12 Weeks • 12 College Credits
PURA VIDA! WELCOME TO COSTA RICA.
Verto Education’s Costa Rica semester is designed to expose students to relevant issues in environmental studies, sustainability, and ecology. Through seminars, case studies, fieldwork, and homestays, students develop an understanding of the impact of human activities on the environment and ecosystems.
While in Costa Rica, students will engage in fieldwork with local farmers and at the Organization for Tropical Studies. Students learn and practice innovative solutions to challenges in sustainable agriculture, environmental conservation, and natural resource management through workshops and fieldwork at EARTH University. Student will travel to a rural community on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast to live and work side-by-side with park rangers specializing in sea turtle conservation.
Students immerse in Spanish language instruction through a Spanish language 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 meaningfully into the local culture.
Students close out their time in Costa Rica with an adventure down the Pacuare River and tours of San Jose. Students spend a total of 12 weeks in Costa Rica. This semester is comprised of four courses.
The Semester At-a-Glance
Upcoming Program Dates
September 6th – November 28th, 2019 – Fall 2019 Semester
February 3rd – April 26th, 2020 – Spring 2020 Semester
WHAT YOU’LL BE LEARNING Costa Rica
Spanish Language Immersion
This course blends classroom learning with real-world Spanish 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 & Species Conservation
This course examines the interactions between living organisms and their environments within ecosystems.
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 is designed to strengthen students’ writing mechanics and prepare students for the demands of academic writing.
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
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 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.
Arrive in Costa Rica
Week 1 – Orientation
Spend the first week orienting yourself to Costa Rica and and your new cohort. Get up to speed on how to stay safe and healthy, spend time building your sense of community, and begin diving into the complexities of culture and ecology in Latin America. This week you’ll live together with your cohort at an local Eco-Lodge in La Fortuna in Costa Rica’s Alajuela province. Here you’ll have a chance to hike the national park and explore Arenal volcano.
Weeks 2-3: TURRIALBA HOMESTAYS AND SUSTAINABILITY CASE STUDIES
Move into homestays in the highland town of Turrialba. Live with local families and immerse yourself in the Spanish language. Participate in workshops and site excursions facilitated by staff at CATIE university, one of Latin America’s leading institutions for conservation and sustainability. Take trips into the surrounding countryside to explore the ways in which Costa Rican community based organizations work to promote species conservation and sustainable energy production.
Week 4: INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY STAY
Head down to the southern corner of Limón province to spend a week living in an indigenous community. Learn about alternative approaches to land management rooted in traditional practices and ancestral knowledge. You’ll experience the rich culture of the BriBri people and examine the ways in which indigenous groups are seek to to grapple with creeping modernization on their own terms.
Weeks 5-7: Sustainable Agriculture
Head to Limón province to work with EARTH University. Learn about alternatives to industrial farming by participating in workshops on organic farming, livestock management, and biofuel production. After a week living as a group at EARTH, you’ll move into host families in La Argentina for two weeks. Work with your host family each day to implement the sustainable farming techniques you’ve learned while gaining an appreciation of what it takes to get food from farm to table. Practice your Spanish daily with your host families while continuing to build your language ability through direct instruction.
Week 8: San Jose NGO Visits
Spend a week in San Jose’s capital, hearing from NGOs who are engaged in conservation and sustainability efforts in the local and international arena. Gain perspective on your community experiences by learning about environmental policy at the regional level. Explore San Jose’s bustling streets and urban life to see how the pace of life in Costa Rica’s largest city contrasts with the rural lifestyle in other parts of the country.
Week 9: Nature Reserve Stay
Travel to Costa Rica’s most famous cloud forest reserve, Monteverde. Spend the week living as a group in an eco-cabaña, learning about the difference between private reserves and national parks system, comparing how both contribute to the sustainability of livelihoods and ecosystems within Costa Rica. Work with reserve staff on the upkeep and creation of trails and educational materials within the park.
Week 10: Biological Research Station
Travel to the Organization for Tropical Studies (OST) in Guanacaste. You’ll spend the next several days in workshops with biologists and a visit to the OST Biological Research Station. Experience the dry coastal forest of Costa Rica’s northwest and gain an appreciation for the vast variety of ecosystems and biodiversity within Costa Rica.
Weeks 11: TURTLE CONSERVATION ON THE PACIFIC COAST
Next it’s off to Punta Mala to live and work side-by-side with park rangers who specialize in sea turtle conservation. You will patrol the beaches for sea turtles laying their eggs, help with egg collection and hands on hatchery work. Develop an understanding of conservation and some of the difficulties rangers face on a daily basis in order to help preserve and protect these amazing animals. Here you’ll live with your cohort at the local ranger’s station.
Week 12: Capstone Retreat in La Fortuna
For the final week, travel back to La Fortuna where it all began. As a group, you’ll spend the days reflecting on your semester, pulling together the most influential moments and experiences into your final Capstone project. Celebrate everything you’ve done this semester as a group, and participate in workshops facilitated by your Program Leaders to help get ready for the transition back home and onto campus.
Get Ready to Tell Some Stories
CORE SEMESTER ABROAD PROGRAM COMPONENTS
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 & 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.
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.