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-Fri, and 3 meals a day Sat, Sun, and holidays.  For further information about living with a host family, please click here!
Sample Excursions: Guayabo, Irazú Volcano, Orosi Valley, Central Pacific Coast,  Doka Coffee Estate, Tortuguero, Nicaragua, Punta Leona, Monteverde


Why San José?

  • Capital of Costa Rica
  • Large student population in the city
  • Courses taught in English and Spanish
  • Take small classes with international students
  • Internships and research available

Country Description

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 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.

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: 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.

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

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 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 during this summer session, click here.


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


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.

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-Fri, 3 meals a day Sat-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! (During the Rural Experience portion of the “Spanish and Sustainability Practices” Summer program where students live and work on a farm (Finca La Flor), accommodation will be on-site in cabins with 2-4 students per cabin and 3 meals a day provided.)
  • TUITION at ICDS for the maximum number of credits indicated on the program course offerings page. 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 and quarter programs: 2 overnight excursions, locations to be decided.
  • EXCURSIONS, summer programs: 1 overnight excursion, location 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.

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