Semester Spotlight

Costa Rica & The Dominican Republic

Verto Education Opportunity Grant

All students who apply and are admitted by Verto Education and who qualify for the Verto Education Opportunity Grant, will receive a $10,000 grant to apply toward their Latin America semester.

The Semester At-a-Glance

Duration

12 Weeks

College Credits

16 Credits

Program Cost

$5,000 or $15,000*
*based on Opportunity Grant Qualification

Accomodations

Mix of hotels, dorms & homestays

Travel

Student responsible for airfare to/from

Sample of Available Classes

  • Rhetoric & Composition or Spanish 101
  • Global Health
  • International Development
  • Modern Latin American History

Upcoming Program Dates

September 16th – December 12th, 2020 – Fall 2020 Semester

Map of The Dominican Republic

Latin America

Location Focus

YOUR SEMESTER IN LATIN AMERICA

Pura Vida!

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. 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 public health, 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. Delve into the role of access to water, sanitation, and food systems in the Global Health course. Outside of class, take a trip to the mountains where you will visit local ecotourism projects.

WEEK 2: HEALTH IS A HUMAN RIGHT

After returning to your base house, learn about NGOs working on public health and human rights projects in the region. Visit the office of the Haitian-Dominican Women’s Movement (MUDHA), a local NGO working with immigrants and their descendants to protect their right to identification, health, and education. Get an understanding of how the nation’s health care system is organized and what resources are available to different sectors of society.

WEEK 3: VOLUNTEER WITH AN NGO IN THE BATEYES

Meet our partner ASCALA, an NGO that works in the eastern bateyes to safeguard health, labor rights, education, and other basic human rights among vulnerable populations. The bateyes have historically been home to Haitian sugar cane laborer communities. Since the majority of its inhabitants are of Haitian descent, they have been marginalized by Dominican society, and have some of the lowest standards of living in the country. The communities often lack running water, electricity, and education sources. During this portion of the program you will learn about the racial and social conflict and identities within Dominican and Dominico-Haitian communities in the bateyes. Contribute to fieldwork that improves access to healthcare, builds sanitary bathroom facilities, and offers safe housing structures. Take a weekend trip to the peninsula of Samaná, where you’ll continue to form friendships with your cohort while enjoying some time in nature.

WEEK 4: COMMUNITY HEALTH PERSPECTIVES

Continue applications of public health through workshops in batey communities alongside local health promoters. Assist community health promoters with data collection related to healthy child development and facilitate educational sessions on preventative health topics. Together with youth volunteers conduct a community map of public health resources in a batey. One evening, visit the town of San Pedro to try a local treat, pasteles en hoja, at a famous eatery. Close out your Global Health class, visit nearby Cueva de las Maravillas to explore petroglyphs left by the indigenous Taíno people, 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 ziplining and 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. On Saturday, take a break from class and spend the day whitewater rafting on the nearby Pacuare River, one of the best places in the world for rafting. On Sunday, spend some family time with your Tico familia.

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.

Academic Focus

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.

Purpose-Finding Workshop

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.

Community Building

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.

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Important Information

Details about Verto Latin America Semester:

Accommodation

Students will rotate between homestay 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

Shared bedrooms

  • 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
    • Utensils
    • Cutlery
    • Cookware

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!

Meals

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.

Transportation

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.

Excursions

Examples:

  • Overnight in the mountains
  • Overnights to the beach
  • Cacao Tour
  • La Paz Waterfall Gardens
  • Whitewater rafting
  • Hike Arenal Volcano and jump in Tabacon Hot Springs
  • Costa Rican cooking classes
  • Zipline and waterfall tour through the jungle

Budget

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.

Academics

Classroom space will be provided in each location either at the same facility as the accommodation or nearby.

Visa

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.

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