Costa Rica: not just for sloths. Past Review

By (Environmental Science, Allegheny College) for

The School for Field Studies / SFS: Costa Rica – Ecological Resilience Studies

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
yes! i think it opened a lot of doors for me and gave me a bigger international picture that my academic experience was lacking

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The workload was considerably lighter than a traditional academic setting where you are constantly swamped with papers and tests. It was a more laid-back environment but I feel that I learned a lot from it. The experience allowed me to appreciate ecosystem function and how everything interrelates. Classes were lecture style with discussions. We would even discuss issues over meals or on bus trips. The professors really got us thinking. Classes were conducted as either field classes in different regions or in our outdoor classroom. We also engaged in month long directed research projects which gave us a lot of experience working closely with the professors on a specialized topic.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The program was very helpful to me! both in my decision and in the days leading up to my departure.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

SFS has its own field stations for the program. there were 18 students at our particular field station (although there was a second SFS station in Costa Rica about 3 hours South). We lived near the small town of Guapiles aboout 1.5 hours from the capital of San Jose. The field station was about 6km from town in a secluded residential area. We had cabins on campus and access to a dining pavilion, kitchen, natural pool, basketball court, small farm (with livestock), and about 2 acres of rainforest.It was a communal living arrangement. The facility had resident cooks and a handyman (all locals).

* Food:

We ate 3 (large) meals a day plus an afternoon coffee break. All meals were provided by SFS and prepared by 3 local cooks. Food was excellent but very high in carbohydrates. Rice and beans is a staple there so if you don't like it, you better start! Also, they don't typically eat sweet foods or cereal for breakfast. A traditional breakfast is "gallo pinto" which is rice and beans served with eggs and a tortilla. If you go out to eat, especially in big cities like San Jose, you will find all kinds of food. They have traditional places but you can also find pizza and chinese. Caribbean cuisine is the best though.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

One cultural thing that I loved about Costa Rica is that the locals are always smiling and friendly. They are willing to help you out with anything and if you cant speak Spanish that well, they will either humor you or know enough English to help you out. They call themselves "ticos" because they like to add the ending "tico/a" to words to mean cute or small. ex: chicitica! (little girl) or momentica (a tiny moment). Costa Rica is also cool because it is about the size of Arkansas. You can drive from one end to the other in about 8 hours. We spent most of our time traveling and it is amazing how many different ecosystems there are! we went from lowland rainforest to mountains in under 5 hours! it is also has two distinct coasts (Caribbean and pacific). Both climate and culture differ between the two.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I never felt unsafe in my program. Any health issues were taken care of immediately. Several people from my group had some health issues and our student affairs manager (who was great!) took them to the medical center in town. We were also in a region relatively free of malaria according to the CDC website. Some people took the malaria pill but I chose not to and was fine. I did get the other vaccines recommended by the CDC. Just make sure you bring lots of bug spray and sunscreen!

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
Language acquisition improvement?

I was Spanish minor going into the program. My Spanish was proficient but I wasn't quite comfortable speaking it. Our program was in English with all American students but we took a Spanish course and had to speak Spanish with the locals. By the end of the program, my conversation skills had greatly improved. SFS even took us to English classes at the University of Costa Rica to do a language exchange with the locals.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Other
  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • the cultural exposure
  • research opportunities
  • the beaches
* What could be improved?
  • more comminity interaction
  • more organized class schedule