Tropical Ecology in Costa Rica: Heavy on the Biology, Not on Culture. Past Review

By (Biology, General., Carleton 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?
My cultural awareness was only lightly impacted, but my excitement for biology increased ten-fold.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The professors were excellent. We learned a lot and were challenged academically, but it was not overwhelming.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

* Food:

Rice and beans for every meal, but Salsa Lizano made it bearable.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Healthcare in Costa Rica is just as good as that in the United States, and access was not a problem. On my program one guy broke his nose and one girl got stomach parasites and both experiences no problems with healthcare. Safety in San Jose is a bit of an issue. We took public buses during the day to get to and from class, but at night we only took taxis. Taking a few precautions like these can make your stay in San Jose a lot more 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)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? At the field research stations the only places to buy things are at the small gift shops, if there are even gift shops, so I spent less than $10 a week on snacks and postcards. However, in San Jose we went out to lunch in between Spanish classes and went out to bars at night and ended up spending a lot of money; probably around $75 a week. Midterm break was also very expensive. I went to a hostel in Panama (which is a LOT cheaper than Costa Rica) and spent over $300 in one week.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? With at least $500 and frugal spending you should be fine.


* 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? Spanish 204
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

The majority of the program was in English, but there was a three week homestay in the middle with intensive Spanish classes seven hours a day, four days a week. These three weeks improved my Spanish language skills much more than I thought they would.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

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

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • International Students
  • Local Students
  • Host Family
* 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 want to see amazing nature, this program is for you.