Studying Spanish in Costa Rica! Past Review

By (Environmental Studies., Truman State University) - abroad from 08/04/2014 to 12/19/2014 with

College Consortium for International Studies (CCIS): San Jose - Universidad Veritas

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Definitely a worthwhile experience. Actually it changed my life. I am confident in my spanish now and use it every chance I get. I can understand most Spanish when I hear it now. This also helped shape my future goals ( huge for me since I was quite directionless before the experience.) This was really opened my mind to all the possibilities in the world and in my life, and helped me realize that anything really is possible. The only thing that can hold you back is you. If you want it, you can have it. Just put in the effort and you will reap the rewards. I plan to travel and teach English as a second language in the future. A goal I had always thought I couldn't do, for my own fears or traveling alone and leaving my hometown, but now I realize what I am truly capable of and I won't hold myself back anymore.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

There was only one class that I felt was too difficult, and this was only because the professor did not want to help me when I needed it most. Thus, I received my first C in college. Still passing though!

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Most of the time people were there to answer questions. VERITAS is a fairly small private university with only a total of about 1,500 students attending. All the staff was very friendly and they all new my name in no time at all! But, maybe that says more about me than them..

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I absolutely loved my host family. They were so caring and treated me as if I was one of their own. The house was very clean as almost everyone seems to have a maid/employee. Anytime there was a bug, they would spray. One time I was really missing home (and admittedly crying in my room), so my "mama tica" brought me tea and gave me chocolate as we talked for hours so I wouldn't feel so alone. My only complaint would be of the other international students who also lived with us. As there were 4 other girls in the house, drama seemed to surface often. I should also mention that the home stays do not normally have so many students. Most only have one. So my situation was a little different.

* Food:

My host mom was an amazing cook who had taken many culinary classes in her lifetime. Meals were scheduled (breakfast and dinner included). Sometimes they would even offer us to join them for lunch. She allowed us to use the kitchen to prepare our own food as well. She was also very accommodating if I was ever late or had to eat early. Just be courteous and give an advance notice so she doesn't waste food.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Costa Rica has a very diverse culture, with ancestors from every continent. This made it hard for me to tell who actually lived there and who was a tourist, but I kind of made a game of trying to spot the "ticos" (which is what they call the locals. This was my first time living in a city, and my first time visiting the oceans and volcanoes. The culture is different everywhere you go in the country with the exception that everywhere the people are very welcoming and ready to hear about your travels. I hardly ran into unpleasant people, but in the city I would say is where they usually hang out.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I gave it a middle rating because I never used the healthcare.

* Safety:

I carried pepper spray with me everywhere. I am a white blonde girl who really stood out. Be prepared to be honked at by nearly every care that passes and receive a lot of unwanted gazes. It is best to not make eye contact with people who make you feel uncomfortable but to always be aware of everyone around you. A few students were mugged by men on motorcycles. It is easy to see peoples intentions though. When a car passed by I would always turn my head towards them so they know I am alert. Do not carry around valuables. Do not text as you walk. It is best to just be alert and prepared. It may seem a little paranoid, but I did not have a single problem in the 5 months I was in Central America. With the exception of one scam artist. A tip about them? Look up the business first, ask for a business card or a managers number if they do not have a kiosk or building they are working from. In any situation, the best advice is to follow your gut. If it doesn't feel right, then get out ASAP. But never forget to enjoy yourself and get out of your comfort zone. It sounds like a hard balance, but after the first week or so you will get the hang of it.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No


* 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)

Food and travel are very cheap in Costa Rica, unless you go through a travel agency (which I would recommend until you are comfortable on your own.) I easily budgeted $100 per week but the problems came when I wanted to buy souvenirs, clothes, or anything else that would be imported. Why? Because Costa Rica has high import taxes and does not manufacture much of their own goods, thus most material goods are about twice as much as they would be in the USA. My advice is to buy local coffee or chocolate for souvenirs.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Around $80 to $150 per week
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? When tourist season is dying down is the best time to buy souvenirs and travel. Everything is discounted at that time. Ask around to find out when that is. Also, never shop at souvenir shops, go to the artisan markets where you can haggle the prices (buying in bulk, asking for a discount, or just being friendly, they love when you speak the local language!) When buying food, go to the farmers markets. Always price check because sometimes stores will have better deals.


* 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

The professors were very encouraging and helpful, but outside of the classroom it is up to you. My advice is to seek out others who are driven to learn the language because the mass majority of students practically refuse to talk in Spanish when the professors aren't around. Also, my host family was GREAT to practice with. They always were ready to talk and encouraged me too. Finding local friends is also a great idea, but beware of those who only want to hang out to practice their english.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Intermediate 2
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? Make local friends, hang out where the locals do (not the touristy places). I loved to just go to the stores to talk with the workers, it felt like a safe environment to hang out and talk for a long time. Be persistent! Learning a new language is up to you, if you don't work at it, it won't happen. No matter how many classes you take. Try watching TV, listening to music, READ (newspaper, books, websites). Start a word journal, every new word you learn, write it down, look over the words before you go to bed each night. Talk with your host family.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Hostel
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

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

Select all that apply

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Host family
  • Culture
  • Diverse wildlife/ experiences/ opportunities
* What could be improved?
  • Integration with local students
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Amount of language immersion
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had read more about how people dress before I went. I was ill-prepared for the diverse climates in Costa Rica and the variety of cultures within the country. Also, I wish I had tuned out everyone telling me to be so careful he whole time. I would have had a richer experience if I had pushed my boundaries more. The best way to grow is to get out of your comfort-zone, challenge yourself.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Español Avanzado 2

Course Department: Español
Instructor: Alexandra
Instruction Language: Español
Comments: The professor seemed ill-tempered, which didn't mesh well with my overly curious and skeptical mindset. I need to have a reason and good explanation to really grasp material and she was unwilling to take the time to give me that. The class was small so it wasn't a matter for individual attention. I would tell her I am having trouble but she would dismiss my comment and proceed forward. I even tried talking with her after class, but she refused as she preferred to meet with the other professors for coffee instead. All my classes were challenging, but usually the professors were willing to give me some extra instruction when I was struggling or at least provide an extra resource to teach myself.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Redacción Avanzado

Course Department: Español
Instructor: Soledad
Instruction Language: Español
Comments: I really loved this class. We dove deeper into grammatical concepts and examined their uses. Then later we would right essays in spanish to practice these different techniques. We examined the use of the language to greatly improve proficiency (ex. when to use scared versus terrified). This was my last class of the semester, but definitely my favorite. I really love writing and studying the significance of a language because then you can get an insight into the language, culture and even psyche of the people who speak it.
Credit Transfer Issues: