Costa Rica Semester: Spanish Immersion

Costa Rica Semester: Spanish Immersion

Explore relevant issues in environmental studies, sustainability, and ecology. Through seminars, case studies, fieldwork, and homestays, discover the impact of human action on the environment and ecosystems.

While in Costa Rica, engage in fieldwork with local farmers and at the Organization for Tropical Studies. Learn and practice innovative solutions to challenges in sustainable agriculture, environmental conservation, and natural resource management through workshops and fieldwork at EARTH University. Travel to a rural community on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast to live and work with park rangers specializing in sea turtle conservation.

Participate in Spanish language instruction through a course designed around real-world language practice and homestay immersion. We’ve intentionally selected homestay communities that allow students to both develop their spoken Spanish skills and dive into local culture.

The semester closes in Costa Rica with an adventure down the Pacuare River and tours of San Jose. Spend a total of 12 weeks in Costa Rica.

Students love our programs in Costa Rica!
Departure Dates
  1. September 06 - November 28, 2019

  2. February 03 - April 26, 2020

Program Profile
  • Country:

    Costa Rica

  • Department:
    Gap Year
  • Duration:
    12 Weeks
  • Ages:
  • Cost:
    $12,000 plus Airfare
  • Language Study Hours:
  • Interests:
  • Program Types:
    College Credit
Program Profile
  • Country:

    Costa Rica

  • Department:
    Gap Year
  • Duration:
    12 Weeks
  • Ages:
  • Cost:
    $12,000 plus Airfare
  • Language Study Hours:
  • Interests:
  • Program Types:
    College Credit

Semester-Long Academic Focus

Spanish Language Immersion

Through field-work and homestays, students will have opportunities to put their Spanish language skills to use. This course is equivalent to an introductory Spanish language course and includes vocabulary development, grammar, sentence structure, spoken language proficiency, and culture.

Ecology and Species Conservation

Students will explore population structure and growth, species interaction, energy flow through a population system, and environmental management. Through fieldwork and seminars, students will discuss relevant current ecological issues in the field, including the effects of habitat fragmentation and loss, invasive species, and pollution. Students will perform ecological experiments in the field to study animal behavior and population ecology. This course is intentionally designed to compliment the Sustainability and Environmental Studies course so students develop a deeper understanding of the complex relationship between human actions, ecology, and environmental conservation.

Rhetoric and Composition for the College Writer

This course has been designed to develop writing and rhetoric skills by leveraging core content explored through other Verto courses and immersive fieldwork. Students will use essential questions for other courses taken during the semester to contextualize the importance of strong academic writing, develop strong academic prose, and explore the relationship between language and rhetoric.

Sustainability and Environmental Studies

Through fieldwork with local farmers and investigations of consumption and pollution patterns in Costa Rica, students will observe systems in their cultural, economic, political, and human contexts. Texts and seminars will challenge students to examine the core assumptions and values inherent in environmental policies and resource management.

Core Semester Abroad Program Concepts


In afternoons, students participate in seminars that are related to the topic that they’re working on in the morning. So if they’re working on farms in the morning, in the afternoons they’re doing readings, watching movies and having discussion related to that.

Mentorship and Support

Each student is assigned a Program Leader as a mentor who helps student set goals for the program and meets with the student regularly to provide feedback and support around the challenges associated with being abroad. There are significantly more support and investment in the student-staff relationship than your typical freshmen student who may have an RA and then office hours for professors.

While Program Leaders provide holistic support for the students, they are not with them at all times. There are built-in opportunities in the program for students to learn and grow together as a group with an emphasis on peer relationships and teamwork.

Host Families

Students live in pairs with host families in each country to give them insight into a different culture and a different way of living. Students spend the mornings working with local professionals and experts who are engaged in working to address local issues. Hands-on experience and getting outside of the classroom is essential to reigniting a passion for learning

Packing the right gear (and the right amounts) is the first step to an incredible travel experience. Follow these tips to pack like a pro:

Travel light. Pack only the essentials. You’ll need less than you think! If your bag is full when you leave home, you’ve packed too much!

Bring the right clothes. Pack clothes that are culturally appropriate for your destination and acceptable for service projects. This means bringing long shorts (think Bermuda and basketball shorts), t-shirts with sleeves to cover shoulders, and appropriate footwear.

Leave your valuables behind. While traveling, it’s easier for things to get lost, stolen, or damaged. Keep any prized possessions safe at home.

Check with TSA. Make sure your luggage complies with TSA regulations, especially your carry-on. Useful tip: Pack an empty water bottle and fill it up after security.


A school backpack is ideal as it will be used for day trips.

• Passport
• Photocopy of passport
• Wallet/money
• Book
• Journal and pens
• Phone
• Camera
• Chargers
• Outlet power converter
• Ear buds
• Change of clothes
• Water bottle
• Snacks
• Medication/chapstick
• Visa Documentation (if applicable)
• All Flight Itineraries
• Rustic Pathways emergency contacts

Checked Luggage

A 70-90 Liter duffel bag or backpack is ideal.


• Socks (5)
• Underwear (10)
• Jeans (2)
• Lightweight pants (2)
• Long shorts* (2-3)
• Collared/Dress shirt (1)
• T-shirts (6-10)
• Tank tops (4)
• Long sleeve shirt (2)
• Pajamas
• Swimsuit (2)
• Rain jacket
• Softshell and/or Micro Puff jacket (optional)
• Fleece/hoodie
• Strappy sandals (like Tevas or Chacos)
• Sneakers – All terrain – running/hiking
• Sunglasses
• Hat
• Work gloves
• Quick dry towel
• Beach towel/sarong
• Rash guard


(travel sized in ziplock bags)

• Shampoo
• Conditioner
• Body wash
• Face wash
• Toothbrush
• Toothpaste
• Sunscreen
• Bug spray
• Hand Sanitizer
• Feminine hygiene products
• Contacts
• Contact solution
• Foam earplugs
• Personal med kit
• Deodorant
• Wet Wipes
• Razor/shaving cream


• Headlamp/flashlight
• Watch/alarm clock
• Large ziploc bags
• Large garbage bags for wet/dirty clothes
• Sleeping bag – small/lightweight a must (35 degrees and up)
• Any relevant Scuba Diving certifications
• Day pack rain cover


• Donations: As a responsible travel provider, we firmly believe in giving back to the communities and countries where we operate. As part of our holistic approach to business, we run a 501c3 nonprofit that supports high priority projects year round. If you feel inspired to join our global community of travelers making a difference, please consider making a donation here.
• Portable games (Bananagrams, playing cards, etc)
• Musical instruments

Rustic Gear

Want to get all your shopping done for your program in one place? We’ve got you covered. Check out Rustic Gear and get all the essentials sent right to your door.


• Please bring $10 USD to pay for your tourist card upon arrival.
Community service appropriate attire includes T-shirts with no visible undergarments and shorts should be knee length—think Bermuda or basketball shorts—to be respectful to the local culture and traditions. Sneakers will get muddy during service activities, so some students like to bring an extra pair.
• On the program we will be visiting NGO offices so please make sure to bring a collared shirt (a polo shirt or a button down shirt is fine) that you can wear with jeans to these meetings.
• Some students prefer hiking boots, and they are nice to have, but in the interest of packing light, it is fine to wear sturdy sneakers that will be comfortable for hiking activities.
• Don’t forget the Big Five: Water Bottle, Sunscreen, Bug spray, Rain jacket, Closed-toe shoes.