Programs by Country: Costa Rica

COSTA RICA AND NICARAGUA: Social and Environmental Sustainability in Central America (closed)

Dialogue of Civilizations | , Costa Rica

Faculty Leaders: Lori Gardinier ( and Ron Sandler (

Study Abroad Coordinator: Colleen Boyle (

Term: Summer II


  • HUSV4945 Leadership & International Program Development
  • PHIL1181 Environmental Ethics Abroad


This interdisciplinary program explores contemporary issues in social and environmental sustainability in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.  Students will examine how economic development and globalization influences the social and ecological environments.   Participants will engage in service-learning within non-profit organizations, visit agricultural and environmental programs, and refine their Spanish language skills all while living with Costa Rican families.   They will also study and analyze alternative approaches to ecosystem management, including species conservation, and agriculture, with an emphasis on the values that underlie them and the challenges that human impacts on the environment (particularly global climate change) pose to them.   Particular attention will be giving to the ethics and practices within the ecotourism industry, the role of public private partnerships, the relationship between social and environmental sustainability, and the ecological and social roles of national parks.   Using lectures, presentations, case studies, field trips, and service-learning this program will expose student to the theoretical and ethical frameworks used to explain and evaluate social and ecological systems and practices.  While in service-learning placements students will develop and apply skills and techniques for program development and implementation in the nonprofit sector.  This experiential program focuses on program evaluation techniques within nonprofits, ethics in international volunteerism/foreign nonprofit interventions, globalization and its influence on the nonprofit sector, and ethical issues in ecosystem management, biodiversity conservation, and ecological sustainability.

GUACIMO: Earth University – Sustainability in Latin America

Experiential Research, Traditional | Guacimo, Costa Rica

Study Abroad Coordinator: Colleen Boyle (

The Field Study Program in Costa Rica will be held on the campus of EARTH University in Guacimo, Costa Rica, an 8,000 acre estate 40 miles east of the capital city of San Jose.

The program is designed to give students the knowledge and skills to help organizations understand and act upon the principles of sustainability, and to gain a deeper understanding about the relationships between business, society and the environment in the Latin American context.

The first three weeks of the program will be spent at the Guacimo campus (Caribbean coast) and the fourth week at the La Flor campus (Pacific coast). The Caribbean coast has lush vegetation, mountains and white sand beaches, world-class fishing, bird watching, horseback riding and all types of water activities. The Pacific coast has first-rate beaches and is famous for its surfing, snorkeling, sailing, kayaking, and nearby wildlife refuges and national parks.

Costa Rica offers a variety of spectacular outdoor activities including breathtaking cloud forests, active volcanoes, stunning beaches, tropical nature preserves, and horseback riding. Included in the program, students will take two week-end trips: a canopy rainforest tour and a trip to the Arenal Volcano, a treat to watch, especially at night when red molten lava spurts from the volcano cone.


Experiential Research, Traditional | Monteverde, Costa Rica

Study Abroad Coordinator: Colleen Boyle (

This intensive laboratory science program offers students the opportunity to live, study, and conduct research in an ecologically diverse environment with a community of professional scientists. After an orientation in San Jose, students embark on an academic field trip exploring Costa Rica's different ecosystems, ranging from dry tropical forests to lowland rain forests. Upon returning, students are immersed in an intensive study period at the Biology Station of Monteverde. Toward the end of the program, students live with a local Costa Rican family and conduct individual research projects. Before final exams, students participate on another program-sponsored field trip.

SAN JOAQUIN DE FLORES: API – Instituto San Joaquin de Flores

Traditional | San Joaquin de Flores, Costa Rica

Study Abroad Coordinator: Colleen Boyle (

Specifically-designed for American students, the program at the Instituto San Joaquín de Flores offers advanced and superior level Spanish language courses along with a variety of electives including arts, literature, cultural studies, sociology, and environmental studies taught in Spanish. Students will have the opportunity to interact with “ticos” (as Costa Ricans refer to themselves) outside of the classroom by participating in community service opportunities and cultural activities.

Advanced-level students who seek active involvement with local community members in San Joaquín are encouraged to select the Advanced Spanish Conversation course. As part of the course, students complete 20 or more hours of community service at local schools, libraries or retirement homes. High-advanced or superior-level Spanish speakers have the option of enrolling in one class with Costa Rican students per semester for no additional fee. Students can study at the Universidad Latina, located in the nearby town of Heredia. Enrollment also allows API students to participate in sports and other activities with Costa Rican students. Subjects available include advertising, business, communications, education, law, and public relations. Students who choose to study at the Universidad Latina must submit an official high school transcript and copy of their diploma in addition to their college transcript upon applying. An additional fee per class is charged for students who take two or more classes at the Universidad Latina.

SAN JOSE: API – Multiple Universities

Traditional | San Jose, Costa Rica

Study Abroad Coordinator: Colleen Boyle (

Students attending API programs in San Jose can study at either Universidad Veritas or the University of Costa Rica.  Courses and program eligibility vary by program.

SAN JOSE: International Center for Development Studies (ICDS)

Traditional | San Jose, Costa Rica

Study Abroad Coordinator: Colleen Boyle (

Located in Costa Rica, ICDS is an applied research center which is dedicated to promoting sustainable human development. ICDS, jointly with ULatina, offers fall and spring semester programs* which include classes from an array of disciplines and topic areas related to sustainable human development, such as human rights, society and development, the environment, sustainable development, social justice and, of course, Spanish language. ICDS´ summer programs include courses relating to Spanish language and development, as well as Spanish language and the health care system in Latin America, the latter offered jointly with Hospital Clínica Bíblica, Costa Rica´s largest private hospital that is accredited by the Joint Commission International.

Equally important to class time, ICDS provides varied experiential and service-learning opportunities as a complement to its academic programs. Students in ICDS´ semester programs will take a service-learning course and participate in community work every week, complemented with reflection spaces in the classroom. Also, during the semester programs, there is an exciting field trip to Nicaragua to give students an opportunity to compare and contrast sustainable human development efforts in the two countries of the Central American region, partake in community work, and experience the local culture of Nicaragua. In addition to being immersed into Central American culture through service-learning and field trips, all students live with host families, and local Costa Rican students will also be part of the programs, providing even more contact and immersion into Costa Rican culture.