more and less than what I expected Past Review

By (construction managment, California State University - Chico) for

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned Spanish. I learned to dance Salsa. I became a better photographer and took some of the most stunning photos ever. I saw some amazing animals, hiked through the rainforests, and rafted though the rivers. Overall, the pros far outweighed the cons, but if I were to have done it again, I would have gone somewhere else.

Review Photos

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

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.

My Spanish-language classes were the most difficult thing I have ever taken in my 10 years of college, but that didn't stop them from being great. My instructor was very helpful, throughout and patient. She took the time to help each and every one of here students and graded fairly. My cooking class was fun, though we didn't really cook Costa Rican food, just food. My dance class was meh, fun enough, though I never looked forward to it.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The program staff was really helpful and arranged many activities for the students. I marked this field down from 5 to 3 stars because I feel that the $500 field-trip that they supply wasn't worth the money. If you plan your own trip with friends you can do a trip for 3x as long for the same cost. Also, the program insisted on getting a $500 student VISA that you actually didn't need if you made sure to leave the country every 90 days (which I was planning on doing anyway).

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

my neighborhood was safe. I was a 20 minute or $0.50 bus ride from school. My house was quiet and clean. Although I didn't not get along with my host family, I never really connected with them either. They didn't speak any English and I didn't speak any Spanish and so for the first three months of my four month stay, I was unable to communicate with them short of using Google Translate. I was unsatisfied with the food (see the below category) and had no control over what I ate though I also never felt like I was allowed to make my own food or food-suggestions either Also, I had no privacy as my host mom would clean my room, move my belongings and randomly walk into my room without warning (which had the only mirror in the house) to do her makeup. As such, I never really felt home when I was at home.

* Food:

don't go to Costa Rica for the food. It is bland. You will eat unseasoned rice and beans 2 times per day every day. the only cheese they have is American, the only lunch-meat they have is bologna, the only beer they have are three varieties of overpriced, and unremarkable pilsner. Oh yes, and they don't season anything. Imagine Mexican without the variety or the spices; I know you can't, but try.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I had a fantastic time traveling. I loved the rainforests, volcanoes, and the beaches. It seemed that I went traveling every weekend and never went to a place that I didn't like. I went zip-lining twice, though the best time was X-tremo in Monteverde. I went white-water rafting on the Rio Pacuare, something that you HAVE TO DO. I went boogie boarding on some the hugest waves ever in Puerto Viejo. And I had the opportunity traveled all around central America and loved it all, though El Salvador and Nicaragua were my favorites. Costa Rica doesn't have a ton of culture. They are very American in their attitudes and what culture they had originally has been replaced by tourism.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

We had a few girls get robbed at gunpoint in San Jose (the capital city) and were warned against going out alone at night. Personally I never had any trouble and traveled by myself all the time.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No


* 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?

My host family, most stores, restaurants, hostels, taxi drivers. On the beaches, people expected you to speak English, but inland it was all Spanish all the time.

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

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? Costa Rica is more like America than I had expected. I had a wonderful time, but if I were to do it again, I would have gone somewhere a bit more foreign. Also, Costa Rica is way more expensive than anyone in my group was prepared for. Depending on what you buy, expect to pay roughly the same prices for things as you would here in the states. The only reason I was able to live on $35 a week was because didn't go out to the bars but like 6 times and at all my meals at home. Also keep in mind that I spent about $2000 in (optional) travel but it was totally worth it. Go for the adventure, the beaches, the rainforest, the language and the beauty, but don't go for the culture, the food, or because you expect it to be cheap.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Spanish 1 - 4

Course Department: 100-200
Instructor: Lilia
Instruction Language: English/Spanish
Comments: Taking 4 Spanish classes at once was hardest think I have ever done, but it was also a great experience and alot of fun. My teacher was very helpful and stayed late everyday to help me keep up with the class. Be warned, I spent 4 or 5 hours every day doing homework.
Credit Transfer Issues: N/A


To expound upon the one-star Safety and health rating: The doctors at the student health center at the Universidad Nacional were absolutely terrible. This is a public forum, so I am not going to go into details, but let me just say that they it wasn't a good experience.

Caleb_8489 October 04, 2011


Caleb_8489 October 04, 2011