“During the summer of 2014, I decided I wanted to do an international placement for my university co-op placement in the fall. Around five years ago I had visited Costa Rica, fell in love, and have always wanted to return. So, I did some internet research, and came across the Global Nomadic internships. The sea turtle research assistant position in Costa Rica seemed like such a perfect opportunity. I chose this position at the Corozalito project working for the non-government organization in Costa Rica. The position was the perfect length for me, and started at the right time. Living on a beach in the tropics and working with endangered sea turtles sounded like a once in a lifetime experience.
I arrived in Costa Rica in September, and after a few weeks of travelling made my way to the project in Corozalito, Costa Rica. I met my project coordinator and the other research assistants I would not only be working with, but also living with for the next three months. It was such a great learning experience living with people from different countries and with different cultures. It really opened up my eyes to differences in our world, and how in the end we all could still become friends. I will always remember the long chats we had with each other, discussing our lives back home and sharing stories. Most days we spend hours sitting around the dinner table just talking! We spent every day and night together, both working and exploring the area we lived in, quickly becoming friends. I am so blessed to say the people I met at my project will be lifelong friends I can’t wait to meet up with again.
On top of making life-long friends, the lifestyle I lived and experienced in Costa Rica will forever stay with me. A common saying in Costa Rica is ‘pura vida’, literally translating to pure life. The locals use this saying as a hello, good day, good bye, and just a friendly acknowledgement. I loved the essence of this phrase, as it really represents the lifestyle of the locals. ‘Tico time’ is how you can describe the laid back, easy going and care free lifestyle that really let you relax, take your time and enjoy the moment instead of rushing to get from one place to the next. Living in an extremely small, close knit community in rural, coastal Costa Rica enabled me to enjoy the simplicity of life. Living for the small things in life, like the sunsets, the stars, and the raw, untouched nature that surrounded me really led me to enjoy life and not take anything I have for granted.
Working with sea turtles was an incredible experience. We had Greens, Olive Ridleys, and even a Leatherback nest on our beach! We worked every night patrolling the beach, which is when sea turtles nest, and conducted a morning survey at 4:45 every morning. I adjusted better than I thought to the strange working schedule, was able to spend my days catching up on sleep, relaxing on the beach, and exploring local trails. Most mornings we had to protect sea turtle hatchlings from predators and helped them to the ocean. The babies were so cute and tiny! Seeing the leatherback was an amazing experience I didn’t expect. I still can’t believe how big the leatherback was that I saw, it truly looked like a dinosaur. My project was also lucky enough to experience three mini arribadas, which is a phenomena where thousands of sea turtles visit the beach at the same time to nest, starting nesting earlier in the night and ending later in the morning. This was an incredible and rare experience that only occurs at select beaches in the world.
This experience gave me valuable experience I can use in future endeavours. Working with the sea turtles, tagging them, counting and inspecting their eggs, and recording data gave me valuable hands on experience working in the field, recording field data and conducting surveys. I improved my leadership and teamwork skills during my patrols and morning surveys. A final valuable skill I learned through this experience was how to work together with the local community in a development project. This is important for any international relations and development work in my future. I learned the importance of considering the local concerns, including them in our decisions, and working with them to protect the sea turtles.
I would definitely recommend this project to others. The organization works hard to protect and conserve the sea turtles and nature in the area, and can always use help. The project is doing amazing things for their sea turtle nesting beaches, and it is such a rewarding experience saving eggs and hatchlings and seeing them safely make it to the ocean. Working in an international placement such as this one is such a valuable experience that I think everyone would benefit from and enjoy.”