OTS Costa Rica: Packing It All In - The Busiest and the Happiest You've Ever Been Past Review

By (Biology, Grinnell 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?
I learned more about myself and about human interaction than I thought I ever could on this program. Granted I learned a lot of very interesting information about ecology, conservation, and the related economic and social issues. However, the more valuable portion of the experience for me was the process of discovering more about myself, my interests, my values, and how I interact with others.

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 workload was large but not unmanageable. The teaching was variable, but very good for the most part. I think Grinnell professors, on average, are better at teaching than the ones I encountered on the OTS program. However, the OTS faculty were very knowledgeable, friendly, and involved. The grading system seemed fair and transparent. The one negative aspect was the timing of classes - we were in class or busy in the field all day, every day, without weekends or breaks to speak of. It got tiring!!

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The OTS office in San Pedro seemed well-organized and they were very helpful in getting our visas extended.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I felt safe everywhere. I enjoyed living in dorm situations with the other students on the program. However, my homestay situation in San Jose during the language portion of the experience was less than satisfactory. My host family was rather unfriendly and I did not feel comfortable there.

* Food:

There was always enough food, and most of the time it was very good. A few eating situations along the way needed to supplement meals with more than just rice and beans, but no major complaints. They do a good job of having fresh fruit and vegetables at all meals.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The sense of community among the students on the program was excellent. We got along well and had lots of fun. It really helped to have native Costa Ricans on the program because they could show us where to eat/go out at night, which would've been difficult without them.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

We were not in malarial areas during the program, and risk of other diseases was minimal. People really did not get sick except for food poisoning once or twice.

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)


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

Any students in my program would speak Spanish with me, and the professors would speak Spanish as well. We had two native Costa Rican students in the program who were eager to practice with me. Yes, I needed to use Spanish on a daily basis when we were in a town or city, but could get by with using English only at the field stations.

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
  • Local Students
  • Host Family