Is this Program Right for You?
Study for a semester or a year in one of the most naturally beautiful countries in the world. The breathtaking scenery and political stability of Costa Rica is unparalleled in the region, and the friendliness of the Costa Rican people makes for an enriching study abroad experience. One of the most stable nations in Latin America, Costa Rica has become known as the "Switzerland of Latin America" since dismantling its army in 1948.
If you're looking for a stellar university in an outstanding natural environment, consider the Institute for Study Abroad at the Universidad Nacional (UNA) in Heredia, Costa Rica. This college town is filled with pleasant neighborhoods, restaurants, plazas, and universities in the suburbs of San José. In Heredia you'll find excellent universities and great academic opportunities, all within the reach of ecological sites, beautiful beaches, and charming Costa Rican villages.
This program has a high level of support on-site and is good for a student who wishes to direct enroll with local students but also have elements of a structured program. This program requires at least two years of college level Spanish (completion of SPAN 253 or equivalent).
UNA, a university of approximately 15,000 students, has an enthusiastic and diverse student body from various socio-economic backgrounds and an extensive selection of academic departments. As an IFSA-Butler student, you have access to courses throughout the university - directly enrolling in courses at UNA in addition to a few courses set up just for the visiting study abroad students. UNA's full range of course offerings includes strengths in Latin American Studies, sociology, economics, environmental issues, education, and many other disciplines. Appropriate for a university in an ecological paradise, UNA also has outstanding environmental studies and ecology departments.
All students take a mandatory Spanish class. Then there is an optional program class which is taken alongside other study abroad students. This class is taught in Spanish by a Costa Rican professor, but usually the other students in the classroom are other non-native Spanish speakers who are visiting study abroad students. Besides the Spanish course and any optional course(s), the rest of your schedule will be regular undergraduate classes at UNA. These are directly enrolled classes taken with local Costa Rican students. See below for course descriptions:
- Advanced Spanish (4 credits)
This intensive Spanish class is specially designed for IFSA-Butler students and is mandatory. The course is offered at three different advanced levels, and placement is determined by a series of assessments during orientation in Costa Rica. The class is taught intensively during orientation and continues less frequently throughout the semester.
- Ecology and Sustainable Development in Costa Rica (3 credits)
Costa Rica has a significant percentage of its territory under some category of protection, which has also increased due to the private reserves dedicated to ecotourism and research. A challenge for society is to raise awareness to conserve these natural resources in the long-term, where the knowledge inventories and their valuation by society, are necessary and urgent. The course will address aspects of the history of ecology, as well as conceptual components of the ecosystems and the ways they interact in the environment. This requires an approach to ecology as interdisciplinary science enabling understanding of its importance in the recovery, preservation and protection of the environment. The course includes the development of a practical assignment by students, which helps to put into practice the concepts and skills developed in the course.
Classes at Universidad Nacional (UNA)
UNA offers classes in a wide range of disciplines. AU students in the past have taken courses in a variety of areas including Latin American Studies, Costa Rican culture and history, Environmental Studies, Economics, Education, Sociology, History, Literature, Art, Dance, Science, and International Relations.
Where can I find a list of courses that UNA offers?
The Universidad Nacional publishes a tentative list of courses that may be available for students to take while studying at the university. View the online course catalog and follow these steps:
- Click on a departmental link ("leer más") in which you would like to look for courses.
- Next, click on “descargar plan” to download a PDF of the course listings in the carrera.
- You will now see a tentative list of courses that may be offered during the year.
1) Teacher Education - All students take the core course below:
Development of Education and Education Models
: This course contrasts theory with classroom practice developed in the Costa Rican educational system. It also seeks to encourage in students the development of attitudes and values surrounding ethical, environmental, political, social, cultural and gender issues, consistent with the vision developed by educators themselves that serves to fight for equality, solidarity and other promoters of a more just society.
Students complete their courseload with the Advanced Spanish program course and three integrated courses at Universidad Nacional's prestigious School of Education or other departments. Available subjects may include:
- Art and Visual Communication
- Elementary Education
- Health and Physical Education
- Music and Performing Arts
- Preschool Education
- Social Studies
- Special Education
- Studies in Pedagogy, Leadership and Educational Research
- Teaching of Spanish
An optional non-credit workshop preparing students for the ACTFL test is also available.
2) Environmental Studies - All students take the core course below:
Ecology and Sustainable Development in Costa Rica
Students complete their courseload with the Advanced Spanish program course and two or three integrated courses at Universidad Nacional. Possible courses may include:
- Clean Technologies
- Drawing and Interpreting Environmental Plans
- Environmental Policy and Legislation
- Environmental Economics
- Food Security
- Forest Hydrology
- Fundamentals of Energy
- Plant Illnesses
- Plantation Management
View the Course Equivalency Database to find out which courses on this program have already been equated to AU courses. Please note that you are NOT limited to just these courses. Students will need to request equivalency for courses which have not been previously reviewed. Read more about the course equivalency process and how AU counts study abroad credits on our Courses and Credits page.
