San José

Quick Facts


HOST INSTITUTIONSemester, Summer and Academic Year programs: International Center for Development Studies (ICDS)
LANGUAGE & ACADEMICSSemester programs are open to any Spanish level. Summer programs are open to students with at least Elementary level (1 semester of college Spanish or equivalent). Courses are taught in English, with Spanish Language courses available. Subject areas include: Community Engagement & Sustainable Development in Latin America, Social Justice, Spanish Language, Literature, Environmental Studies & Sustainability, Human Rights, Latin American Society & Culture, Healthcare in Latin America.
HOUSINGCosta Rican host families. Homestay accommodation includes 1 load of laundry per week, 2 meals a day Monday through Friday, and 3 meals a day Saturday, Sunday, and holidays.
SAMPLE EXCURSIONSGuayabo, Irazú Volcano, Orosi Valley, Central Pacific Coast, Doka Coffee Estate, Tortuguero, Nicaragua, Punta Leona, Monteverde
The City

For such a small country, Costa Rica really has a lot to brag about. It covers only 0.03 % of the globe’s surface, but it proudly shelters 6% of the existing biodiversity in the entire world. In addition, a quarter of the country’s land is protected natural territory.

Located in Central America, south of Nicaragua and north of Panama, Costa Rica is blessed with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. While the overall climate is tropical, the weather at higher elevations can can be cooler than the weather near the coast.

It is also one of the most peaceful countries on earth and has not had an army since 1949. The money saved has been invested in the Costa Rican people (known as “Ticos”), who benefit from one of the best health care systems in the world.

Costa Rica is the place to be for outdoor activities, with surfing and snorkeling to zip-lining and hiking. Thanks to beautiful beaches on both sides of the country and mountains and volcanoes in the interior, there is always something drawing you closer to the wonders of nature.

Host Institution


International Center for Development Studies (ICDS)

With a highly qualified and professional international team, ICDS offers a variety of educational programs and academic tracks. The goal is to provide international students with the opportunity to sharpen their Spanish skills, gain an understanding of Central and Latin American culture, and acquire in-depth knowledge and hands-on experience in sustainable development, environment, and social justice.

All of the classes at ICDS are interdisciplinary and highly participatory, and offer experiential learning opportunities through field trips and site visits related to your coursework. The ICDS on-site orientation consists of 1-2 days in the mountains north of San José, with workshops to help you acclimate to your new surrounding culture. The courses are taught in classroom space at the nearby Universidad Latina de Costa Rica. The area around the Universidad Latina de Costa Rica is heavily populated with local Costa Rican students, so there is plenty to do!

Academic Programs


ICDS organizes different program offerings for semester and summer sessions. Each session has different entry requirements and pre-requisites. Please view the list below to find out which program is best for you!

Fall & Spring Semester Program: Sustainable Development and Social Justice in Latin America

Jointly with Universidad Latina de Costa Rica, ICDS offers the opportunity to build your own semester. This program will help you acquire in-depth knowledge on sustainable development through a variety of courses on sustainability, environment, and human rights. The program includes a service-learning core course with two weekly sessions of community work, as well as a trip to a neighboring country for contrast purposes.

Required Spanish Level: completion of basic level(s) of college Spanish or equivalent.
For course offerings during this semester session, click 

Summer I Program: Spanish and Sustainability Practices in Costa Rica

ICDS offers a six-week service-learning program with a strong Spanish language and cultural immersion component, allowing students to improve their language skills as well as contribute to local community development.

Urban Experience:
Participants begin by spending the first 3 weeks of the program in San José, where they will have orientation and Spanish classes, as well as community service in urban locations. During this time, students live with a local Spanish-speaking family, thus having an opportunity to immerse themselves into the language and the culture before traveling to their Sustainable Practice site in rural Costa Rica.

Rural Experience:
The Sustainability Practices course takes place during the last 3 weeks of the program at Finca La Flor, an agro-ecological farm. Finca La Flor is located in Cartago, about 25 miles east of San José. The Sustainability Practices course includes recycling, forestry, medicinal plant gardening, permaculture, organic agriculture, forestry, clean energy and water management. Participants immerse themselves in the culture of rural Costa Rica by living and working on-site at the farm. Students will also work alongside community members as part of La Flor’s involvement in the community’s development. Accommodation at the farm will be in cabins (2-4 students per cabin) with three meals a day provided.

After completing the work on the farm, students travel to the central Pacific coast for a visit to a national park and a two–day relaxing stay on the beach to celebrate all their hard work.

Required Spanish Level: completion of basic level(s) of college Spanish or equivalent.
For course descriptions during this summer session, click 



International Center for Development Studies (ICDS) - San José, Costa Rica

  • Requirements

    • Minimum GPA 2.75. (Students with GPA below 2.75 will be considered on a case-by-case basis.)

    • Language requirement: Semester programs are open to any Spanish level. Summer programs are open to students with at least Elementary level (1 semester of college level Spanish or equivalent).

    • At least 18 years of age

    • Completed at least 1 semester at a U.S. or Canadian college/university before applying

    • Official transcript from your college or university.

    • One letter of recommendation from a professor or adviser at your college or university.

    • ASA Application. To create an account, click here. If you already have an account, click here to sign in.

    • Scan of your valid passport that does not expire sooner than 6 months after the day you plan to return home from abroad. You will need to provide ASA with a scan of your valid passport immediately after being accepted into the program if you did not upload it to your ASA application. Please submit your passport application by expedited service if you do not have a valid passport.

    • For Application Deadlines, please click the Cost & Dates tab.



