Prior to departure, students receive a detailed handbook that contains practical and academic information about the program, including critical dates and deadlines, logistical concerns, practical matters, and academic policies. The following basic information is important to note.
Students need a passport to enter Costa Rica and to travel to other Latin American countries. The passport must be valid for at least one year, in good shape, and have at least 10 empty pages.
Students must apply for an extended stay visa when they arrive in Costa Rica. The staff helps with this process, but students must bring with them the documents required for the visa application. For more information, refer to the Costa Rica Travel & Visa Information document.
Housing & Food
Living with a Costa Rican family is an important part of the program. It plays a key role in practicing Spanish and in learning about the local culture.
Homestays are located in urban neighborhoods close to the Costa Rica Center. The houses where students stay have basic, standard amenities including electricity, running water, telephone, internet access, and access to public transportation.
All students are asked to fill out a questionnaire regarding housing preferences, and based on that form, each student will be assigned a host family.
Host families provide breakfast and dinner during weekdays, and students receive a stipend to purchase lunch on school days. On weekends, hosts provide all three meals. Laundry and Internet access is also provided by the host family.
What to Bring
A detailed packing list is included in the student handbook. Students should keep in mind that most things can be purchased in Costa Rica, although some items can be more expensive. Some important things to note:
Students need clothes for different environments: temperate weather of Heredia (usually in the 70’s or 80’s), beachwear, weather for cooler climates in the mountains, nice clothes for visits to formal institutions, and raingear.
Unlocked GSM cell phone for SIM card (or one can be purchased in Costa Rica)or cell phone with an international plan that includes Costa Rica
USB flash drive
Medication and Toiletries
Personal first aid kit
Important Miscellaneous Items
A major credit card for use in case of medical emergencies (students must have health insurance, but they pay out of pocket for all services and then file a claim for reimbursement)
Day pack to carry books to and from school
Smaller backpack or duffle bag for short field trips
It is not necessary to bring any kind of adaptors for electrical devices, but it is strongly recommended that students bring a surge protector for their laptops.
EMAIL AND INTERNET
E-mail and Internet access is available at the Costa Rica Center for all students, including a wireless network for students to connect with their laptops and other devices.
The currency in Costa Rica is called the colón.
Changing dollars (cash or traveler's checks) to colónes is not difficult in Costa Rica and can be done at most major banks. Students can withdraw money from local ATMs with any major credit or debit card, but students should check with their bank about any withdrawal or foreign exchange fees. If students need to have money sent, they can easily access a local Western Union Office.
The tuition and fees do not include personal travel nor personal expenses, such as snacks, transportation to and from the Center, toiletries, medication, etc. It is essential that students arrive at the Center with funds for personal expenses (or a credit or debit card to withdraw money). Students report spending an average of about $500 per semester for personal expenses, though this can vary greatly depending on personal travel, purchases, etc.
Health & Safety
At the Costa Rica Center, we take students’ and staff members’ well-being and safety very seriously. When students arrive in Costa Rica, they participate in a Health and Safety orientation to learn about the Center's health and safety policies and recommendations. Students also receive an information booklet that focuses on prevention of health and safety issues. Additionally, emergency drills for both students and staff are carried out regularly to ensure preparedness in case of a real emergency.
The Center also provides emergency procedures for homestay families as well as partner organizations for when students are away on field projects.
All field experiences must meet health and safety criteria, and the Center’s staff is always monitoring health and safety conditions if any concerns arise.
The Center’s Health and Safety Coordinator can make doctors’ appointments for students when needed and also can accompany students to their appointments upon request to offer support and language interpretation, if necessary though there are many bilingual doctors in Costa Rica. In addition to having access to a wide variety of quality medical services locally, students can also schedule appointments with a bilingual psychologist who can see students at the Center.
In case of an emergency outside of office hours or during weekends, students can contact staff members who are on-call 24/7 to offer support.