This trip is too good to put in a line - Go see Costa Rica, do this program Past Review

By (Biochemistry and Nutritional Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin) - abroad from 06/14/2013 to 08/14/2013 with

CIEE: Monteverde - Summer Tropical Ecology and Conservation

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned to be open, to go travel, love unconditionally, and learned that money doesn't make you happy in the end. This was the best decision I have ever made.

Review Photos

CIEE: Monteverde - Summer Tropical Ecology and Conservation Photo CIEE: Monteverde - Summer Tropical Ecology and Conservation Photo CIEE: Monteverde - Summer Tropical Ecology and Conservation Photo CIEE: Monteverde - Summer Tropical Ecology and Conservation Photo CIEE: Monteverde - Summer Tropical Ecology and Conservation Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

This is a rigorous program no doubt about it, but it's fun and well worth it. It is very fast paced and covers a lot of material. I learned so much about Costa Rica, their culture, the tropics, and different varieties of forests on this trip. We were really exposed to an incredible number of new and cool things in a variety of different areas/ecosystems all over the country; gaining appreciation for ecology, conservation, and culture all along the way. In the program you take 10 credit hours, all of them awesome and well worth the work. We took a Spanish course taught by a Spanish immersion school near where we stayed - very small classes effectively teach and/or help improve Spanish speaking abilities. The same school sets students up with their host families, with whom they stay for a duration of the program. The families and the people in general of Monteverde are incredible and good hearted. This program was the type of learning where you learned about the material literally in front of you. Learning is done not of from a textbook often, rather in a variety of different Costa Rican rain forests, each being uniquely incredible but only if your observant (remember/record what you see) and you listen to the instructors, who are very awesome and knowledgeable. Be ready to work if you go on this program and be ready to have an incredible time during, likely, the most fun summer of your life. You won't regret it if you go and commit 100% to it, they always have great resources to help you have an awesome time. This is what you want if you want to go abroad for a tropical ecology/conservation program, or do if you want to do as I did and go to see the Costa Rican rain forests for my first time abroad – the trip was incredible, my favorite summer ever. Highly recommended.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The CIEE staff of Monteverde are phenomenal. They are some of the best people and now some of my dear friends.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The Biology Station (Estación Biológica Monteverde) is a very cool rainforest research station. It's very nice and well kept, it doesn't have all the luxuries, but it has everything you need. You will camp on this trip, in tents, other research stations, or, weather/location dependent, I would sometimes get to sleep in my hammock. The home stay families are great, just be sure to put yourself out there, even if it's difficult at first!

* Food:

I had an awesome experience with Costa Rican food and coffee. Be prepared to eat lots of rice and beans (can be multiple times a day, most days a week, often at least once a day). I loved some of the ways I learned to prepare rice and beans, they are delicious. All the food at the station is cooked by awesome cooks.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I fail to give this 5 stars because this was not a cultural integration program unfortunately. I can communicate, not perfectly, in spanish and I was able to bond with locals, make many new friends, and learn about Costa Rican customs and traditions - but I had to put myself out there, out of my comfort zone at times, more times than not, it paid off. Also it's easier to speak and go out with your fellow CIEE students, whom with you forge incredible bonds.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Luckily I had no health problems to speak of while in Costa Rica. The program always has you as priority number 1 (not kidding, they are awesome). Learn about the Costa Rican healthcare system, and compare it to your countries.

* Safety:

Monteverde is a super safe place where I feel comfortable traveling around alone at night. San Jose has some areas that I was not comfortable in, but overall it's a fine city.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

I bought a good amount of souvenirs and supplies while I was over there. It is fairly easy to live cheaply though when needed.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? ~$20-70/week
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Leave consumerism at home.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

All biology/ecology/conservation/research is taught in english. On my program it was 19 students from 19 different US schools and much of the time we were together, conversing in english - because it's just easier to do. The Spanish immersion school encourages 100% Spanish, but you don't take the class enough to dramatically improve speaking skills unless you practice it. I spoke in almost entirely Spanish for the 18 days in the home stay program, I loved talking with my homestay family.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? 15 hours college Spanish
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Learn to speak it. Knowing rules and conjugations is great, but you need to learn to understand (which takes time and lots of practice) and learn how to communicate in Spanish.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 10+

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Everything
* What could be improved?
  • Very little, the program title accurately describes the program
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Monteverde is cold even in the summer, bring a good jacket. It is NOT a Spanish immersion program, you can improve your spanish, don't expect to go into it speaking little and come out speaking a lot. Be open.