Costa Rica is a great place to study Past Review

By (International Studies, Spanish, Loyola University Chicago) for

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Costa Rica is an amazing country, as I'm sure most people know or can infer. But one major thing that I love about Costa Rica is that almost every Tico really is as nice as they seem. Strangers on the street are happy to help if they can, people will strike up a conversation for no reason other than that they think you look nice/interesting/confused/foreign/sad. Even if there's a little disorganization in the program, it's still TOTALLY worth it to study here.

Personal Information

If you took classes at multiple universities, list those universities here: Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica
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 classes were ok, not very much homework. They were not as challenging as I had hoped. BUT, the family that I lived with provided me with a bunch of additional "education" about Costa Rica in general, about Spanish language, and about cultural mores in Latin America.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

One thing about Costa Rica is that things are not nearly as regimented/structured as they are in the US (most Ticos will agree). So any student going into the program should just be prepared for things to be a little disorganized. If you're not good with abrupt changes or not knowing exactly what will happen from moment to moment, this is probably not the program for you.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived with an amazing host family. I really could not have asked for a better family to live with. They are wonderful people (I have gone back to visit them 3 times since the program ended) and they are very patient with people who are learning Spanish. They lived in what could be described as a suburb of the town where the university was. It wasn't too far, but it was far enough that getting around after the buses stopped running was a little complicated. But the house was nice and the neighborhood was safe and everyone in the neighborhood was very friendly.

* Food:

My host mom was a wonderful cook, which was great for me (some people were not so lucky). I didn't eat anything at home or out at a restaurant that I didn't like. If you are a vegetarian/vegan or an extremely picky eater, you may have a harder time finding something you'll like.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

My host family has a son who is my age and he took me out with his friends. He took me to a performance of one of the best Costa Rican music groups (called Malpais). There's plenty of nightlife in Heredia and it's pretty close to San Jose so you can go into the city and see things if you want to.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Heredia is safe. Use your common sense and you'll be fine. The one difference from the US to be aware of is that cars have the right of way in Costa Rica, NOT people. Don't step into the street until you're sure cars are not coming at you.

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?

The only reason I don't give it the highest marks is because of the class I mentioned before. The family I lived with was wonderful and they almost never spoke English to me (even though, as I found out later, 2 of the kids spoke really good English). They helped me get more comfortable speaking Spanish and they taught me a lot about the language. One problem was that when all of the USAC people got together, we ended up speaking English the whole time we were together. I guess that's inevitable though.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Make sure you ask a lot of questions before you leave, that way you'll have fewer surprises.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Advanced Spanish II

Course Department:
Instruction Language: Spanish
Comments: This was the course that disappointed me. Since it was called "Advanced Spanish" I was hoping that it would be challenging and that I would learn a lot. Unfortunately, that was not the case. It was almost like taking Spanish for beginners. The only mildly challenging part of this class was that we had to read a novel by a Costa Rican author and analyze it. I would say that all of the problems were because of the teacher, though, not the program.
Credit Transfer Issues: Loyola usually does courses in 3-credit increments. The USAC classes were divided up a little differently which made it a little confusing when I got home. There wasn't anything that couldn't be solved but it took some extra effort to get my transcript in order before I graduated.