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Costa Rica: Community Engagement in Public Health, Education, & the Environment

San José, Costa Rica

Message from ACM Costa Rica Spanish Language Coordinator Mario Morera

Central America is a region of great historical, cultural, and biological diversity, with the approximately 40 million people who inhabit Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua sharing much in common.  Governed in Spanish colonial times as a single unit, today they are separate countries sharing similar economic pursuits.  While in the past they may have been characterized as “coffee” or “banana republics,” today their economies continue to grow more diverse, as the region takes on the twenty-first century challenges of building justice and prosperity in the context of globalization.  As Costa Rica continues to grapple with issues such as poverty, public health, and environmental conservation, “Ticos” (as Costa Ricans like to call themselves) are committed to universal health care, social programs, and democratic government.  Over the years, Costa Rica has always stood somewhat apart from the historical dramas of Central America, making it a fascinating comparative case and a safe observatory on developments in nation-building and sustainable development in this region so closely tied, both politically and economically, to the United States. 

Since 1974, the fall ACM Costa Rica program has prepared students to explore Central America and beyond through an intensive and extremely effective Spanish language program, along with coursework and experiences that further develop language skills, while deepening understanding in particular fields of student interest such as Public Health, Education, and the Environment.  A highlight of the program is a month-long rural community practicum, where students experience rural life in Costa Rica by living with campesino families, while participating in a community engagement project and making great strides in Spanish proficiency.  Field trips around Costa Rica and guest speakers give students an appreciation for the country’s astounding biodiversity, and for the cultural and historical elements that contribute to the nation’s distinct path within Central America.  And students improve their Spanish language through an intensive program that includes customized classes in a small group format.

Throughout this fall semester program, students live with host families in San José near to the Universidad de Costa Rica and the ACM center in San Pedro, as well as with a second host family during their month-long rural community parcticum. Students will make weekly visits to sites around the country, and are involved in activities to become more actively engaged in the local community.  The program schedule offers ample opportunities for independent travel to Costa Rica’s beautiful beaches, mountains, and forests.  While all ACM courses are offered in the ACM program center, a cooperation agreement with the nearby Universidad de Costa Rica gives students access to cultural and sports facilities, and provides a wealth of opportunities for interaction with local Costa Rican university students, giving students a taste of Latin American student life.

Special note: Students with advanced levels of Spanish language proficiency have the opportunity to enroll in classes at the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR).  Students will take some classes  at the ACM center, along with two to three courses at UCR.  To learn more, visit the dual enrollment option page.

Students speaking about their ACM Costa Rica experience in Fall 2013.

Video by Zach Steedman, Colorado College.

For more detailed information, please use the links located on the left-hand side of this page.

Quick Facts

  • Term: Fall semester
  • Language prerequisite: Spanish
  • Language of instruction: Spanish
  • Living arrangements: Host family
  • Who can apply? Students from any college or university

Application deadlines

Fall semester 2015

Final deadline: March 15, 2015

Fall semester 2016

Final deadline: March 15, 2016

If the deadline has passed and you are interested in applying, contact the ACM Office immediately. Late applications may be accepted on a space-available basis.

Program contacts

Lindsey Wolf
Program Associate

11 E. Adams Street, Suite 800
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: 312.561.5908

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Publications & Resources

Costa Rica programs brochure

Costa Rica student handbook - Fall 2014

Profiles - ACM Costa Rica program alumni

Costa Rica: Community Engagement in Public Health, Education, & the Environment

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Ruth Hoff, Assoc. Professor of Languages, Wittenberg University For me, the program was an ideal blend of academics and intense experiential learning. I still have vivid memories of picking coffee alongside my host sister, sleeping on the same beach where giant sea turtles were laying their eggs, hiking through rainforests, and tasting raw cacao for the first time. These experiences have stayed with me through the years and inform my passion for teaching Spanish today.

—Ruth Hoff, Assoc. Professor of Languages, Wittenberg University, Costa Rica, Fall 1984

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