life I used to take for granted, like being able to have a hot shower, flush the toilet after use, or even drinking tap water without having to treat it beforehand.
  • I have learnt that it is possible to survive on a diet of basically rice and beans, and that aged rice won’t kill you after all.
  • I have witnessed the most amazing sunsets, walked under the brightest moon and a sky packed with stars. I have seen breathtaking scenery, and felt like I was living in a postcard.

Scarlet macaw (c) Martina Pesaresi

  • I got to see monkeys, toucans, macaws and gorgeous butterflies on a daily basis.
  • I have survived bugs, giant spiders, crocodiles, huge crabs, “steroid” ants, bats and even snakes, learning that a boa, here, is JUST a boa.
  • I got woken up by roosters and howler monkeys, and fell asleep to the rain, and concerts by frogs and an incredible variety of insects.
  • I have learnt that I can smash open a coconut, that pineapples there are way more delicious than the ones I get at home, and that there are at least a dozen fruits whose existence I completely ignored.
  • I have learnt that “God” exists, and he can talk to monkeys and kick fish out of the river.
  • I took part in a mud fight, got covered in dirt, and then jumped in the ocean with all of my clothes on.

This project’s beautiful coastal location is hard to beat (c) Martina Pesaresi

  • I have faced my greatest fear, and felt like I was on top of it for the first time ever.
  • I have helped monitoring the forest, *husking and hiking every morning. I have helped planting new trees, and contributed to change the current law.
  • I have jumped from rocks and climbed waterfalls and had the time of my life playing football with the local “ticos” and learning about their culture.
  • Marina setting traps in the forest (c) Martina Pesaresi

    I have sweated, and believe me, a lot! I got physically exhausted, knackered, dirty with “mud” as I never thought I would, earning countless bruises and cuts. But I also have experienced the great pleasure that comes from working hard for a good cause, and I have felt truly accomplished, probably like never before.

  • And, most importantly, I have learnt that each and every one of us can make the difference, that we can all give our best to make this world a little bit better.

Data collecting (c) Martina Pesaresi

  • And, finally, I have learnt that it is possible to feel sincerely happy with what we have, as little as it might seem.

PURA VIDA, siempre! :)


*husking is counting (and classifying) seeds within quadrants.

You can also read Martina’s review of her ISV experience in Costa Rica on the Go Overseas website, along with other independent reviews of our program.

Hanging with the local kids (c) Martina Pesaresi


To learn more about ISV’s programs please visit our website:


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