Mixed Feelings about ISA: San Jose, Costa Rica Past Review

By (Environmental Studies., Austin College) for

ISA Study Abroad in San José, Costa Rica

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My experience changed my perspective on globalization, and gave me confidence in my artistic abilities.

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.

I took four electives. Two of my classes had very little classwork and could be considered "blow off classes". They were much worse-taught than any class i've had from my home university. The other two were relatively involved and well-taught.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The program was very good at managing details and making sure they knew where each student was on the weekends. The program was very large. I did not enjoy many elements of the planned/pre-paid excursions; partially because of the nuances of traveling in such a large group. I also feel like my money could have been saved or spent on better things than staying at the lavish and un-ecological hotels we went to.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

* Food:

My host mother was very accommodating. She shopped at Wal Mart, which was strange/disappointing, and sometimes I felt like the tomatoes or fruit wasn't of the best possible quality as a result. I would have liked to eat the produce from the local farmers markets, but I wasn't comfortable suggesting she change her spending for me.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I did not like how we always went to lavish resorts for the program's pre-paid excursions, but I did like the locations themselves. The included tours were sometimes underwhelming. THE TRIP TO PANAMA IS NOT INCLUDED IN YOUR PROGRAM FEE, AND YOU COULD SAVE ~$200 IF YOU GO ON YOUR OWN RATHER THAN WITH ISA/"TICO TOURS"

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

It was relatively safe. I risked walking home alone at night sometimes, and didn't have any trouble. That said, some people from my university did get mugged or robbed in nearby streets or on buses. The pharmacies are great!! you don't need a prescription for basic cold antibiotics. I had not need to go to the doctor.

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)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? I was lucky in that my host mother didn't mind if we ate lunch at home, however we were not generally allowed to use the stove or oven. I typically ate tostadas or tortillas with refried black beans, fresh avocado or guacamole, sometimes tomatoes, and chipotle tobasco. There were also small fruit and vegetable tiendas nearby which were good deals. Usually I spent ~$30 a week on food, weekends included
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Some grocery stores are much more expensive than others. Look around!


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Beginners II
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

I practiced Spanish the most with my host mother. In my daily interactions, many/most people spoke English. On the beaches, most of the local people try to speak to you in English.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

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

Select all that apply

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

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Homestay
  • Veritas University
* What could be improved?
  • Re-budget/change excursions
  • Trip to Panama could be included in the program, considering it is mandatory to renew your visa after 90 days
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? This program was good in that it was not incredibly overwhelming/exhausting. It was comfortable, exotic, relatively safe and cheap. Veritas has a diverse selection of classes. My biggest let down was that the Photography electives for international students were completely shut off from the Photography department at the school. It sucked. If you're a photographer interested in this school/program, take the courses with Costa Ricans or you are pretty much wasting your time/experience. If you are trying to become fluent in Spanish, I would recommend going to a smaller program in a more isolated location.