Students live with Costa Rican host families, who will provide 2 meals a day Monday through Friday and 3 meals a day on Saturday, Sunday, and holidays, as well as 1 load of laundry per week. All ASA student housing includes Internet access and is located in safe neighborhoods, within a reasonable distance from school. Host families typically host 1-2 students at a time. Rooms are single occupancy. Bathrooms are shared.


+ Can I room with a friend?

Yes, if there are no major differences in your and your friend's dietary needs and allergies, we are usually able to accommodate requests to live with a same-sex friend. Please keep in mind that roommate requests must be mutual, so be sure your friend requests you back! You will complete a detailed Housing Questionnaire after being accepted to the program, and on this form you can request a roommate.

+ When will I find out where I’ll be living?

ASA will notify you of your living arrangements via email approximately 1-2 weeks before the start of your program. You will receive a description of your host family and the location, and if there is another ASA student in your housing we will include their name and email address.

+ What if I don’t like my host family?

If it is a problem with the family and not a language or cultural misunderstanding, ASA will move you to a different family right away. We have on-site staff in every city who are there to help students with any issues they encounter while abroad, and who check in periodically with students throughout their stay to ensure all is well.

+ Will my host family speak English?

No, but there’s no need to worry! Living in a homestay is the best way for you to learn Spanish, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you will improve. Also, don’t forget that your host family has hosted international students before, so they understand that you are there to learn their language and want to help you.

+ Will I have a roommate?

Rooms are single occupancy. Some host families host more than one student at a time (typically 1-3 students per family) so while there could be other students in your housing, you will have your own room.

+ What should I bring with me?

A detailed list of what to bring (and what not to bring) will be included in your ASA pre-departure handbook, which will be emailed to you about a month before your program begins. Please consider bringing aa small gift for your host, such as a candle, kitchen towel, chocolates, etc.

+ What is the food like?

The food is great and will be typical of your host country. Be prepared to try new things! If you have any food allergies or dietary needs, please let ASA know as soon as possible and we'll be happy to advise you on your options.

+ Is a Damage Deposit required?





ASA semester and quarter programs in San José include 2 overnight excursions. Summer programs include 1 overnight excursion. Destinations may vary by term. Past terms have included trips to:

  • Central Pacific Coast (overnight excursion) – Visit the beautiful Central Pacific coast of Costa Rica and stay at Punta Leona, a relaxing hotel and beach resort.

  • Guayabo (overnight excursion) – Guayabo is an ancient city where our students can learn about the archaeological and cultural importance it holds for Costa Rica.

  • Irazú Volcano (overnight excursion) – The highest active volcano in Costa Rica has a road that leads right to the summit, where you can see straight down into the craters!

  • Orosi Valley (overnight excursion) – Orosi is considered by many to be the most beautiful valley in Costa Rica. On a clear day, you can see it from Irazú and it is an easy trip from Cartago, the former capital city.

Course Offerings
Volunteer & Internship Opportunities

Volunteer & Internship Opportunities

ICDS is a knowledge center that promotes experiential and service learning in Costa Rica. Motivated students are encouraged to participate in a variety of fields pertaining to sustainable development in Latin America. As part of its study abroad programs, ICDS offers students:

  • Experiential Learning opportunities through community work placements

  • Internship possibilities for students who want to stay longer after the academic program or who want to come to Costa Rica for a semester or summer to intern.

  • Opportunities for volunteering across several projects

Community work and internship placements give ICDS students the opportunity to put into practice what they learn in the classroom, practice their Spanish skills, involve themselves with practitioners in the field (health programs), and contribute to the efforts for sustainable human development in Costa Rica. Placements vary between type and length of program, depend on ICDS’s and partner institutions current projects, and the current political and social situations of the country.

Placements in both research internships and work co-ops are determined based on students’ interest, language proficiency, and research skills and experience, as well as the host institution’s needs. Please click HERE for examples of ICDS’ Experiential Learning Opportunities – encompassing the community work and internship/co-op opportunities available.

To find out what opportunities will be available during your time abroad, please email If you are interested in Volunteering during your summer or semester, you will need to complete this application form and return it to

Cost & Dates


Billing Information and Refund Policy

Price Breakdowns / Estimated Costs of Attendance

Dates are subject to change without notice.

Application Deadline — The deadline by which you must complete the application process, including turning in all documentation to ASA (transcript, etc.)

Payment Deadline — The deadline by which you must submit full payment for your program fees or verification of financial aid.  A non-refundable Down Payment may be required in advance of the Payment Deadline to secure your space. Check the “Billing Information and Refund Policy” link for your program to find out if a Down Payment is required.

Please do not book a flight until you are accepted to an ASA program and receive written confirmation of your program’s arrival and departure dates.

Fall 2019 Semester Arrive Aug. 21 – Depart Nov. 16$13,995June 1, ’19June 15, ’19CRF3
Spring 2020 Semester Early Jan. 2020 – Early April 2020 (TBA)$14,495Nov. 1, ’19Nov. 30, ’19CRS3
Winter 2020 Quarter Early Jan. 2020 – Mid. March 2020 (TBA)$13,995Nov. 1, ’19Nov. 30, ’19CRWQ
Spring 2020 Quarter Late March 2020 – Early June 2020 (TBA)$13,995Nov. 1, ’19Nov. 30, ’19CRSQ
Summer I 2020 Mid. May 2020 – Late June 2020 (TBA)TBAApril 1, ’20April 15, ’20CRSU1
Summer II 2020 Late June 2020 – Early Aug. 2020 (TBA)TBAApril 1, ’20April 15, ’20CRSU2
Fall 2020 Semester Late Aug. 2020 – Mid. Nov. 2020 (TBA)TBAJune 1, ’20June 15, ’20CRF3