Amazing cultural experience and environmental sustainability learning!! Past Review

By (Drake University) - abroad from 01/09/2018 to 04/16/2018 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 gained confidence and independence from this trip. I did so many things I never thought I would ever do and I am better for it. This trip was 100% worthwhile.

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.

API was a really great provider! They offered a lot of support resources in San José. They also planned lots of fun trips that were related to my major. The ICDS program was more rigorous than I had anticipated because I was in class from 8-4 almost every day. However, we did get Friday off which was nice for weekend travel! The class sizes were small, so I had the same students in all of my classes. The good part about this is that we really got to know the professors and they are all amazing. They are all so experienced in the environmental community.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I had to arrive in the country a day early due to flights and when I got to my hotel an API on-site director called my room to make sure everything went well and that I was safe. I did not know they were going to be doing this but it made me feel much more at ease! Also, every other week my API roommate and I had lunch with an onsite director. This was always so fun because they would pay for our lunch and just check in and see how we were doing and give us suggestions for travel!

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I liked my host family but they hosted a couple of other university students that spoke English very well so I didn't get as much exposure to Spanish as I would have liked. I loved the relationships I made with these people but wish I could have learned more Spanish, which some of that responsibility falls more on me.

* Food:

You will be eating lots of rice and beans. I didn't like rice and beans before I went but I actually ended up looking forward to my Casado dinners every night! It was rice, beans, salad, plantains, and meat. However, there are not too many other options for food. In San José, there are usually fast food stores. I would recommend Pataconerías, they are amazing little food shops, very good food.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I felt like I was as integrated as I could be as a foreign student. I did a lot of walking and traveling around the city by myself which helped me feel more integrated. The classes are very separated from local students which makes it harder to meet locals.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I never got sick when I was in Costa Rica, but some of my friends did and API and ICDS workers went to the doctors with them and were very helpful.

* Safety:

I felt very safe in the city! Like any city, you have to be smart and travel in groups. At night I went to the university bars instead of clubs downtown, they felt safer and more of a younger crowd.

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

The program was not perfect, but no program is perfect. I would still choose this again because its small numbers helped me form lasting relationships with students and professors. I learned so much in my major discipline of sustainability, things I would never have been able to learn back home.


* 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)

Breakfast and dinner were served in my host home and I was responsible for lunch during the day.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $50-$60 if i stayed in San Jose for the week; $100 if i traveled for the weekend.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? At the ICDS center, there is a student center with a kitchen so my friends and I would buy groceries to keep in the kitchen so that we didn't have to spend money every day. I would save money for travel on the weekend and stay in hostels for $10-$12 a night. Take buses everywhere because you can get a bus ticket for somewhere across the country for $5-$10.


* 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

In the beginning, they encouraged us a lot but then throughout the program, English became a fallback. I wish they would have spoken only Spanish to us so that we would just have to figure it out.

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 I
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? Sit in the common areas of your house and just listen to the conversation, even if you are not a part of it. Go to coffee shops and try to listen and understand people's conversations. Be proactive when traveling and try to ask people questions, you may mess up but people are so nice an helpful in Costa Rica.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • 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?
  • The on site director relationships
  • The field trips and excursions
  • The city festivals and activities
* What could be improved?
  • Less time in class.
  • More exposure to Spanish
  • More opportunities to meet local students
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew how hard it was going to be to learn the language. I thought I would just go and I would be able to pick up the language, but that was not that case. I wish I would have been more prepared to work harder to learn the language.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

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The Outright Urbanite
A social butterfly, you're happiest in bustling cities with hip people, and took advantage of all it had to offer. You enjoyed the nightlife, and had fun going out dancing, and socializing with friends. Fun-loving and dressed to the nines, you enjoyed discovering new restaurants, shops, cafes, and bars in your host country.