Costa Rica: An Enlightening Vacation for a Spanish Student Past Review

By (Chemistry and Spanish, Austin College) for

ISA Study Abroad in San José, Costa Rica

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My study abroad experience in Costa Rica was amazing. I learned a lot about the culture here in Costa Rica and Latin America, and learned a lot about communication with foreigners. After this experience I have decided I would like to go abroad again to possibly teach english, study spanish, or attend grad school. The main negative of the trip was that I was not satisfied with the improvement of my level of speaking after the trip since so many American students refused to speak spanish.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The academic experience overall was enjoyable. The workload was fairly small, the grading system was very similar to the one used by my college in the states, and the classes were taught in a similar manner to what you would expect in the states as well, although the intensive classes moved very quickly.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The accessibility and support offered were good and included things like free tutoring and an emergency contact at all hours. The administrators were native to the country and knew it fairly well. The program, however, was very large, and at times seemed slightly disorganized.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I was placed in my host family by the program. I lived with two other American students and one spanish speaking student who is attending the university to obtain a degree. The family was amazing and incredibly nice to all of the students living in the house, and they treated us as if we were part of the family. The arrangements were nice, and I did not have to buy anything to settle in. I felt safe in the house at all times.

* Food:

In Costa Rica, there are a lot of beans and rice with every meal including breakfast. Meals usually included some form of protein like beef, chicken, or pork, and usually included small amounts of a few vegetables. Salad was also provided on occasion.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Costa Rica is a stunningly beautiful country, and there were 3 included excursions with the program I was with, all of which were great experiences. We visited Arenal, Tamarindo, and Monte Verde, and in each case we stayed in very nice hotels and had discounted tour options through the program.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

No vaccines were required for the program, and any health issues were handled quickly by the program directors. San Jose is not the safest city I've stayed in by any means, but that being said, I was never robbed or injured by anyone while I was there. I knew many people who did get robbed or mugged, but the circumstances were always their own fault. I advise not to walk home alone at night, watch your things incredibly carefully on busses, the beach, and in hostels, and finally use common sense.

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)

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? I would advise to bring more money than you would want to spend because you will spend it. The travel options are endless in Costa Rica, and most students traveled nearly every weekend. Busses and hostels are cheap, but food, clothes, shoes, and alcohol are on par with prices in the U.S. and sometimes even more expensive. You will most likely go out with friends a lot as well which can eat up money quite fast if you are not careful.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Second Semester Junior Level Spanish Literature Class
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

On a daily basis I was only able to speak spanish with my host family and my teachers. Taking taxis and ordering food also required spanish or good hand gestures. Most young Costa Ricans know a little english, and my host family also spoke english well. Very few of the American students would speak spanish to each other, and most were on an intermediate or basic level of spanish which made improving speaking the language very very difficult.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

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

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Host family
  • The Latin American Culture
  • Costa Rican landscape
* What could be improved?
  • Organization between program and host university
  • Spanish speaking among students studying abroad
  • Interaction with locals
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I would recommend this program mainly to basic spanish students because culture shock was minimal and many people speak english. I would also recommend it to advanced students who want a vacation from the normal day to day life in the states while still being able to improve upon spanish a small amount.