Heredia is a college town with a laid-back atmosphere for students. Because of it's vibrant student life, UNA has a number of artistic and athletic groups for extracurricular activity, allowing students to deeply immerse themselves in campus life with their Costa Rican counterparts. Just 7 miles from the capital city of San José in central Costa Rica, students can easily travel from Heredia to other parts of the region and country. Students visit tropical forests, picture-perfect waterfalls, and gleaming rivers that surround Heredia. On weekends and in free time student enjoy the beauty and serenity of the region when hiking, biking, and sightseeing. The region of Heredia is known throughout the world for its coffee plantations and volcanic national parks just outside the city.
Volunteering while studying abroad in Costa Rica is an enriching experience, both personally and academically. Students report that even volunteering a few hours per week enhanced their study abroad experience by providing them with access to the local culture and a deeper understanding of problems that face Costa Ricans on a daily basis.
Opportunities to volunteer are available for IFSA-Butler students in many different fields such as environmental projects, working in rural communities or tutoring children after school. Additionally, many of the program excursions and activities in Costa Rica are focused on volunteerism and giving back to the local community.
IFSA-Butler has prepared a list of places where you, as a visiting student, could volunteer to do social service. While this is purely optional, a commitment on your part is needed in order to arrange a placement. Upon completion of your period of volunteerism, you will be issued a certificate indicating the number of hours you dedicated and the type of work you completed. Volunteering does not earn academic credit and will not appear on your transcript.
Examples of places where students can be placed:
- Proyecto Esperanza Joven - Students support rural communities in education, building maintenance and assistance with natural emergencies.
- Fundación Contra el Cáncer de Mama (FUNDESCO) - Administrative duties supporting FUNDESCO staff.
- Fundación Oratorio Don Bosco - Work with children from high-risk areas through workshops, tutoring and sports.
- Asociación Volunatrio en Investigacion y Desarrollo Ambiental (VIDA) - Help rural communities with community and environmental service projects.
- Inbioparque - Assist with recycling programs, community ecotourism and sustainable development.
This is just a sample of the volunteer opportunities available to our students, and these may change from semester to semester. If you have specific interests, please discuss them with your program advisor, who can research other opportunities that may be available in your area of interest. Your program advisor can help you determine opportunities that fit your interests (if they are not listed above), but you will not sign up for a volunteer placement until after orientation.
You can bond with your fellow students and explore maravillosa Costa Rica on the IFSA-Butler group excursions. Unique each semester, in the past students visited an ecological reserve to witness the giant sea turtles lay eggs, spent time at a sustainable eco-resort in the rain forests, gone horseback riding at a traditional hacienda, and even traveled to nearby Nicaragua. in addition to large group excursions, students visit a number of destinations during orientation and around Heredia throughout the semester.
Students reside with a host family carefully selected by IFSA-Butler. Since much of Latin American culture revolves around th eextended family, living with a host family is one of the best ways to integrate into Costa Rican life. Notably, IFSA-Butler host families are only permitted one student per semester, forstering close student-family relationships and fostering complete linguistice immersion. The homestay includes three meals per day and laundry service throughout the semester.
INFORMATION FROM IFSA-BUTLER's WEBPAGE:
Heredia, Costa Rica
Fall, Spring, and Year
- Full academic advising and course selection/approval assistance
- Butler University transcript for easy credit transfer
- Academic records maintenance
- Grade and credit query assistance
- Host family stays
- Three meals per day
Predeparture support services
- Personalized advising with your IFSA-Butler program advisor
- Welcome packet, Preparing to Study Abroad guide, Financing Study Abroad guide, and newsletter updates
- Parental support including Preparing to Study Abroad guide and Financing Study Abroad guide
- Assistance in accommodating students with disabilities
- Financial aid assistance and transfers
- Travel and student visa assistance
- Group flight arrangements to most destinations
- Airport pickup for group flights
- Full-time IFSA-Butler staff abroad for assistance and support
- 4- to 10-day orientation programs (including transportation, accommodation, activities, student handbook and welcome materials, and most meals)
- Intensive language program
- Transportation to host university accommodation following orientation
- New student orientation at host university
- Newsletter updates throughout the semester
- IFSA-Butler welcome meal
Excursions and activities
- Mid-semester weekend excursions and adventure trips
- Cultural activities and social events
- Day trips and sightseeing tours
Health services and emergency assistance
- Full medical insurance plan for all students
- 24-hour emergency assistance and support from on-site IFSA-Butler staff
- Access to local medical facilities
- Numerous scholarships available
- Monthly payment plan available
- Ability to pay by credit card
- Support for U.S. university direct billing arrangements