The Costa Rica Experience: Social Stewardship & Cultural Immersion




This 6-week, 6-credit program offers students the opportunity to study in a nature lover's paradise, Costa Rica. Each student can choose between taking two courses taught in English, or taking one course taught in English and interning in the student's area of interest (business, politics, nursing, or engineering).

This is the only summer program offered by Villanova in a Spanish speaking country that does not require proficiency in Spanish. The program includes 6 hours of language immersion with a Spanish language instructor to help students adjust to daily life in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is a peaceful democracy that has not had an army since 1949. While Costa Rica is a middle-income country, it is still an emerging economy. Students will learn what it is like to live in a place that does not have street addresses, but does have high quality health care. Students will stay in homestays with Costa Rican families, facilitating immersion and adaption to the new culture and language. Students will be placed in homes near other students, and near public transportation.

Students will also have the opportunity to volunteer while in Costa Rica. Students who do not speak Spanish can volunteer helping Costa Rican students learn English. Depending on student interest, the program may incorporate a group volunteer activity.

The program is designed to offer a rich educational experience to students from the colleges of Arts & Sciences, Nursing and Engineering, as well as the Villanova School of Business (VSB). Students from all disciplines will gain international experience and marketable skills.

For more information on studying abroad in Costa Rica, please visit the website of our academic partner based in San Jose, the International Center for Development Studies (ICDS).

Course Offerings

Students can choose between two 6-credit options. Students can either take the first two courses listed below, or they can take ECO 4200/PSC 4876 and BA 2002.

ECO 4200 / PSC 4876: Political Economy of Central America - 3 credits.  This course will be team-taught in English by Villanova faculty from the economics and political science departments.  This course counts towards the economics major/minor, the political science major/minor, the Latin American studies major/minor, the Global Political Economy course requirement, and the A&S diversity 3 requirement. 

PSC 2875: Corporate Social Responsibility and Public-Private Partnerships: Instruments for Sustainable Development - 3 credits.  This course will be taught in English by faculty from the International Center for Development Studies (ICDS), a Costa Rican policy institute. 

BA 2002: Internship - 3 credits. ICDS will assist in the internship approval process and will place pre-approved students in internships based on each student’s language proficiency, interest, and experience, as well as the host institution’s needs.  ICDS will supervise the internships and evaluate each intern’s final paper. 

Possible student internship opportunities include: Aliarse (public/private consortium for sustainable development), Astradomes (worker’s rights), Ilanud (crime prevention), Municipality of Curridabat (recycling and water management), Pavas Clinic (community health), and Clinica Biblica Hospital.  Possible intern placements at for-profit companies include: BAC San Jose (a bank), Bridgestone, Comeca (recycling and supermarkets), and Purdy Toyota Dealerships. Students will be placed according to academic, personal, and professional goals.

Additional Academic Requirements

Both Program Options: ECO 1001 or ECO 1002 (Introductory Micro or Macro economics) or consent of instructor. It is the student’s responsibility to be certain that the prerequisite has been successfully completed.

Option #1: No language prerequisite. 

Option #2: Completion of SPA1122, Intermediate Spanish 2, or the equivalent.

2.75 GPA and a record clean of disciplinary or academic probation, and/or financial holds on VU account.


Students will tour old San Jose, volcanoes, coffee plantations, and take lessons in salsa dancing. Students will take two overnight trips:  (1) an eco-tourism destination (either Tortuguero canals or Monteverde cloud forest), and (2) Earth University (Escuela de Agricultura de la Región del Trópico Húmedo) a traditional working farm. As part of the ECO 4200/PSC 4876 course, students will study the ecotourism industry as practiced in locations such as Monte Verde and the Tortuguero canals.

On weekends when students are not traveling on the required program excursions, they may attend optional weekend excursions with the instructor. The optional excursions will utilize inexpensive student housing and transportation to keep costs low. Optional weekend excursion destinations include: Manuel Antonio National Park (on Pacific coast), and either Arenal volcano & hot springs, or Monteverde cloud forest. In 2011, named Manuel Antonio National Park as one of the top 12 most beautiful national parks in the world.

Faculty Program Coordinator

Dr. Ken Taylor
Department of Economics
Villanova School of Business
Bartley Hall

Payment Information

Applications are due no later than April 15, 2013; the non-refundable commitment fee of $450 is due upon receipt of acceptance letter. Final payment due prior to the departure of program.

Includes: tuition, room and two meals per day, transfers, orientations and excursions.


Students will stay in homestays with Costa Rican families, facilitating immersion and adaption to the new culture and language. Students will be placed in homes near other students, and near public transportation.

Cultural Immersion

During the first week of the program, students will have orientation, language immersion, and field trips. Tours of nearby attractions such as volcanoes and butterfly gardens, and lessons on salsa dancing and cooking will further enrich the experience.

Students will learn to navigate the buses of San Jose, and to order casado (rice, beans, fried plantains, and vegetables) at the local soda (corner diner).  They will make little discoveries that change their perspective, such as that at the equator it gets dark around 6:00 p.m. every day of the year.  They may be surprised to find that it is often cooler in San Jose than in Philadelphia in July. The students will mingle with college students from Costa Rica and learn that jeans and fast food are ubiquitous, but that salsa dancing skills aren’t easily faked.