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Living in Costa Rica

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Block 1  (5 Weeks):

Study in San Jose and the Central Valley. Students live in San Jose with Costa Rican families, and study Spanish for four hours daily. In afternoon sessions, students learn about different topics in social and natural sciences through related readings, guest speakers, and field trips, as well as fieldwork on urban issues. One week in Block I is spent in Nicaragua or Panama where students are able to see first hand the current economic and political conditions in Nicaragua or Panama, and are challenged to compare and contrast its reality with neighboring Costa Rica.


Block 2  (4 Weeks):

Students carry out brief social and ecological research projects while living and traveling together primarily in rural communities. A short stop over in San Jose is included to allow students to conduct research for their independent study projects, prepare written reports, and lead group discussions. In Block II, students visit 3 to 4 different areas within Costa Rica where they learn about a diversity of ecological zones and systems of regional development.

Some of these destinations may include the wet tropics in the Atlantic Lowlands, the Cloud Forest in the Talamanca mountain ranges, the tropical dry region in the Guanacaste province, and the Northern zone. Topics and field sites vary from semester to semester in response to new study opportunities and environmental conditions. Topics studied in the Field Program include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • The roots of underdevelopment, particularly Costa Rica’s dependency on transnational companies and First World governments
    • Natural and managed ecosystem dynamics, with emphasis on the origin and maintenance of biodiversity
    • The tools for measuring health of ecosystems via floral and fauna indicator species
    • The environmental and economic implications of plantation agriculture, small-scale farming, ecotourism, bioprospecting, and national park management
    • The impact of export-oriented development on family structure, class hierarchy, and racial divisions
    • Strategies for conserving natural resources (e.g. organic agriculture, agro-forestry and sustainable extraction of timber and other products from forests), facilitating community organization (e.g. women’s groups, farmers’ cooperatives) and promoting local control over systems of production (e.g. home gardens, marketing cooperatives)

Block 3  (5 Weeks):

After three weeks traveling around Costa Rica, students: 

  • Conduct in-depth research in one of the previously visited field sites.
  • Develop projects with practical value for host communities or organizations, in topics related to social or natural sciences.
  • Return to ICADS to complete written work and oral presentations.
  • Reentry workshop.



ICADS recommends 15 credits for the Field Program, broken down as:

    • 3 Credits Spanish
    • 3 Credits ECON/SOC 421 Latin American Perspectives on Justice and Sustainable Development
    • 3 Credits Ecology of Managed and Natural Ecosystems
    • 6 Credits Independent Research
    • Keep in mind that the final number of credits granted is up to the university. Be sure to check with your university if you have questions about credits


Start Dates

Fall Semester
Sep 06 2021 to Dec 10 2021

Spring 2022
Jan 24 2022 to Apr 29 2022


14 weeks

Financial & Credit

Deposit: 500

Tuition & Fees: 12990

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