Costa Rica: PURA VIDA MAE! Past Review

By (Spanish and English, Grand Valley State University) for

USAC Costa Rica: Heredia - Spanish Language, Ecological, and Latin American Studies

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
100% worthwhile! I loved every minute of my time there. I plan to be back there in less than a year (after graduation)!

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 pretty light, but it was good because the professors wanted us to experience the culture of Costa Rica. We got to do tons of traveling so it was good that the workload was light. The teaching methods there were basically the same as any university here in the states: lecture, notes, presentations, essays, exams. There actually weren't too many differences between that university and a university here because we took classes with Americans instead of the natives (Ticos).

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

They were very organized. The only thing that lacked a little was communication (which is understandable due to the lack of internet use at home and cell phones). They did a great job taking care of us!

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

My neighborhood was fairly safe, and I was close to the university as well as other students. I didn't need to bring sheets or cookware or anything like that; it was like moving in with another family for a while. However, when I think of family, I typically think of parents with kids. I lived with a single woman (never married, no kids), and I thought that was a little strange. She was a really great lady, but it wasn't exactly what I was hoping for in regards to getting to know the 'typical family' of Costa Rica. I also stayed in hostels with other students when we traveled on trips. They are AWESOME! Super cheap. Basically, it is like staying in a cheap hotel for a night..and they are everywhere. I definitely suggest them. Also, if you or your friends are going to Heredia, Costa Rica..I suggest 'Tony's Hostel'. It is in Mercedes Sur and close to the city. They are super helpful there (and bilingual :) ). Housing was great.

* Food:

The food was delicious! La comida típica is definitely something to try. I didn't have dietary restrictions, but I know some students that did (and did so without a problem). There are tons of restaurants to explore them for sure!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I went out a lot of nights with one friend from the program a lot, and we met tons of cool people. We took a few trips and got to know a lot of new people. My entire trip was memorable, it is impossible to pick one or two out.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Throughout the program I felt 100% safe. I was always told not to go out by myself at night and to stick with other people. I tended to venture out a little more than some of my classmates, and I still felt pretty safe. There weren't many serious health issues (for example, the tap water was clean and drinkable) and only a couple students got sick (with things like colds). Overall, they took really good care of me. I did need to have my tetanus shot, typhoid shot / pills, and hep a and b vaccinations, but other than that there weren't too many requirements.

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?

All of my courses were in Spanish. They had this thing called 'Tico Friends' that we were able to practice Spanish, and the ticos were able to practice their English. It was a great time, and we were able to meet the locals and make friends with them. I used the host country language every day and became 90% fluent by the time I came home. Mostly Spanish was used, but many of the locals knew a little bit of English as well.

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

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Hostel
  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
  • Local Students

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Experience the culture. Don't stick with your friends that you go with or that you happen to make that speak English. Go out into the culture, meet new people (locals), and have a blast!