12 Weeks • 16 College Credits
The Semester At-a-Glance
Anticipated Course Selection
- International Development
- Modern Latin American History
- Introduction to Environmental Science
- Special Topics in Latin America
- Rhetoric & Research
- World Literature
- Spanish Language
Upcoming Program Dates
* Limited Availability *February 19th – May 17th, Spring 2021 Semester
September – December, Fall 2021 Semester
YOUR SEMESTER IN LATIN AMERICA
Verto Education’s Latin America semester is a field semester that combines ongoing travel with experiential education in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. To keep the experience immersive and customize support, students are assigned a cohort of fellow students with whom they will travel throughout the semester. Please note that the below itinerary is a sample – while all students spend 4 weeks in the Dominican Republic and 8 weeks in Costa Rica, student cohorts will experience these two destinations in blocks, either starting or ending in the Dominican Republic. Students take part in meaningful, thought-provoking work in critical areas such as environmental science, international development, and Latin American history, and make life-long connections with a small group of fellow travelers while being completely immersed in local communities and cultures.
Example Cohort Itinerary
ARRIVE IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
ORIENTATION & WEEK 1: GET TO KNOW THE DR
Arrive in the Dominican Republic and spend the night in its vibrant capital city, Santo Domingo. The next day, move to the eastern part of the country, which will be your base for your time in the DR. The next few days of orientation will give you an overview of Dominican history, culture, and the courses you will be taking. Participate in cultural activities such as history lessons, dance classes, and a scavenger hunt as you settle into your base house. Visit a cacao plantation and contribute to water and sanitation projects in a rural community. Outside of class, take a trip to the mountains where you will visit local ecotourism projects.
WEEK 2: ENVIRONMENTALISM AS A WAY OF LIFE
After returning to your base house, dive into your exploration of how humans influence natural science. Your Environmental Science course will utilize the vast ecosystem of the Dominican Republic as a landscape for learning. Learn firsthand about environment conservation initiatives from NGOs that work with local communities on projects addressing water access and sanitation.
WEEK 3: VOLUNTEER WITH SUSTAINABLE NGO’S
Work in community-led sustainable farming and infrastructure projects in the Eastern side of the Dominican Republic. You’ll learn about innovative frameworks for creating sustainable ways of living and participate in a permaculture workshop during a weekend trip to the sunny peninsula of Samana. Samana is an incredible setting for you to continue to form close friendships with your cohort while enjoying some time in jaw-dropping nature.
WEEK 4: ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE PERSPECTIVES
Continue working with local NGO’s to learn about how they strive to live in harmony with the environment in their communities. Visit Plan Yaque, an organization working to optimize infrastructure for water and sanitation, forest and soils, and waste management. One evening, visit the town of San Pedro to try a local treat, pasteles en hoja, at a famous eatery. Close out your Environmental Science class with a Catamaran excursion, and wrap up your time in the DR on the beaches of Bayahibe.
ARRIVE IN COSTA RICA
WEEK 5: BIENVENIDO A COSTA RICA
Arrive in Costa Rica and settle into the volcano base house in tropical La Fortuna. La Fortuna is a great venue to study International Development since it has experienced a lot of growth thanks to the tourism industry. Costa Rica has taken the unique position of developing tourism in a way that also maintains conservation and development best practices. The International Development course is built around the question of “What is development?” Each seminar is an application of this question to the work of development theories and each experience in the Fortuna area will explore practical applications of these theories.
WEEK 6: DEVELOPMENT PERSPECTIVES
Visit the Arenal Volcano National Park and learn about its history and importance for the local economy. Continue exploring La Fortuna and taking classes. With texts ranging from Western economists, to men and women from throughout the world and ideological spectrum, examine a wide range of perspectives. Evaluate real development debates taking place today through observations and interviews in local communities as well as exchanges with NGOs and government offices. Spend the weekend exploring local waterfalls.
WEEK 7: AGRICULTURE, TRADITION, & DEVELOPMENT
Learn about local agricultural practices at Finca Don Juan and visit one of Costa Rica’s indigenous communities, the Maleku, to learn about their culture and traditions while participating in a community art class. Explore the trails of Rio Celeste and its majestic light blue waterfall. Explore a range of perspectives in the host communities, including those who are striving for Western ideals and those working to maintain traditional values and systems. A visit to the Maleku community will demonstrate the push and pull between the traditional and the western.
WEEK 8: CHALLENGING OUR ASSUMPTIONS IN SAN JOSE
Transition from La Fortuna to Turrialba, spending a couple of days in San Jose. Visit the Nai and Roca Verde NGOs to learn about their conservation efforts, community projects, and social impact initiatives. Through examination of and inquiry into the core assumptions of development theorists, identify a broad range of contrasting value sets. Question your assumptions in these same areas, and develop an understanding of how your values do and do not align with others.
WEEK 9: CONSIDER MODERN LATIN AMERICA IN TURRIALBA
Transfer to Turrialba, a tranquil town surrounded by hills and home of the world-famous Pacuare River. Get settled in with host families and start immersing yourself in the modern Latin American history class, focusing on the history and culture of Latin American from the 20th century onwards. Begin with the historical foundations needed to understand the context and trajectory of the region, before delving deeper into topics of present-day politics, economics, identity, religion, and social issues. Spend the weekends and evenings getting to know your host families, learning their stories and backgrounds, and practicing your Spanish in a real-life setting.
WEEK 10: HISTORY IN CONTEXT & RAFTING ADVENTURE
Gain perspectives on historical events pertinent to Costa Rica through informal conversations with host family members, facilitated group discussions with community representatives, and guest speakers from local universities. Compare perspectives of US academics with those of the citizens of Costa Rica in order to understand how perspectives differ based on academic expertise, personal opinion, and proximity to events.
