Pura Vida! Past Review

By (Agronomy/Spanish, South Dakota State University) for

ISA Study Abroad in San José, Costa Rica

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My experience was definitely worthwhile. I fell in love with the Spanish language all over again, became more relaxed and more family oriented, and more confident in myself.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

For the advanced spanish grammar course, the workload was challenging but attainable, and the grading was fair. I felt that the grading was very easy in the elective courses for the amount and type of work required;I felt that because it was an "international student" class, the standards were somewhat lower.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

ISA was very easily accessible,very supportive, and always eager to help students with anything. The amount of American/"International" students in the program compared to the number of Costa Rican students at the University was disappointing, as about 1/5 of the student population was American students. However, ISA did a great job and all of my expectations of ISA itself were met.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My host family was amazing. I lived with a young family with one child and 5 other American girls, and at first I was very concerned that too much English would be spoken, however upon the insistence of the family, we spoke almost Spanish almost 100% of the time. I feel that a smaller number of English speakers in a house would have improved my English even more, however this has no impact on how I feel about my host family. They were truly welcoming and supportive.

* Food:

I suggest La Musa Confusa, Tacos Mary, or any of the outdoor markets!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Toros a la Tica was going on while I was in San Jose. My host dad and an American student ran with the bulls. I would highly suggest going! My host family also took us to a fútbol game between Cartago and Limon, I would also highly suggest going to a game!!

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I had no safety related incidences in San Jose, although a roommate of mine had to go to the medical clinic while away for the weekend in Jaco for food poisoning. To my knowledge ISA was not involved at all. The local healthcare system was much different, as it is public healthcare--only one person was allowed to accompany my sick friend into the clinic, and only cash was accepted. I did not need any special vaccines for COsta Rica because I was not located in the southern region which does have a few cases of malaria yearly.

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)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

In my homestay, we always spoke Spanish, and all of my courses were taught in Spanish. However, many of the international students took classes in English or did not take the language component seriously and spoke mainly English. I believe that the majority of the improvement in my language skills came not from the program itself but from forcing myself to speak Spanish in day-to-day interactions and with my host family.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Americans

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • ISA provided a great safety net
* What could be improved?
  • More inclusion of cultural events
  • Smaller number of American students in the University
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? This program is great for a student hoping to improve their Spanish language skills and also have an opportunity to study marine biology, computer science, film, literature, animation and design or art. An outgoing student who loves to be social yet doesn't require a very large student body to do so would fit in very well.