OTS in San Jose gives a more global picture of Public Health Past Review

By (Environmental Studies., Wellesley College) for

Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS): San Jose - Tropical Biology on a Changing Planet

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Yes- the experiences and friends made are invaluable. I learned that it is easy to have idealistic thoughts in the classroom, but having the tangible experiences is completely different.

Personal Information

If you took classes at multiple universities, list those universities here: Duke University
How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months
The term and year this program took place: Spring 2010

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The workload and course schedule was nowhere near that of my home institution; yet I feel that I learned as much or more over the semester. The field experiences and research practicum were invaluable, and I found the work and projects very engaging. In addition, living and working with such a small group of students was a positive experience; we got to know our colleagues and our professors very well.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Things got done but the administrators were not very personable; we only met them once in person.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

San Pedro, San Jose. The house was middle-class, my host parents were retired. Also lived at research bases and stayed at hotels. <br /><br /> Host family was nice and neighborhood safe, but treated students more as clients than as family members.

* Food:

Meals were excellent, either cooked by my host mom or research center staff. Meals at hotels and other stays were usually good. On days we had free in the city, the program provided money for us to choose where to eat.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Many memorable experiences; we had ample free time to do touristy things, as well as experience local nightlife and cultural festivities.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Professors had sincere regard for students'health and well-being; however, students are adults and are there on their own risk.

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)

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? I brought $700 for the semester. It is easy to use American dollars in many locations, and ATM cards are available for a small fee.


How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

Language skills improved from immersion and the homestay, but not based on the course. Most people on program spoke English.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

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

Select all that apply

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

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? If you're pre-med, you may not get what you expect out of it...however it opens your eyes to many other aspects of medicine and gives a more global picture of public health. Would recommend for anyone interested in public health, especially in underserved communities.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:


Course Department:
Instructor: Hector Castaneda
Instruction Language: English
Comments: It was very interesting; we learned about indigenous medicinal uses for plants and how the indigenous view of medicine affects application of western medical knowledge and ideas.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Tropical Medicine

Course Department:
Instructor: Jorge Benavides and Maria Matamoros
Instruction Language: English
Comments: It was challenging, basically a pre-med course specializing in diseases prevalent in tropical countries. The professors are a doctor and an epidimiologist, and field trips included visits to laboratories and clinics.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Research Practicum

Course Department:
Instructor: Jorge Benavides, Hector Castaneda, Maria Matamoros
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This was extremely challenging, never having done research before, to design and carry out projects and write 2 research papers. Profs were helpful in guiding us and helping us design the experiments.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Spanish Language and Culture

Course Department:
Instructor: Various
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: This course was disorganized and focused on medical Spanish rather than fundamental vocabulary and grammar. Would recommend Spanish language at college rather than through this program.
Credit Transfer Issues: