Founded 30 years ago, the Institute for Central American Development Studies (ICADS) is a center for study, research, and analysis of Central American social and environmental issues. We focus on economic development, politics, environmental studies, sustainable development, public health, women’s issues, education, human rights, and conservation.
We offer four categories of programs: three distinct Study Abroad programs through which students can earn academic credit toward their university degree; a Summer Internship program; intensive Spanish language courses designed to immerse students in the Costa Rican context; and we also work with universities to create customized short-term programs. Students learn through readings, lectures, and interaction with local people in both Costa Rica and Nicaragua via internships and voluntary service.
Mission and Values
We seek to educate participants about Central America by teaching Spanish and by offering academic programs that utilize a theoretically critical perspective as well as hands-on experience to help students deepen insights into current social, political and economic realities and their effects on the environment and society, especially the poor and marginalized.
We aim to provide support to organizations and communities throughout the countries where we work; especially to groups that have demonstrated a commitment to learning and/or are dedicated to social justice work in areas such as education, healthcare, human rights, anti-hunger issues, and environmental issues. We do this through regular donations and utilization of services.
To increase understanding of the region within a historical perspective; to develop a theoretical framework for the analysis of root causes, forms and dimensions of underdevelopment and injustice; to stimulate critical evaluation of current development strategies, analyzing their effects on women, children, the poor, and the environment; and to search for alternative methods, policies, and strategies.
The Institute for Central American Development Studies (ICADS) was created in 1986 to fill the information gap in foreign policy between United States citizens and their government. In conversation with scholars actively engaged in research in Central America, it was concluded that the best way to go about gaining a deeper understanding is through both rigorous academic study and social engagement with real Central American communities that are working to solve some of the most challenging problems of the day.
Spanish classes are held in ICADS’ beautiful garden.
Students trying tropical fruits during the “Fiesta de Frutas.”
In today’s increasingly connected and globalized world, we at ICADS believe that it is now more important than ever to understand the complex issues impacting the peoples of both the global North and South. Thirty years after the founding of ICADS, we remain committed to providing opportunities for language and cultural immersion through classes and community work, lectures and contact with “regular” Central Americans, who are the real experts when it comes to Central American life.
In the Social Justice and Development Internship Program, after the first five weeks, each student engages in a separate and independent eight-week internship in Nicaragua or Costa Rica. In all countries, students live with local home-stay families.
In both programs, intensive Spanish training is part of the curriculum and the use of the language is constantly emphasized.
Emergency Medical Evacuation, Repatriation and 24 hour Emergency Assistance Services (for help with medical and legal issues via a collect call from anywhere) are highly recommended for all ICADS participants. The average cost for air evacuation runs around $8,000 (and in some situations can run up as high as $50,000). It will be your responsibility to pay for it on the spot, unless you can show proof of insurance or flash your platinum Visa. So, we recommend that you have either this type of insurance, the money on hand or the Visa.
In addition to emergency medical evacuation, repatriation and 24 hour emergency assistance services coverage, we also recommend you consider supplemental medical insurance to “supplement” your domestic medical insurance. High quality “comprehensive” travel insurance protection is available for reasonable rates from a number of companies. If you have travel insurance while studying at ICADS, please make sure to provide ICADS with a copy of your policy as well as the collect call phone number for your 24 hour international emergency assistance provider. Check with your insurance provider to find out what options they offer.
Faculty and Staff
Our team is made up of experts committed to your academic success, health, and safety. Many of us have spent decades working with US students in Central America, and in topics related to our academic work. Many of us, both North and Central Americans, are bilingual, and we all love working cross culturally with students like you in our tropical context.