Loved Costa Rica! Past Review

By (Environmental Studies and Political Science, Tufts University) - abroad from 08/20/2012 to 12/06/2012 with

International Center for Development Studies (ICDS): San José - Development Studies in Latin America: Interdisciplinary

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned a lot about development and sustainability from a non-US perspective. I traveled a lot and got to meet a diverse array of people. My Spanish definitely improved. I absolutely think it was worthwhile.

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The academic experience was more rigorous than I thought it would be. Some classes were much better than others, but I definitely learned a lot. I loved my Urban and Rural Sustainable Development and Central American literature class. I liked the Current Environmental Issues and Human Development classes. Sustainable Tourism was less successful.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I think the administration could have used some work. They definitely did some things really well. Pick-up and orientation were great. They handled emergencies (ex. robberies) promptly and understood levels of severity. Other things were not as good. For instance, we had a mandatory weekend trip planned during midterms. Since we are all taking the same classes (as opposed to directly enrolling in the university), they knew when our midterms were. That's just bad planning. Also, you DON'T need a Visa, but they make you get one and it costs hundreds of dollars. I think they're changing that coming up, though. So that will be good for future students. They are very friendly, and this is not at all an insult to some of the people that work there, because some of the ICDS people are great.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I loved my host family. They were wonderful. With a couple exceptions that I heard about, ICDS did a wonderful job placing people in homes.

* Food:

My host mom was a great cook and Costa Rica has great food!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

It's hard to get integrated into Costa Rican culture entirely because we took classes with English at ICDS. Now, this is not the program's fault, this is a choice you make when you decide to go on the program. It had a lot of benefits (i.e. I got to take more classes and get credit for my majors) but that was a drawback. I think this also has something to do with the fact that people can tell you're foreign by looking at you, something you'll experience in many countries. HOWEVER, host families are a great cultural experience, and ICDS will help you get involved with local activities (volunteering, sports, whatever) if you reach out and ask.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I didn't have any medical issues, so I really can't say.

* Safety:

Costa Rica (and San José) are much safer than the average Central American country. That being said, there were incidents of robberies (including one I experienced myself). We experienced no violent crime. You just need to go in groups and be careful. ICDS gives good safety tips.

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)

This is including travel. You can spend a lot more or less money than I did.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? About $100
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Make lunches from food you buy at the grocery store!


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • 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?
  • Travel
  • People
  • Classes
* What could be improved?
  • No Visa
  • Volunteering
  • More Spanish
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? The program involves schoolwork. Many people assume that you don't have to do anything while abroad, but here you do. I don't think it limited my traveling or exploring ability, you just need to be okay with it and know it before you come.