In an office surrounded by ICADS’ garden, María Emilia Chaves or Machi, as everybody calls her, has been doing a single but never easy job for the last 20 years: finding the right home for the right student.
Being a psychologist has been crucial for her as homestay coordinator. Her knowledge has helped her to understand better the needs of every student, and the importance of finding a family that meets his/her expectations; even though it is hard to find a family that meets them completely.
For example, sometimes students want to keep their diet, and there are many products that are not easy to find in Costa Rica, or they are expensive. As a result, it is important for students to get used to the “Costa Rican lifestyle”: new food, traditions, customs, language, and a new family, which recieves them as family members.
The majority of ICADS families are part of Costa Rica’s lower-middle class for two reasons. First, because the institute wants to give an extra income to the families who need it more. Second, in those families it is harder to find people who speak fluent English. Therefore, students will have to practice their Spanish, and that is what ICADS wants – students to improve their Spanish and learn the most they can about Costa Rican culture.
One of the main goals of Machi’s job is to establish a transparent and respectful relationship among ICADS, families, and the students. This is a challenge, mainly because students are always different, and their needs have changed a lot over the years. However, Machi is more than ready to face these challenges.
The ICADS homestay coordinator feels blessed because she works near home, and she has a great team who supports her. Her job is also very entertaining because working with college students keeps her young, and makes her everyday activities more interesting.
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