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Living in Costa Rica

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Block 1  (5 Weeks):

Study in San Jose and the Central Valley. Students live in San Jose with Costa Rican families, and study Spanish for four hours daily. In morning sessions, students learn about different topics in social and natural sciences through related readings, guest speakers, and field trips, as well as fieldwork on urban issues. During a 1 week trip, time is spent exploring the current economic and political conditions of Central America and their indigenous communities, as well as the renewable energy efforts happening in Costa Rica. 

Block 2  (3 Weeks):

Students carry out brief social and ecological research projects while living and traveling together, primarily in rural communities. Students conduct research for their independent study projects, prepare written reports, and lead group discussions. In Block II, students visit 3 to 4 different areas within Costa Rica where they learn about a diversity of ecological zones, resource management and systems of regional development. 

Some of these destinations may include the wet tropics in the Atlantic Lowlands, the Cloud Forest in the Talamanca mountain ranges, the tropical dry region in the Guanacaste province, and the Northern zone. Topics and field sites vary from semester to semester in response to new study opportunities, previously discussed student interests, and environmental conditions. Topics studied in the Field Program include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • The roots of underdevelopment, particularly Costa Rica’s dependency on transnational companies and First World governments
    • Natural and managed ecosystem dynamics, with emphasis on the origin and maintenance of biodiversity
    • The tools for measuring health of ecosystems via floral and fauna indicator species
    • The environmental and economic implications of plantation agriculture, small-scale farming, ecotourism, bioprospecting, and national park management
    • The impact of export-oriented development on family structure, class hierarchy, and racial divisions
    • Education and training of resource management importance and practice in rural communities 
    • Strategies for conserving natural resources (e.g. organic agriculture, agroforestry and sustainable extraction of timber and other products from forests), facilitating community organization (e.g. women’s groups, farmers’ cooperatives) and promoting local control over systems of production (e.g. home gardens, marketing cooperatives)


          Students will develop their research proposal during this time and present it for approval before heading out into the field for Block III.


Block 3  (5 Weeks):

After a few weeks traveling around Costa Rica, students: 

  • Conduct in-depth, independent research in one of the previously visited field sites.
  • Develop projects with practical value for host communities or organizations, in topics related to social or natural sciences.
  • Return to ICADS to complete written work and oral presentations.
  • Reentry workshop.

Application deadlines:

 Fall Semester  May 1
 Spring Semester  November 1



ICADS recommends 15 credits for the Field Program, broken down as:

    • 3 Credits SPA Spanish
    • 3 Credits ECON/SOC 421 Latin American Perspectives on Justice and Sustainable Development
    • 3 Credits ECOL 411 Ecology of Managed and Natural Ecosystems
    • 6 Credits IND/RES Independent Research
    • Keep in mind that the final number of credits granted is up to the university. Be sure to check with your university if you have questions about credits

Financial Information:

Field Program Tuition and Fees (Spring & Fall 2023)

 Deposit $500 
 Final payment $13,450 
 TOTAL COST $13,950 


Field Program Tuition and Fees (Spring & Fall 2024)

 Deposit $500 
 Final payment $14,250 
 TOTAL COST $14,750 


Start Dates

Fall Semester 2023
Sep 04 2023 to Nov 29 2023

Spring Semester 2024
Jan 29 2024 to Apr 24 2024


13 weeks

Financial & Credit

Deposit: $500 (applied to total)

Tuition & Fees: $13,950 (Fall 2023)

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