Whatever enchants you—the damp breezes of a tropical rainforest, meeting new people full of heart-warming hospitality, or learning first-hand about topics that really interest you—Costa Rica is sure to offer it.
Based in Heredia, a suburb of San José, our English-taught study abroad program in Costa Rica allows you to engage in experiential, hands-on learning as you examine topics in Environmental Studies, Sustainable Business Practices, and Human Rights.
Through our field study trips and day trips, Costa Rica will become your classroom. Imagine working alongside a scientist in the Monteverde cloud forest or learning about sustainable business at a local coffee plantation. Welcome to study abroad!
Your experience will begin with an intensive Spanish language module at Universidad Nacional that will also teach you about Costa Rican society. Your second module allows you to choose a course focusing on your specific areas of interest. The third module expands this focus by applying concepts you have learned to specific challenges in Costa Rican society. The final capstone module puts your newfound knowledge into action as you participate in an internship, service-learning placement, or research project.
Most modules are conducted at the IES Abroad Center in Heredia, but participation in specific modules will allow you to study for four weeks in other parts of Costa Rica at our esteemed partner institutions, UGA Costa Rica in Monteverde and EARTH University in Limón province.
Finally, we want you to feel at home in Costa Rica, so we will do everything we can to help you integrate into life in San José and Heredia. From cultural events at our Center to extracurricular activities at Universidad Nacional, you will have numerous opportunities to get to know Costa Rica.
After you are admitted, refer to the Travel Dates section of the Predeparture Information in your MyIESabroad account before booking travel.
Our mission is simple: to provide you with the best study abroad program possible—which includes the highest quality academic and cultural experiences.
We offer unparalleled courses that explore issues in Environmental Studies, Human Rights, and Sustainable Business Practices through an in-depth and hands-on approach. Our world-class professors and modules at prestigious partner institutions enhance your academic experience and provide you with new perspectives each day in class.
The Social and Environmental Change Program comprises four consecutive 4-week modules. You take one course per module for 15 credit hours per semester. All courses are taught in English, excluding the Spanish language courses. Craft your own academic experience by selecting from the following required and optional program components:
Modules 2 & 3
Enroll in one course for each module
BL/ES 322 Biodiversity and Conservation in Costa Rica
PO/LS 305 Conflict Transformation and Peacemaking in Central America
BS/ES 305 Sustainable Development: Integrating Community, Entrepreneurship, and Natural Resources
BL/ES 310 Tropical Cloud Forest Ecology and Conservation
SO/LS 300 Human Rights in Central America: Poverty, Promise, and Possibility
BS/ES 302 Business and the Environment in Latin America
Enroll in one course
BS/ES/IN 395 Internship Seminar
SO/SL 395 Learning through Service
RE 396 Independent Research Project
Below is a list of potential course offerings. A final course list will be available in your MyIESabroad account after you are accepted to the program.
Spanish CoursesSpanish courses will be taught at various levels through the Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica. Classes meet four hours a day, five days a week for four weeks (total of 80 hours) during Module 1.
IES Abroad has formed partnerships with many educational and nonprofit organizations throughout Costa Rica that specialize in sustainability, biodiversity, economic development, and human rights. Courses are offered in partnership with the following institutions
Universidad Nacional (UNA)Dedicated to equality, well-being, sustainability, and deomocracy, Universidad Nacional is a public research university located in Heredia. During your time in Costa Rica, you have access to many of the extracurricular activities and facilities available at UNA. You will also take your Spanish course there during Module 1.
Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio)
The IES Abroad Center is located at INBio, a non-profit research and biodiversity management center in Heredia, Costa Rica. A special feature of INBio is INBioparque, a beautiful nature preserve located on its grounds that is home to native wildlife, including butterflies, iguanas, sloths, carmans, birds, and turles.
Environmental Studies students have the opportunity to study with INBio faculty, leaders in biological research and environmental practices.
EARTH University is a private, non-profit university in the Limon province of Costa Rica. Focusing on sustainability and the development of a just society, the University attracts students from developing countries around the world who are interested in the institution's innovative approach to coursework in agricultural sciences and natural resource management.
EARTH University has strong ties to local communities, giving students the opportunity to apply their skills in sustainable development.
UGA Costa Rica
Located just outside the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, UGA Costa Rica is a tropical forest research station operated by the University of Georgia. Dedicated to the study of ecology and conservation, 60% of the campus' more than 150 acres are maintained as a protected forest reserve, and an additional 30% are used for sustainable agricultural production.
The campus has indoor and outdoor classrooms and labs, a botanical garden, a weather station, dairy cows, and a student union with a cafeteria, library, computer lab, and recreational facilities.
While adding study abroad to your résumé is impressive enough, adding an international internship is even more powerful, and can help distinguish your application for graduate school or a job opportunity in today’s competitive market.
