Catching Up with CRSMT Alumna Vanessa Steele

Vanessa Steele Alumni Review Blog

CRSMT alumni Vanessa Steele finished her massage therapy program in 2018. She came to Costa Rica from Oregon in order to fulfill her dreams as becoming a massage therapist. Here is a little bit about her background and her experience here at CRSMT.

What were you doing before massage?

                Prior to attending CRSMT I worked for state and local government for more than 15 years. Most of my career was with natural resource agencies, most recently Oregon State Parks and the local park district in Bend, Oregon. Most of my service was an Outdoor Education Assistant and Executive Assistant to the Director and Board of Directors.

What made you want to go into the massage therapy field?

                Alongside my passion and appreciation for the outdoors, I have always felt a pull toward the healing arts, bodywork, and more specifically, therapeutic touch. Born a caretaker, filled with compassion and empathy, I felt it would be a healthy outlet for me; a way to do my part and be more connected to people and community. I find the human body fascinating and believe our life experiences are stored in the body; compelled to serve touch-deprived populations, those facing past trauma, illness, PTSD and anxiety.  I imagined a “come as you are” practice, ensuring that everyone feels welcome and comfortable to work together towards healing. I believe touch is a necessity and a basic human need for connection, healing and survival.

Why did you choose to study massage therapy abroad?

                After researching other local programs in addition to CRSMT, there was no question that CRSMT was offering the atmosphere and experience I was looking for. I wanted something more, something outside the box of a standard program attending classes a few times a week and going our separate ways, spread out over a year or more time. I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for, but there was no question I found it in CRSMT. The focus on a holistic lifestyle, immersion learning, exposure to a diverse instructor and staff team, on campus housin

Vanessa Steele Teacher Assistant at the Costa Rica School of Massage Therapy

g, and who can deny the draw of the charming town of Samara and excitement of a study abroad program in Costa Rica, it seemed too good to be true. The program definitely matched my learning style (which is honestly all of them: seeing it, doing it, hearing it, reading it…). Living on campus was ideal to be surrounded by fellow students that were focusing on the same goal and experiencing the same demands of the program. Your roommates quickly become study partners and if your learning style is different than your house mates’, you only have to wander a short distance to a neighboring porch to find another study session in progress. For me, although very challenging, it was perfect to be living it and breathing it, being surrounded by it with the respite of the beach only steps away. It made sense for me in so many ways, even financially. If I had attended a local program over the span of a year or more it would have cost me more in living expenses. I would have had the added stress of working and the distractions of my life at home. Although I missed home at times and, of course, my family, time flew by and my life has been enhanced by the experience in so many ways.

What was your most memorable moment of your time at CRSMT?

Vanessa Steele at Costa Rica School of Massage Therapy Graduation on Samara Beach                So many memorable moments! I couldn’t mention anything else without first saying that from day one (we literally ended up sitting next to each other on the shuttle from [the airport] and share the same name) I felt destined to have met a dear friend. Going into this experience as an (outgoing) introvert it can be scary not to know anyone. To be going back to school in your 40s is an experience on its own, but I was gifted a sweet spirit to get through it with. We quickly became fast forever-friends. I created so many great memories from late night study sessions, breaks to catch sunset, iguanas and owl friends on campus, conquering my fear of the ocean, feeling at home in a community far from it, ATV trips to neighboring beaches and towns, road trip to La Fortuna, night jungle hike (guided of course), sloth and monkey encounters, fresh pipa fria, kayaking to an island and meditating with a group of your closest new friends…it’s not that I didn’t have academic accomplishments and making it through my first clinic shift without passing out – that will stick with me forever.  I’m so proud of all of that and there were times that I wasn’t sure how I was making it, but I did. But when I think of the time there it’s these things that make me smile that are most memorable. That’s what is different about CRSMT – you are part of an experience; you feel part of something bigger, something more.

What have you done since graduation?

                Upon returning home after graduation and completing the Asian Modalities course at the end of May, 2018, I took the MBLEX in July and applied for my license. This was a very straightforward process and I was licensed by the beginning of August. While waiting for my license I was hired by a local massage studio in July as the office manager and, once licensed, I started practicing there as well. For the past two years I was the office manager and therapist at two studio locations in Bend and Sunriver. I have completed a hand-full of CE (continuing education) courses and the list of things I would like to study and learn seem to be endless. Going into the major life change, it was my intention to work as a therapist and balance it by using my past experience in administration. Less than two months after returning home I was successfully employed and starting my new life in the massage therapy field. My experiences quickly revealed that my education at CRSMT set me apart from other therapists, even those that had been in the field for some time. I was complimented on my confidence, diverse skill set, and professionalism and quickly established a return clientele and supportive circle of colleagues and friends.

Any advice for people who are looking into becoming massage therapists?        

                Do your research, including information about schooling and the massage therapy field in general, talk to massage therapists about their experiences and get a massage, lots of them! Vanessa Steele at the Costa Rica School of Massage TherapyKnow what you are getting into, but also know that once you have the foundation there are so many amazing directions you can take to build a practice that serves you and your intended clients. Have, or plan to have, something that you can do to balance or complement your massage therapy career. This will allow you to take care of yourself, most importantly your body that allows you to practice, and provide a backup in the event that you are unable to physically massage. Attend CRSMT! It will be challenging, difficult, inspiring, life-changing, and worth it!

CRSMT has changed many lives. Could yours be next? Reach out today for more information on our amazing program! You won’t regret it.


The Costa Rica School of Massage Therapy is the world’s premiere study abroad program for massage therapy. We offer both a 600 hour and a 700 hour COMTA Endorsed Curriculum Massage Therapy course which satisfies the licensing requirements for massage therapy in most of the United States. Additionally we offer continuing education for massage therapists and yoga teacher training.


To learn more, please get in touch with Director of Admissions, Tammy McGee, at (720)330-4453 or [email protected]


Article Written by Margaret Dunn.