The WorldTeach Costa Rica is a program unlike any other. Although famed for being an unparalleled tourist destination in Central America, Costa Rica is alive with other wonders for the heart and soul. It’s the deep sense of tranquility and understanding between students and volunteers that is normally so hard to explain – that same sense of inner peace that Erica Rawles seems to sum up so perfectly at the end of her summer journey with WorldTeach Costa Rica.


Never did I expect that coming to Alto Varas would help to heal me. In the middle of these rolling green hills and blue mountains, I found peace. I found the kind of calm that lets you sit on the porch for hours, doing nothing, thinking of nothing, just being. I found room to breathe. I found misty skies, cold air, and the sound of rainfall drumming on tin roofs every afternoon like clockwork. I found meditation without crossing my legs and closing my eyes.

And I found children whose contagious laughter spread from one to the next and eventually landed inside of me. These children, in the most beautiful way, taught me by example, how to live in the present, when I needed most to learn how to let go of the past. No matter what took place the day before – an unfair play in the soccer game at recess or bad behavior in the classroom that left them without a sticker – my students would enter class the next day like none of it had ever happened. They would come into English and shout “good morning, Teacher!” with huge smiles on their faces. No matter what took place the day before – a disastrous attempt at communicating in Spanish, an unsuccessful lesson plan, or the desire to speak to my mom through it all – how could I not return that priceless greeting? I learned to enter class everyday with a fresh attitude and positive demeanor. I gave back to them what they gave to me.

Alto Varas gave me transcendent moments of deep tranquility, fresh air and life at a slow pace, simplicity and nothing beyond the necessities. Unruly green trees climbing their way to the sky and the vast and majestic mountains on every side left me tucked in the middle of all of this earth that is very much alive. It’s good to feel small sometimes. And every morning when I stepped outside, I was struck by the beauty surrounding me – every two mile walk up and down the mountain to and from the bus station I simultaneously hated and savored; every bus ride into the city, I was first in line to board and snagged the window seat even if I had an aisle number on my ticket; and every time, without fail, I felt an overwhelming gratitude and awe at the beauty I was living in.