Here are just some of the ways your internship will set you apart:
All of our internships are supervised and earn IES Abroad credit. Participate in a seminar to complement the practical experience you gain during the internship.
A wide variety of options are available throughout Costa Rica for your internship placement. Some placement examples include:
While adding study abroad to your resume is impressive enough, adding an international service learning experience is even more powerful, and can help distinguish your application for graduate school or a job opportunity in today’s competitive job market.
An IES Abroad San José service learning placement also provides an invaluable cultural experience and helps you develop professional and personal skills.
All of our service learning placements are supervised and earn IES Abroad credit. You participate in a seminar to complement the practical experience you gain during your placement during Module 4.
A wide variety of options are available throughout Costa Rica for your service learning placement. Some placement examples include:
We want to make sure that your greatest challenge is deciding which landmarks to see first or discovering the best café—not finding a place to live where you feel comfortable. We do our best to locate housing that is reflective of how the local students are living. Our goal is that when you leave San José, it will feel like home.
Homestays - You live in a private home in Heredia, a suburb of San José, with a family or señora. Homestay hosts provide three meals daily.
During extended field study, you will live in rural homestays, residence halls, or cabins and receive three meals daily.
Part of making you feel at home in San José is doing our best to help you feel safe and cared for. Whether it is an orientation program that makes you feel prepared, housing that is well-located and comfortable, or the field trips that take you to places off the beaten path—we’re all about our student services. This is just one of the things we’re known for.
The program begins with a week-long orientation that introduces you to the IES Abroad San José staff, your fellow students, the city of San José, and Heredia, the suburb where the program is located. Topics such as academics, housing, transportation, and health and safety are covered.
Additionally, CORE™, IES Abroad’s Comprehensive Orientation & Re-entry Experience, begins during orientation and continues throughout the semester with activities focusing on cultural adjustment, goal achievement, and preparing for the return home.
Redefine the way you live and learn in San José through our cultural events, such as:
Although your adventure begins in the San José area, our day trips take you to other great destinations in Costa Rica to provide contrast and context for what you are learning in San José. Three day trips are included in the program fee. Destinations may include:
Our field study opportunities get you outside the classroom to learn hands-on in new and exciting locations outside of Heredia and San José. These trips are included in the program fee. Possible destinations are listed below.
EARTH University in Limón Province
If you choose to participate in BS/ES305, you will spend a month studying at EARTH University in the Limón Province, a non-profit university dedicated to social and environmental well-being. During your month in Limón, you’ll have the opportunity to spend time learning about sustainable agriculture and development on three working farms, including a sustainable banana plantation.
Monteverde Cloud Forest at UGA Costa Rica
If you take BL/ES310, you will spend two weeks at UGA Costa Rica where you will explore topics in biodiversity and ecology first-hand, as you do research alongside working scientists. UGA Costa Rica, a tropical forest research station located near Santa Elena, is operated by the University of Georgia and dedicated to the study of ecology and conservation.
Panamanian Islands or Nicaragua
As a part of IR/LS305, you will visit either Panama or Nicaragua for a field study focused on conflict transformation and human rights.
The IES Abroad Center is located near the beautiful botanic garden at the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio), a biological park in Heredia designed to educate the public on the rich biodiversity of Costa Rica and issues of sustainability.
Features of the Center include:
Sarah Cordero PinchanskyCenter Director
Sarah Cordero Pichansky holds a Bachelors degree from the University of Costa Rica and a Masters in Public Administration from the Kennedy School at Harvard. She is currently completing her doctorate at MIT with a focus on economic development and sustainability. She served previously as Profesora Asesora of Management Consulting practice at INCAE, one of the leading business schools in Latin America, where she also directed an INCAE - Carlson School of Management joint workshop on business and sustainability for eight years. She also served as Dean of the faculty of the Business School at the Latin American University of Science and Technology (ULACIT) in San José. Sarah's academic interests parallel two of the primary themes of our San José Center: Sustainability and development, and environmental protection.
Kattia Garro SeguraStudent Services Coordinator
FacultySharon SpringerEnvironmental StudiesEd.D., Master’s in Teaching English as a Second Language
Mildred LinkimerEnvironmental Studies & Biology
Master's in Tropical Agroforestry
Alvaro HerreraEnvironmental Studies & Biology
Master's in Biology
Rodolfo Meoño SotoLatin American Studies
Ph.D. in Human Rights and Development, Master's in Educational Sciences, Licenciatura in Philosophy
Francisco Robles RiveraLatin American Studies
Master's in Latin American Studies
Jane YeomansEnvironmental Studies & Biology
Ph.D. in Soil Microbiology and Biochemistry
Ramón LeónEnvironmental Studies & Biology
M.Sc. & Ph.D. in Crop Production & Physiology, PhD. in Genetics