Latin America Semester: The Dominican Republic and Costa Rica

Latin America Semester: The Dominican Republic and Costa Rica

Explore international development work and systems of public health in Central America. Spend thirteen weeks abroad, including seven weeks in the Dominican Republic and six weeks in Costa Rica.

During the first half of the semester, work alongside health care professionals on public health projects across the Dominican Republic. Identify health needs of rural, urban, wealthy, and developing communities and assist community partners and contribute to meaningful public service initiatives. Develop an understanding of the local public health issues through site visits at community-based public health institutions and apply their knowledge to helping communities in need through the delivery of a community health project.

During the second half in Costa Rica, explore international development policy in action through fieldwork and case studies alongside development organizations. Travel through Costa Rica, and meet with development organizations and communities. While in local communities, experience the needs of local families during homestay experiences. Close out the semester in Costa Rica with an adventure down the Pacuare River and tours of San Jose.

Students love our programs in Dominican Republic!
Departure Dates
  1. September 06 - December 05, 2019

  2. February 03 - May 03, 2020

Program Profile
  • Countries:

    do Dominican Republic

    Costa Rica

  • Department:
    Gap Year
  • Duration:
    13 Weeks
  • Ages:
  • Cost:
    $15,000 plus Airfare
  • Language Study Hours:
  • Interests:
  • Program Types:
    College Credit
Program Profile
  • Countries:

    do Dominican Republic

    Costa Rica

  • Department:
    Gap Year
  • Duration:
    13 Weeks
  • Ages:
  • Cost:
    $15,000 plus Airfare
  • Language Study Hours:
  • Interests:
  • Program Types:
    College Credit

Country-Specific Academic Focus

Dominican Republic: Public Health

Through fieldwork with local public health agencies in the Dominican Republic and living with families in rural communities, students gain a dynamic perspective on how communities define and meet their public health needs. Seminars and readings include investigations of how policy, the pharmaceutical industry, economics, and history shape current challenges and opportunities.

Work alongside health care professionals on public health projects across the Dominican Republic. Explore this Caribbean island while immersing yourself in local culture and practicing your Spanish in a healthcare setting. Identify the health needs of rural, urban, wealthy, and impoverished communities and contribute to meaningful public service initiatives. Gain insight into access to care, hygiene, and stable housing and how these connect to well being. Collaborate with local public health NGOs to gain an understanding of the local issues through site visits at local public health institutions. Apply your new knowledge to help communities in need through the delivery of a community project.

Costa Rica: Sustainability and Environmental Studies

This course examines the processes and values that impact sustainability with relation to food systems, production, consumption, and pollution. Through fieldwork with local farmers and investigations of consumption and pollution patterns in Costa Rica, students observe systems in their cultural, economic, political, and human contexts. Texts and seminars challenge students to examine the core assumptions and values that share various perspectives on environmental policies and resource management strategies.

Semester-Long Academic Focus

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.

Identity, Politics, and Equity

Drawing from media, texts, and intercultural experiences within homestays and fieldwork, students reflect on the dynamic roles of ethnicity, gender, nationality, and socio-economic status in shaping relationships within communities. Students will leave the course with critical understanding and inquiry tools to serve in creating greater equity in relationships ranging from the interpersonal to those between nations.

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.