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Academics & Courses

Become a researcher in Costa Rica during a hands-on experience that’s unlike anything you’ll find in a textbook! Through coursework, one-on-one mentoring with your research advisor, and independent fieldwork, you’ll gain experience planning, carrying out, and presenting a rigorous, well-documented research project based on evidence you collect in a “real world” situation.

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Your studies begin at the ACM program center in San José, where you’ll learn about research methodology. With the guidance of your advisor, you’ll determine a topic and field placement, design a detailed research plan, and write a formal research proposal.

The program’s guest speakers and excursions, including a five-day trip to neighboring Nicaragua, will help you frame your project within the larger social and cultural context of Central America.

In addition, the Spanish course will deepen your proficiency in the language while giving you important cultural knowledge that can be applied to your fieldwork.

“I learned how to propose, conduct, analyze, and present a public health research project; and I ventured out of my comfort zone almost daily as I talked to many new people, struggled to figure out the bus system, interviewed teachers, tried new foods, and was immersed in a new culture. It was an incredible and unforgettable experience, and I will definitely utilize the skills and knowledge that I gained in my future career as a physician.”

Claire Pitstick, St. Olaf College, biology and Spanish major


Conducting Research in the Field

You and your classmates will fan out to the four corners of the country—and its mountains and two coastlines—to carry out your independent field research, maintaining contact and consultation with your advisor and program staff. Students on the full spring semester program spend approximately two months in the field working on their research projects, while students on the spring trimester option spend one month conducting fieldwork.

“My experience studying scarlet macaw nesting on the Osa Peninsula was foundational to my future: it led to a peer-reviewed publication, and prepared me for three years of public service and science in Belize, Namibia, Colombia, Ecuador, and the Mojave Desert. Now, as a student at University of Michigan, my Spanish language skills and tropical fieldwork experience will again serve me as I pursue a Ph.D. on the evolution of tropical tree communities in Ecuador. Many thanks, ACM.”

John Guittar, Grinnell College, biology major

After your time in the field, you’ll return to San José to analyze your findings, complete your research paper, and formally present your results to the group. Many program alumni have had their work selected for publication in scholarly journals and have continued on to graduate school and professional careers in disciplines they studied in Costa Rica.