Costa Rica: ¡Pura Vida! Past Review

By (Psychology & Spanish, SUNY - College at Geneseo) for

SUNY Geneseo: Heredia - Centro de Estudios Hispánicos de la Universidad Nacional

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
It was an unforgettable, fantastic and at times challenging experience.

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.

In general every aspect of the school was less intense than SUNY Geneseo. The workload was much lighter. Students handed in work inconsistent with MLA style even when teachers asked for it specifically, and didn't face consequences. Many classes featured discussions that were not structured but jumped from topic to topic (and anecdotes) in an unorganized manner that made it extremely difficult to follow (especially in Spanish). (I am filling this out before receiving final grades, but so far the grades seem fair).

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

-Program size of PIE = Perfect (glad to be separate from ISEP or USAC) - Some staff was wonderful and very helpful (Paula) others were competent but we had trouble trusting that things would be accomplished when she said (Laura). Orientation week was informative but some information was unnecessary and some was lacking (e.g. did not need to go to the police station, would have liked a better tour of the town with bus stops, post office, etc.) Considering I had heard the program was unorganized my expectations were met or perhaps exceeded. I felt that the staff did care about my well-being and adjustment to the country. I sometimes felt like they were withholding information (not maliciously) so as not to overwhelm us, or maybe because they thought we couldn't handle it. For example, it would have been very helpful to receive soemthing along the lines of "You will be going on one overnight trip, a day trip in march, a final reunion at the end of the semester. Plan accordingly."

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

- The housing situation was mostly wonderful. - The neighborhood of Santo Domingo felt very safe - The house I lived in was beautiful, and very clean. The food was good. - The host family treated me as a guest and I never felt quite like a member of the family. Although I asked they didn't correct my spanish.

* Food:

My family was very receptive to my food preferences. They usually fed way too much.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

- Orientation at Sarapiquí was fun. Tour of San Jose was fun. - I enjoyed learning about religion during Semana Santa, eating the traditional foods, watching the programs on tv, etc. - Most of the social experiences happened outside of the program. I'm not sure how to remedy this issue, but most exchange students only hang out with other English speakers, and speak only english so they are not taking advantage of the country.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Heredia is pretty safe, but I wouldn't walk around alone at night. San Jose is dangerous and I tried not to go there. One student was robbed at her front door, so always be aware of your surroundings and guard your bags. I didn't have a need for health services. I needed a typhoid vaccine before coming, and I opted not to do the Malaria pills.

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? Weekend trips cost about $130. Weekday expenses were minimal, maybe $10. There were a lot of places to go shopping, so if you like that bring more.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? - My class materials added up, we had to buy all our own supplies and can't really take them home on the plane (e.g. box cutter for art class) - Carry Costa Rican colones and american dollars because sometimes it is cheaper to pay in dollars in touristy places. - Mailing packages is very expensive. Avoid it if you can. -


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? 300 level
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

I practiced Spanish in classes, with *some* of my fellow exchange students, local students, and my family. Yes I absolutely had to use the language everyday. Some people spoke english (it's mandatory in schools) but not at a really good conversational level so when speaking with natives it was always in Spanish.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Choose the program if you are willing to relax a bit, enjoy the wonderful countryside, live with a family and practice Spanish everyday.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Temas de Literatura Española

Course Department: LLG 4730
Instructor: Jorge Ramirez Caro
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: This class provided an in-depth look at many plays from Spain. The syllabus made sense, and the plays were interesting but I didn't enjoy the class. The professor did not teach about literary/dramatic criticism but expected us to include it in our essay. He was flexible with working with our exchange arrangement, and didn't make us feel stupid in class, but he sometimes got distracted and went off on tangents. He was not great at explaining concepts, and many of the quiz questions were subjective.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Género y Diversidad Cultural

Course Department: HIG 4360
Instructor: Leda Marenco
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: This class had interesting topics (gender and cultural diversity) but often had discussions that were unfocused. The professor didn't make an effort to provide class readings it seemed. She also arrived at least 15 minutes late to each class. She responded to emails but late, so often the question was no longer relevant. She seemed to think foreigners were stupid and didn't allow time for us to answer questions, and didn't phrase questions in a way that was easy to respond to.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:


Course Department: EPI 752
Instructor: Alexandra Santana
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: This course (for foreigners) was fantastic. I learned a lot not only abotu spanish grammer but also Costa Rican Culture.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Intrudiction a la Técnica de Fibras

Course Department: ACA 483
Instructor: Lilly M. Villalobos
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: The art class I took allowed for a lot of creativity but instructions were almost always unclear or contradictory. We were asked to buy a lot of materiales not listed on the syllabous. The exchange students received different instructions from the rest of the class so it was hard to ask for clarification. The teacher was helpful, but spread over many students we only had the chance to talk to her maybe 4 times each class. There was a LOT of free time where we could not move on to other stages of the project due to this issue.
Credit Transfer Issues: