Pura Vida!!! Past Review

By (BIOLOGICAL AND BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES., University of Maine at Orono) - abroad from 05/24/2014 to 08/09/2014 with

ISA Study Abroad in San José, Costa Rica

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I gained a stronger sense of independence and a new way of looking at a culture different than my own.

Review Photos

International Studies Abroad (ISA): San Jose - Spanish Language, Liberal Arts and Environmental Studies Photo International Studies Abroad (ISA): San Jose - Spanish Language, Liberal Arts and Environmental Studies Photo International Studies Abroad (ISA): San Jose - Spanish Language, Liberal Arts and Environmental Studies Photo International Studies Abroad (ISA): San Jose - Spanish Language, Liberal Arts and Environmental Studies Photo International Studies Abroad (ISA): San Jose - Spanish Language, Liberal Arts and Environmental Studies Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Spanish classes were intensive but manageable for summer terms. Tutors were available if needed. Health science courses were not as intense.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My homestay family was fantastic

* Food:

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

No special vaccines needed besides basic boosters that everyone gets as a child. Dengue and malaria can be an issue in the remote provinces and using bugspray with DEET is advised in those regions.

* Safety:

Not a lot of violent crime however theft is a big issue everywhere. Foreigners, especially women and those who are intoxicated are frequent targets. It is not advised to be out after dark with out a larger group present and even walking by yourself as a female in the middle of the day can be risky. However it was advised not to carry valuables with you and not to "act" like a foreign student when out and about. I had no personal safety issues however I knew of several students who had things stolen from them or experienced attempted robbery/saw robberies in the middle of the day. Being alert and following the advice of the study abroad program is the best way to stay safe and I would still recommend this site regardless.

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)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $80-$120/week
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Wait to buy souvenirs so you can shop around first. San Jose, the capital tends to have cheaper souvenirs and they are mass produced throughout the country. Don't go out to eat all the time, instead go to walmart or a local supermarket and buy lunch items for during the week. Limit how much you spend on going out/taxis/alcohol as this is where most money tends to be spent.


* 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

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Beginning spanish at the college 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? Speak and have conversations with your host family in Spanish. Some families know English and may try to speak it with you if you don't try to use Spanish however you won't learn as much and you won't get as much out of you study abroad program.

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? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Central location in San Jose
  • Homestay placements
  • Help with setting up excursions and weekend plans
* What could be improved?
  • More cultural activities set up by the program
  • More options for excursions included in the tuition
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Outside websites and the program website didn't really say what kind of clothing was appropriate to bring or were misinformed. While many Costa Ricans do dress nicer than Americans, it isn't necessary to bring this type of clothing with you unless it is what you normally wear or have an internship. You are a foreign student and will most likely be traveling each weekend. Bring traveling types of clothing like shorts and t-shirts. Do not exchange money at the airport, do it at a bank or even better just take out local currency from an ATM. Check with your bank to make sure you don't incur fees every time you withdraw money. Also many places you visit as a student living in Costa Rica won't accept credit cards. Many of the larger stores and hotels will in touristy places/malls but this is not a guarantee. Have local currency handy if you are traveling. Some restaurants and souvenir shops will only take cash. If you pay in USD expect to get change back in Colones. Also buying a local phone or international plan is really not necessary. I got by fine with just using wifi which is pretty widely available throughout the country. However local phone plans are cheap, they are just an unnecessary hassle you probably won't use. However there are many pay phones around just incase.

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 Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.