Living in Costa Rica is unforgettable. Past Review

By (International Business - Marketing, University of Arkansas - Fayetteville) - abroad from 01/12/2013 to 04/27/2013 with

ISA Study Abroad in San José, Costa Rica

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
It was completely worthwhile. I realized early on that the most important part of studying abroad is to open yourself up to new ideas and ways of life, and to immerse yourself in a completely different culture than you're used to. There is so much to be gained by realizing that your way of life is not the ONLY way of life there is, and when you allow yourself to open your mind, it can be a frightening yet rewarding experience. My language and communication skills improved immensely, my ability to adapt and be flexible in situations improved, as well as my understanding of different cultural norms.

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 classes weren't extremely tough. There wasn't quite the same level of expectations that my professors at my home university usually have.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The on-site administration were wonderful! I loved getting to know them and they were very easy to work with, which was a real blessing. They helped me get my classes sorted on the first day and even later the first week when I needed to switch things around. They were very accommodating.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I stayed in a host home which I would recommend to everyone. It was an incredible experience getting to live in the home of a local family. My spanish improved significantly by talking with them, watching the news with them, living life with them, etc. I was very comfortable in the home and it ended up feeling like "my" home and "my" room. The family was also wonderful! Costa Ricans have a way of making everyone feeling welcome and at home!

* Food:

The food is amazing, so long as you like rice and beans, which are pretty much a staple for every meal. I loved it! We always had a balanced meal. Fruit, bread, an egg, cereal in the mornings, lunch on campus, and then meat, beans, rice, salad, etc for dinner! It was great!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

It was interesting to realize that there are some aspects of Costa Rican culture that are very americanized, however, they also have their own distinct culture. Most notably in my opinion, the "coffee culture." I felt well integrated into the culture because I opened myself up and allowed myself to embrace it. It's a slower pace of life in Costa Rica, one focused more on building and maintaining relationships rather than finishing jobs as fast as possible.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I did not have any issues with health problems but when I had a general need, pharmacies and doctors were readily available and affordable. I heard from others that trips to the emergency room and clinic were quick and efficient, meaning they didn't have to wait around forever and were seen by the doctor quickly (which is way different compared to the States).

* Safety:

Never once in my host city (or any other city in Costa Rica) did I feel particularly unsafe. This is mainly because I was smart. That's the key. Don't travel alone, don't walk alone after dark, don't go out with people you don't know and trust. It's very simple when it comes to safety-be smart and you'll be fine. I found this to be the case in Costa Rica. (I was actually told several times that it is the safest Latin American country and I would have to agree. I felt safe.)

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)

Breakfast and dinner were included in my program and I could get by on less than 10 dollars a day when it came to buying lunch, taking the bus and getting a snack. I found affordable ways to live in Costa Rica however it would have been nice to know that Costa Rica is the most expensive Latin American country going into the program.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $70-100 (not including weekend trips)
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Buy in bulk and share! You can buy a loaf of bread and meat and condiments for affordable prices if you all pitch it. Also-don't be afraid to search around for different sodas (small restaurants) and other places close to where you live. My group found a pizza place that served fresh huge slices of pizza and calzones for $6 or less and the meal included a drink. It was very affordable. You just have to look around!


* 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

We were always encouraged to speak spanish, there were reminders around the international office as well as in our host homes.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? A 3000 level class (Junior level)
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? If you have a roommate-practice with them!! Also, when you travel around, always try to use spanish first, even if someone speaks to you in english. Locals are usually impressed/excited when you speak their native language and are happy to speak it with you.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • 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?
  • My group
  • My host family
  • The ease of traveling in and out of country
* What could be improved?
  • Class structure (more structure)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? How to say, "May I have..." when ordering food. The most common and correct and polite way is to say "Me regala..." and then say what you want. I didn't learn this phrase until my last week in Costa Rica which is silly because I had plenty of opportunities to ask people!! In all seriousness, I felt well prepared for this trip. I mentioned earlier that I wish I had known that Costa Rica is considered the most expensive Latin American country, but that wasn't too big of a factor. Nothing else stands out in my mind. If I were to give a tip to future students that are going to Costa Rica - embrace "la pura vida", the good life, because everyone lives that way down there and when you don't, it's very noticeable. Embrace it. Love it. Live it. Pura Vida.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Phonetics and Phonology

Course Department: Language
Instructor: Martiza
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: The teacher was always extremely well prepared for class. This class helped me improve my spanish by leaps and bounds.This was definitely a good class to take while being abroad because it was so applicable. I found myself practicing for the class throughout the day because the professor used lessons and examples that stuck in my head and really helped me understand and speak the language better.
Credit Transfer Issues: