Semester Spotlight

The Dominican Republic & Costa Rica

Semester Academic Focus:

  • Public Health
  • Sustainability
  • Environmental Studies

Funding Your Semester

Verto Education is proud to offer federal financial aid (loans, scholarships, grants) for all of our semesters.

Immerse Yourself in Latin America

Verto Education’s Latin America semester is a two-part semester with students spending the first 7 weeks in The Dominican Republic, followed by an additional 6 weeks exploring Costa Rica.

Students take part in meaningful, thought-provoking work in critical areas such as public health, sustainability and environmental studies and make life-long connections with a small group of fellow travelers while being completely immersed in local communities and cultures.

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The Semester At-a-Glance


13 Weeks

College Credits

16 Credits

Program Cost

$15,000 plus Airfare


Mix of hotels, dorms & homestays

Included Meals

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner


Global Health, International Development, Modern Latin America, Rhetoric and Composition

Upcoming Program Dates

September 11th – December 12th, 2020 – Fall 2020 Semester

Map of The Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic

Academic Focus


Public Health

This course examines the cultural, political, economic, and geographic contexts of meeting public health needs in the context of a developing nation.

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.

Arrive in The Dominican

Week 1: Get to know The Dominican & Your Team

Spend the first week orienting yourself to the Dominican Republic and your new cohort. Get up to speed on how to stay safe and healthy in the Dominican Republic, spend time building your sense of community, and begin diving into the complexities of public health in the Dominican Republic. Over the next several weeks, you’ll spend the morning shadowing local public health workers on campaigns around maternal health, hygiene, and nutrition. During the afternoon, you’ll begin to mesh your firsthand experience with policy through discussions and seminars with local guest lecturers in public health. This week you’ll live together with your cohort at a local eco-lodge.

Week 2 Clean Water Access Project

Move to Jarabacoa, situated in the Dominican Highlands, and get settled in with your homestay family. Here you’ll dive into discussion around access to water and sanitation. Work on a local aqueduct project seeking to bring access to water to a local community and participate in the construction of blackwater treatment systems.

Next, you’ll travel to Santo Domingo for the week where the discussion will turn to access to healthcare. Visit public hospitals, private hospitals, community health centers, and local NGO’s providing care. Here you’ll see firsthand how socio-economic factors contribute to access to healthcare.

Weeks 4-6 NGO Volunteer Facility

For the next three weeks, you’ll move to a local community east of Santo Domingo in the Bateyes de Este. The Bateyes are home to migrant Haitian sugar cane working 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. Children of these workers, though born in the Dominican Republic, are systematically denied citizenship despite local birth and generations of ancestry in the country. Stay at a volunteer facility run by an NGO partner where you’ll experience first hand the complexities of grassroots development work.

Week 7 Review & Reflect

Spend the last few days of the program closing out the discussion and putting your experience in the Dominican Republic into perspective.

Continue to Costa Rica

Map of The Dominican Republic

Costa Rica

Academic Focus


Sustainability & Environmental Studies

This course examines the interactions between living organisms and their environments within Costa Rica’s diverse and fragile ecosystems.

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.

Arrive in Costa Rica

Weeks 8-9 – Education and Migration in La Fortuna

Settle into the base house in La Fortuna in the shadow of the impressive Arenal volcano. Get oriented to Costa Rican culture and customs, review your goals for the Costa Rica portion of the program, and explore the beautiful national park. Work with local educational institutions to understand the role that education plays in an economy reliant on the tourism industry. Support the work of organizations and communities working with Nicaraguan refugees and immigrants.

Week 10 – Sustainable Farming in Saipiriqui

Travel to the rural community of Saipiriqui and move into a homestay family with one of your Verto classmates. Rise early and head out onto the farm, getting your hands dirty in the soil while working alongside and organic farming co-operative. Learn first-hand about what it takes to get food from the field to the table while contributing to sustainable livelihoods.

Week 11 – 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.

Week 12 – Urbanization in San Jose

Travel back to Costa Rica’s capital to experience city life. Work alongside organizations seeking to provide housing and social services to migrants and other marginalized groups in Costa Rica. Hear from local and international NGOs working on development policy and practice across the region to add context to the grassroots experiences elsewhere on the program. Take in San Jose’s museum and culture to deepen your understanding of Latin American history and politics, while hearing from guest lecturers at PEACE university seeking to offer an alternative vision for how education and development plays out in the region.

Week 13 – Capstone Retreat on the Pacific Coast

For the final week, travel to the Pacific coast to work on your Capstone project in the culmination of your experience abroad. Live with your group in a beachside lodge and reflect 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

Semester-long Academic Focus

In addition to the two country-specific courses offered in this semester, students will also complete two additional courses that span the full semester :

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 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

This course challenges students to critically analyze how identity — as defined by others and oneself — shapes culture, politics, and the distribution of power.

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 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.




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

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.

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.

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