Sonntag, 20. Februar 2005

Our Internship in Costa Rica - Initial Report

Almost four weeks have passed since Anita and I started our first PTS here in
Costa Rica and it is now time to reflect a little bit on what happened so far.
Only two days after our last exam at the IMC we were already on our way to Costa
Rica. After spending a night in Madrid, where we had the first opportunity to
practise our Spanish skills, we flew directly to San José. The international Airport is
actually a little outside of San José, in the city of Alajuela. We were picked up by
Steffi, another intern who left Amadeus a couple of days ago. She was also the
one who familiarized us with our work during the first couple of weeks.

We work for an incoming travel agency called Amadeus. The agency is owned by
the Austrian Wolfgang Spelitz and main emphasis is put on sustainable tourism
(actually the main reason why I decided to do my PTS with this company).
The agency is constantly changing and has been existing for more than 10 years
now. Currently there are only 3 people working in the office: two interns and a parttime
accountant. This inevitably means that Anita and I have a lot of responsibility.
This includes, among other tasks, organising and booking hotels and transfers,
supervising groups and guides, and preparing calculoes for potential clients. For
this purpose we work a lot with Excel and especially Access. At this point I would
like to mention that it is really an advantage that we had the courses with Mr.
Faltus and Mr. Siedl before our first PTS as we can now build up on the things we
learned there.

I really like the fact that Amadeus gives its interns the opportunity to learn so much
and to develop their own way of organising things. Of course this also means that
sometimes mistakes happen, but this only adds to the learning effect and
fortunately our boss always supports us and tells us how we can improve. In the
past weeks I had to organise myself a lot and those who know me can probably
confirm that I was not very good at time-management, but I am improving rapidly.
Most of Amadeus´ clients are from Germany, but we also have Austrian, British,
French, American and even Russian clients. Up to know we were able to use our
English, Spanish and Russian skills, which is more I hoped for. In the beginning it
was very hard to understand people over the phone and sometimes I was on the
verge of frustration because it felt like I had forgotten everything I learned at the
IMC. In the first couple of days at work when we had to phone hotels we had little
pieces of paper next to us on the table so we could read out loud the most
important phrases. However, we never understood what people responded to us.
It is still more difficult to talk to people over the phone rather than face to face, but
with every week that passes it gets easier.

I live with a host family in San Francisco de Heredia, just around the corner from
where Anita lives. My hostmum Doña Sabrina is 50 years old and has hosted
foreign students for the past 14 years, so she knows exactly how to deal with (and
prevent) misunderstandings. Her son Diego is 21 years old and studies Computing
at the University of Costa Rica in San José. In my hostfamily is also Adam, a
History major student from the United States, who is spending an exchange
semester at the local University.

From the first day on all three of them made me feel like a part of their family and
without exaggerating I can say that Doña Sabrina is already like a second mum for
me. The Ticos in general are very friendly, open-minded and helpful people and
guests are treated with the utmost respect and cared for incredibly well. For
example, I am not even allowed to wash the dishes after dinner. Every tico I have
come across so far was very interested in where I was from and how I liked Costa
Rica. They are very proud of their country and regard themselves as peaceful. One
of the sentences I have read the most on buses and offices is: “Whereever there is
a Tico, there is liberty.”

For me the best thing about living with a local family, besides having the
opportunity to learn Spanish very well, is the food! Costa Rican food is not one of
the most diverse in the world, almost every meal is accompanied by rice and black
beans. But to compensate for the fat, a lot of different vegetables and fruits are
served as well. In Costa Rica I ate Yucca for the first time in my life. It is very much
like potatoe and especially delicious when roasted.

Ticos have a special liking for “frescos”. These are fruit juices made from all
imaginable kinds of fruits – mango, peaches, watermelon, strawberry, banana etc.
My favourite drink is “Guanabana en leche” (=Stechannone in Milch). The taste is
hard to describe, but very delicious. I suggest everyone who visits Costa Rica to try
it at least once. Maybe accompanied by the national food “Casado” (a meal made
from rice, black beans, chicken and sour cream).
I am really enjoying my internship here, even if it is stressful sometimes. To
compensate for that, we do a lot together at the weekends. Last weekend we went
to watch the local swimming championships and in april we will be going to see
Santana live in the Estadio Saprissa in San José. We have also already been to
Cahuita at the Caribbean coast and to Manuel Antonio at the Pacific coast. I am
really looking forward to seeing more of this diverse and beautiful country, and to
working with the Amadeus team for the next 5 months.

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