Study Abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica

Quick Facts | Why San José? | Country Description | Host Institution | Academic Programs |Housing | Excursions

Course Offerings | Costs & Dates | What’s Included | Program Itinerary | Volunteer & Internship Opportunities | FAQs


Quick Facts

Host Institution: Semester, Summer and Academic Year programs:

  • International Center for Development Studies (ICDS) & Universidad Latina de Costa Rica
Eligibility Rules: click here
Language/Academic Focus:

Though most ASA programs in San José are open to all Spanish levels, some programs may require a minimum Spanish level.  Please check the Course Offerings pages for specifics (link below). Courses are taught in English, with Spanish Language courses available.

Subject areas include: Community Engagement & Sustainable Human Development in Latin America, Spanish Language, Latin American Film, Central American Literature, Environmental Studies & Sustainability, Human Rights, Latin American Society & Culture, Healthcare in Latin America.
(Click here for Course Offerings)

Housing: Students will live with Costa Rican host families, who provide 1 load of laundry per week, 2 meals a day Mon-Thurs, and 3 meals a day Fri-Sun.  For further information about living with a host family, please click here!
Sample Day Excursions: Guayabo, Irazú Volcano, Orosi Valley, Doka Coffee Estate
Sample Overnight Excursions: Central Pacific Coast, Tortuguero, Nicaragua, Punta Leona, Monteverde


Why San José?

  • Capital of Costa Rica
  • Large student population
  • Live with a host family and improve your Spanish
  • Small class sizes
  • Community Engagement and Volunteer opportunities

Country Description

For such a small country, Costa Rica really has a lot to brag about. It covers only 0.03 % of the surface of the globe, 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. It is also one of the most peaceful countries on earth and has not had an army since 1949. The money saved by not having an army has been invested in the Costa Rican people (known as “Ticos”), who benefit from one of the best health care systems in the world. 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. Around 5 million people live in Costa Rica’s seven provinces. For those who love outdoor activities, Costa Rica is the place to be, with surfing and snorkeling to ziplining and hiking. Thanks to beautiful beaches on both sides of the country and mountains and volcanos in the interior, there is always something drawing you closer to the wonders of nature.

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 sustainability, environment, and development. Currently, ICDS offers several different program tracks in environment, sustainability, development, and human rights. All ICDS programs are interdisciplinary and highly participatory, and offer experiential learning opportunities through field trips and site visits related to your coursework. In addition, Costa Rican students from the Universidad Latina de Costa Rica are now taking ICDS classes along with American study abroad students, allowing our students the chance to easily make friends with locals!

Orientation at ICDS consists of 1-2 days in the mountains north of San José. An interactive workshop functions as a “buffer” to help students adjust to culture shock. The session is conducted by ICDS staff, as well as a professional psychologist with ample experience in the area of multicultural education. Practical information about transportation, housing, and communication is also provided, with an emphasis on safety in and around the San José area.

Academic Programs

ICDS organizes different program offerings for semester, early-start fall 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: Development Studies 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.

Possible Credits*: 16 U.S. semester credits.
Required Spanish Level: completion of basic level(s) of college Spanish or equivalent.
Spring Session: Mid January – Mid April
Fall Session: Late August – Late November
For course offerings during this semester session, click here.

Early-Start FALL SEMESTER Program: Sustainability Practices and Food Security in Rural Costa Rica

ICDS, Universidad Latina and Finca La Flor offer you this short- term, service-learning course with an environmental/ecological and sustainable development focus. It provides you first-hand practical experience in the field of sustainability, ecology, and food security in Costa Rica. The course focuses on water management, forest ecosystems, permaculture, animal husbandry, organic agriculture and food security policies and practices at Finca La Flor.  You will live on a farm in rural Costa Rica and will immerse yourself in the local community before joining the regular-start fall semester group back in San José to move in with your host family and begin your regular semester of study.

Required Spanish Level: completion of basic level(s) of college Spanish or equivalent.
For the course description and credit value of this early-start fall semester session, click here.

Summer I Program: Spanish and Community Engagement

ICDS and Universidad Latina de Costa Rica offer a six-week service-learning program with strong Spanish language and cultural immersion components, allowing students to improve their language skills as well as contribute to local community development.  This is an intensive Spanish instruction program, complemented by community work, field trips, and cultural activities which are integrated into the language course.