WEEK 11: MAKING THE MOST OF COSTA RICA
Visit an archeological site in Guayabo and take a mountain bike tour around Turialba’s hills and gardens. Put Costa Rican culture into historical context by connecting primary sources and artefacts with the broader historical narratives.
WEEK 12: WRAP UP CLASS, REFLECT, & HAVE FUN
During our last week, reflect on your value system and ways of seeing the world. In living directly with host families and seeing how practitioners of community development seek to define and solve problems in their own communities, compare the influence that philosophy and social forces have on worldview. Have a farewell activity with host families before transferring to the Caribbean coast for a couple of days to relax and enjoy the beach. The final days of the Verto program are meant to be relaxing, reflective, and fun.
CORE SEMESTER COMPONENTS
College Readiness Curriculum Seminar
In collaboration with Verto faculty, Program Leaders will facilitate workshops to help students develop study habits to help them be a successful college student. They’ll learn how to manage their time, study efficiently and effectively, read academic text, prepare for exams, and build confidence in their academic capabilities. Activities in the College Readiness Curriculum are hands-on and directly related to creating strong academic habits that will serve students well beyond their Verto semesters.
Throughout the semester, Program Leaders will facilitate small group workshops to help students discover their purpose and create an action plan for how to follow through on their goals. Each student is assigned an individual Program Leader mentor who helps students set goals for the program and meets with the student regularly to provide feedback and support around the challenges associated with being abroad. This workshop will help students understand culture shock, cross-cultural communication, mindfulness, and help put their semester abroad into the context of their life and the future.
Verto Program Teams will create purposeful activities to build a strong community amongst Verto students. The connections you make during your Verto semester will last a lifetime! In addition to the College Readiness and Purpose-Finding workshops, Program Teams will cultivate a community of acceptance, connection, openness, and support amongst Verto students. There are built-in opportunities for students to learn and grow together as a group with an emphasis on peer relationships and teamwork.
Students will rotate between homestay (fall 2021 only) and base houses depending on their location. On weekend trips, students will stay in hotels, student residences, and hostel-style accommodations.
In the Dominican Republic and La Fortuna, Costa Rica, base houses will include
- Single beds
- 1 wardrobe per student
- Linen pack
- Study area
- Shared common areas: kitchen/dining & living room
- Shared bathrooms
- Fully furnished bedrooms and common rooms
- Wireless Internet access throughout residence
- Fully equipped kitchen
In Turrialba, Costa Rica, students will stay in a homestay with local families.
All homestays will have at least 2 Verto students per home; some will have individual rooms and others may share a double room. All homestays are equipped with wifi, single bed, wardrobe, and 1 desk per student.
Homestay families are carefully vetted for safety and to ensure that Verto students’ needs are met. All homestays are within walking distance to the study center, and we do our best to have groups of students in homestays stay in the same neighborhood/block with others. Homestay families will want to incorporate the students into the fabric of their family as much as the student is able or willing.
Homestays are an excellent way for students to rapidly improve their conversational Spanish and integrate into Tico culture, and often it is the highlight of the student experience!
Three meals/day are included in the semester fee.
Homestay: If students choose not to eat a meal with their homestay family on any given night, they need to let their host family know and will not be refunded the cost of that meal.
All ground transportation is included in the cost of the program, such as transport between locations, for weekend trips, and class excursions. In rural locations, Verto provides transportation to/from a nearby town or city for students at least once per week, if not more often. Students will never be required to take any form of transportation during their free time, but should they elect to do so, that cost would be the student’s responsibility.
Airfare: Students are responsible for booking their airfare to/from the program at the beginning and the end of the semester. Verto will book flights between Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic and those costs are the responsibility of the student.
*Please confirm with the Verto team before purchasing any flights. Generally we will advise you to do so in June.
- Overnight in the mountains
- Overnights to the beach
- Cacao Tour
- La Paz Waterfall Gardens
- Hike Arenal Volcano and jump in Tabacon Hot Springs
- Costa Rican cooking classes
- Waterfall tour through the jungle
Since all expenses are included in this semester, any money students will need is for small purchases such as personal items, snacks, and souvenirs. We recommend between $100-200 per month.
The Cost of Your Semester Includes:
- 3 meals per day during the semester
- Drinking water
- All accommodation while overseas
- All scheduled events
- Park entry fees
The Cost of Your Semester Does Not Include:
- Internal Airfare
- Fruit shakes, soft drinks, additional drinks at mealtimes
- Souvenirs and gifts
- Medical insurance and treatment
- Visa fees
- Optional activities and associated equipment
- Food, travel, and accommodation when traveling to, from, or between programs
- Airline change fees or new tickets for flights to and from programs
- Any costs associated with early departure from the program
- Books and other course materials
Classes delivered in Latin America are, in no particular order:
- International Development
- Modern Latin American History
- Introduction to Environmental Science
- Special Topics in Latin America
- Rhetoric and Research / World Literature (full semester)
- Spanish Language (full semester)
US passport holders do not need a visa to participate in the Latin America semester.
All passports should be valid for at least 6 months beyond the end of the program. If this is not the case, students should renew their passport as soon as possible.
Non-US passport holders should check with the local consulate and will need to obtain the proper visa to participate in the semester.*
*Verto Education is not responsible for any students’ inability to obtain the correct visa for any given semester, and cancellation fees will apply if a student is denied the proper visa. Verto Education cannot overturn any decision made by any Consular or Embassy official. Each student will receive support from Verto’s visa and passport partner, G3 services.
The health and safety of our students is always our top priority. We’ve developed stages of planning to address the specific concern of Covid-19. Please read about our Covid-19 safety plan here.