Institute for Field Research Expeditions - IFRE

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9.2 / 10 after 312 Reviews Based on overall, support & value average ratings

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There were aspects of this program (IFRE Medical Project in Atenas, Costa Rica) that I enjoyed and aspects that I felt were unprofessional and not what I expected. Let's start with some of the good things. The overall price for the trip was very reasonable. I didn't feel like I was spending more money than the program deserved when it came to housing and accommodation and project placement. I also really enjoyed my host family -- they could not have been a better fit for me and they made this trip a great experience. My Spanish has improved dramatically and I feel like I have a deeper understanding for Costa Rica as a country due to my excellent host family. All my meals were delicious, I had my own private room, we have a clean shower and dependable wifi, and overall my host mom and sister were just very kind, accommodating, encouraging, and fun. I rate my home-stay experience 10/10. I also enjoyed the excursions very much. The Island Day Tour was absolutely beautiful and was organized so well -- someone picked me up, took me to the tour, I was taken care of the entire tour, and then someone brought me back to my host family. I felt very safe and comfortable. I really appreciate the opportunity to see different parts of the country and how smoothly those things worked. I also appreciated my country coordinator, Lauren. Lauren was great about being in touch with me and helping me through various issues and checking in with me to make sure the program was going smoothly. I felt like I had adequate support in this program and was grateful for that.

The biggest downfall with this program was, unfortunately, the medical program itself. I was extremely disappointed with my experience. I was volunteering in a clinic but it is 100% NOT a teaching environment, and I felt like I hardly learned anything. I was hoping that the doctor would explain things to me, involve me in making the diagnoses and assigning treatment, and allow me to do more of the history and physical. But it wasn't a matter of "You should jump right in and ask to be involved!" it was definitely a matter of "These people are here to do their job and will not go out of their way to make you a priority, even if you try." As a medical student, I felt like my skills were wasted on this trip. We had such few patients in the clinic -- which is beyond our control, this I completely understand -- and even when we did see patients, I was in a scramble to take their vitals and fill out the beginning of their chart before the doctor came in to start the H&P -- which she often did before I had finished. I would roll with this and try to be respectful of her time with the patient, but then I would get pressure from the paramedic to take the patient's blood pressure -- the whole thing felt disorganized and made me feel like I was in the way. In general I felt unvalued and in the way at my project. I didn't receive clear instructions and I felt like the knowledge and skills I had gained in my first year of medical school were completely wasted in three weeks of volunteering at my clinic. While I wouldn't recommend this experience to a medical student -- their skills are far beyond what they will be able to engage in in this program's medical project -- I also wouldn't recommend it to a high school or college student. If they don't know how to take blood pressure, I highly doubt anyone at the clinic will teach them, and it will be a waste for them. I think that, in order to make the medical project more successful, there needs to be an educational mentality that is established in the clinic. Linea Vital sees, on average, about 8 patients in an entire day. That is not much at all for an 8:30 - 4:30 clinic. I see no reason why (if we have so much time) the doctor doesn't make more of an effort to educate and involve the volunteers/students. Until that is remedied, I would not recommend this program to someone.

A few other things to note. When I arrived in Atenas for the start of my three weeks of volunteering, I found that there was a mixup in scheduling and I wouldn't be able to start volunteering until the following week. I spent my entire first week in Atenas doing nothing. This was extremely disappointing for me and I felt it was very unprofessional. I understand that confusion happens, but when I'm spending an entire week away from my school where I'm doing research and away from my loved ones, I expect to be participating in the project I signed up for. Another aspect that I found unprofessional was the attitude that the doctor I was working with had. At times she was friendly, but most of the time, I found the clinic environment to be unfriendly and unwelcoming. She had an attitude with me at times (and other times just ignored me), and I found that the doctor and the paramedic would often just gesture for me to do something without giving me clear instructions and then act annoyed when I asked for clarification. Again, this is NOT a kind of environment that fosters learning -- which is exactly what volunteers come here to do. I was hoping to work with a physician who wanted to encourage volunteers and help them learn and contribute rather than ignoring them or seeming annoyed by their presence.

Overall, I think IFRE is a great organization with great employees, and I loved my time in Costa Rica and with my host family. The problem is that the medical project needs some serious modifications in order to be successful. However, I believe this is possible, and I hope you will take my feedback to help make the program better.

Program:
Location:
Posted: May 31, 2016
Overall:
6
Support:
8
Value:
7
By: ctthrive
Age:

Comments

UPDATE. IFRE has decided they will no longer be using the clinic I volunteered at, Linea Vital, as a site for the medical project. They have been very receptive to my feedback and have explained that the other clinics in Costa Rica better embody the vision IFRE has for the medical project. Other volunteers in the past at these clinics have had very good experiences. I'm very grateful that they listened to my feedback and strive to make the program better! Please feel free to contact with questions.

The monastery i stayed at was not prepared to accept guests or necessarily kind to us. I was there by myself for 3 days and than another man came so we managed the situation together but the monastery hadnt seen to cleaning the living areas we had for some time and they did not really welcome us. We lived without water in our part of the compound for five days and had to ration what water we did have. I dont believe this monastery should be considered as a host location for future volunteers. The especially didnt want women there at all. This is no reflection on the volunteer staff that i worked with, they were very supportive of my journey, it was all the monastery.

Program:
Location:
Posted: May 20, 2016
Overall:
4
Support:
10
Value:
3
By: tcox
Age:
52

I had the pleasure of volunteering at a medical clinic in Costa Rica with IFRE for 2 weeks! It was an amazing experience and I would recommend it to people that are interested in experiencing a different culture and being exposed to medicine! The more Spanish you know, the more you will get out of the program because everyone speaks Spanish here. The volunteer house immerses you in the culture of the country. The house mom is amazing and cooks great food! On the weekends you can go out and travel the country if you want! The buses are very cheap to get around by. I feel like the volunteer house is the perfect setup because you are able to get an authentic experience while still living with other volunteers. I am sad to be leaving this program and hope to be able to do something similar again in the future!

Program:
Location:
Posted: May 20, 2016
Overall:
9
Support:
8
Value:
10
By: Eo271
Age:
19

Leeanne Matthews
Sri Lanka - Galle
Teaching Monks English and volunteering at the Orphanage

I highly recommend these programmes.

The company and Mr Michael responded to my email enquiries from Australia straight away.

Michael kindly arranged my airport pick up at midnight, accommodation and the drive to Galle. This all ran smoothly.

Mr Michael and his family are very welcoming and friendly. After being here for 5 weeks it feels like my home. I only have positive comments, the location is great, the food is fabulous, Mr Michael is full of information and helpful with all enquiries at any time, nothing is too much.

Mr Michael arranged a 4 day tour. I highly recommend this. The driver is very friendly and accommodating. We had tour guides at every destination. It was amazing too see so much in such a little time.

Volunteering was an amazing experience. The Monks are all beautiful and friendly, I highly enjoyed this and will miss them all, we had a lot of fun. The Orphanage was also an enjoyable experience I will miss there big smiles and cuddles.

Program:
Location:
Posted: May 13, 2016
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
By: lm075
Age:
40

This was my first volunteer trip therefore I was very nervous and had no clue what to expect. The program set everything up very well and I had no issues. While volunteering, I had an incredible time building a stove in Xela, Guatemala, and helping out at risk kids. I am so thankful for this program. It was an awesome catalyst for helping me help others! I had a great experience thanks to this program!!

Program:
Location:
Posted: April 14, 2016
Overall:
9
Support:
9
Value:
9
Age:
18

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