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

Summer II Program: Spanish and Health in Latin America

ICDS, Universidad Latina de Costa Rica and Hospital Clínica Bíblica offer you the opportunity to explore health care in a developing country while improving your Spanish skills. ICDS´ six-week program provides you (health professionals and students) with the necessary language proficiency to work and interact with Spanish speaking patients and their families, as well as with colleagues. Field trips and clinical rotations at the hospital (high-intermediate and advanced Spanish speakers*), or community work related to social welfare services (lower and intermediate level Spanish speakers) are experiential learning components of this program.

Required Spanish Level: completion of basic level(s) of college Spanish or equivalent.
*To complete clinical rotations, a high-Intermediate to Advanced level of Spanish is required. A written and oral placement test will determine your eligibility.
For course descriptions and credit values during this summer session, click here.



All students live with Costa Rican host families, who will provide 2 meals a day Monday-Thursday and 3 meals a day Friday-Sunday, 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 your university. Full details about ASA housing, as well as answers to commonly asked questions, can be found on our Housing page.


ASA semester programs in San José include 1 overnight excursions and 2 day excursions. Summer programs include 2 day excursions. 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 (day excursion) – Guayabo is an ancient city where our students can learn about the archaeological and cultural importance it holds for Costa Rica.
  • Irazú Volcano (day 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 (day 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.

Costs and Dates

Please CLICK HERE for Costs and Dates.

What’s Included – ASA San José Program

  • ROOM & BOARD with a Costa Rican host family.  Includes 2 meals a day Mon-Thurs, 3 meals a day Fri-Sun and on holidays, and 1 load of laundry per week.  Rooms are single occupancy.  For further details about living with a host family, please click here!
  • TUITION at ICDS.  The maximum number of credits are: 15 U.S. semester credits per semester program; 7, 4 or 3 U.S. semester credits per summer session (depending on which program you select). Enrolling in more than the maximum number of credits (if permitted by the host institution) will result in an additional fee.
  • ACADEMIC CREDITS: Students who receive pre-approval from their home institution can transfer the credits they earn to their home institution.
  • OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT: Final transcript is issued by the Universidad Latina de Costa Rica. Upon completion of the program, ASA will provide one free shipment of your final transcript to your U.S. institution.
  • EXCURSIONS, semester programs: 1 overnight excursions and 2 site visits/day excursions, locations to be decided.
  • EXCURSIONS, summer programs: 2 site visits/day excursions, locations to be decided.
  • INTERNET ACCESS: Students will have free Internet access at their host institution and in their program housing.
  • AIRPORT PICK-UP: Group ground transportation is provided from San José (SJO) airport for students who arrive on the official arrival date, by the designated time.
  • SITE DIRECTOR: Students will have an on-site director to assist them with any academic or cultural difficulties they may encounter.
  • MEDICAL INSURANCE: Comprehensive international medical insurance is included.  For full details on benefits and coverage, please click here.
  • VISA ADVISING: While students are ultimately responsible for obtaining their visa (if required for their term/host country), ASA will provide detailed, helpful information upon acceptance as to which visa students will need and how to go about applying for one.  Please click here and scroll down to “Student Visa Information” to find out if a visa is required for your program.
  • PRE-DEPARTURE ONLINE VIDEO PROGRAM (semester programs only)

Not Included:

  • Round trip airfare and travel expenses to and from the program location
  • Books, materials, lab fees
  • Personal expenses
  • Local transportation
  • Lunch on weekdays
  • Meals on excursions
  • Visa Fees (Tourist Visa or Student Visa)
  • Airport Departure Tax
  • Transportation from the airport if the student does not arrive on the official arrival date by the designated time
  • Transportation back to the airport at the end of the program
  • For academic year students or those enrolling in more than one session, room and board and all other ASA services and benefits are not provided during the break between sessions.

Click here for Billing Information and Cancellation/Refund Policy NOTE: If you need a “Costs of Attendance” budget for your financial aid office, or if you simply want an estimate of the not-included costs listed above, please click here.

Program Itinerary

Please CLICK HERE for detailed program itineraries.

Volunteer and 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 info (at) If you are interested in Volunteering during your summer or semester, you will need to complete this application form and return it to info (at)


If you have questions about HOW TO APPLY and make sure your credits transfer back to your home university, please CLICK HERE. We encourage both prospective students and parents, as well as those who have already been accepted to an ASA program, to visit our INFORMATION LIBRARY. Here you will find tons of helpful info to help you know what to plan for and what to expect, such as:

  • ASA Guide to Study Abroad
  • Student Visa info
  • Medical Insurance info
  • Booking your flight
  • Financial Aid info