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Costa Rica: Field Research in the Environment, Social Sciences, & Humanities

San José & field sites, Costa Rica

A country of ecological diversity, with an enviable system of national parks, along with the longest uninterrupted history of democracy in Latin America, Costa Rica has consistently met the challenges of modern development with a preference for peace and pragmatism.  With a fabulous – but also fragile and complicated – geography, varying from beautiful beaches along both its coastlines to tropical rain forests and green mountains in the interior, Costa Rica is working to protect its biodiversity, while at the same time pursuing economic development.  The resulting economic boom in tourism, along with investments in infrastructure, education, and health care, have helped place the country at or near the top of human development rankings in Latin America.  Today, Costa Rica continues to address the underlying contradictions of sustainable development in Central America, weighing new economic opportunities in tourism, pineapple, and high tech industries against the need to protect the country’s status as a gem of neotropical biodiversity.

The spring ACM Costa Rica program has given students a privileged window onto these developments since the program’s founding in 1964.  Based in San José, only blocks away from the Universidad de Costa Rica, the program takes full advantage of the resources and scholars of that institution, while reaching out to local and international NGOs and investigators throughout the country to facilitate student research in science and the humanities.  Students may choose from two program options:

  • Full spring semester - This traditional semester-long option runs from January-May.
  • Spring trimester option - This option (from April-June) is ideal for students at schools not using a semester calendar.

Students spend a month in San José at the beginning and end of the program to polish their Spanish and their research plans, and to analyze their data and write their final papers.  In the middle of the program, students fan out to the four corners of the country (and its mountains, and two coastlines) to carry out independent field research under the supervision of an advisor with experience and contacts in the student’s chosen field.  Students with urban interests or whose data is best gathered in the capital city may remain in San José.  Students on the full spring semester program will spend approximately two months working on their research project, while students on the spring trimester option will spend one month doing research.

 

Click here to learn more about possible areas of research!


During the program, students live with host families both in San José and wherever their research takes them.  In addition to the cultural and linguistic immersion that comes from the homestay, the ACM typically arranges excursions, to give students a sense of Costa Rica’s geographic and biological diversity and to familiarize them with San José itself.  Throughout the program, a variety of guest speakers are invited to help students understand the larger cultural context in which they carry out their research.

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

Quick Facts

  • Terms: Spring semester & spring quarter/trimester (April-June)
  • Language prerequisite: Spanish
  • Language of instruction: Spanish & English
  • Living arrangements: Host family
  • Who can apply? Students from any college or university

Application deadlines

Spring semester 2015

Early deadline: March 15, 2014
Do I need to apply early?
The early application date is available for students whose college requires that all off-campus study applications for the entire upcoming academic year must be completed the prior spring semester. If your college does not require a spring decision for programs the following spring, you may apply by either the early or final application deadline.

Final deadline: October 15, 2014

Spring quarter/trimester 2015

Early deadline: March 15, 2014
Do I need to apply early?
The early application date is available for students whose college requires that all off-campus study applications for the entire upcoming academic year must be completed the prior spring semester. If your college does not require a spring decision for programs the following spring, you may apply by either the early or final application deadline.

Final deadline: November 15, 2014

Spring semester 2016

Early deadline: March 15, 2015
Do I need to apply early?
The early application date is available for students whose college requires that all off-campus study applications for the entire upcoming academic year must be completed the prior spring semester. If your college does not require a spring decision for programs the following spring, you may apply by either the early or final application deadline.

Final deadline: October 15, 2015

Spring quarter/trimester 2016

Early deadline: March 15, 2015
Do I need to apply early?
The early application date is available for students whose college requires that all off-campus study applications for the entire upcoming academic year must be completed the prior spring semester. If your college does not require a spring decision for programs the following spring, you may apply by either the early or final application deadline.

Final deadline: November 15, 2015

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
lwolf@acm.edu

More program contacts »

Publications & Resources

Costa Rica programs brochure

Costa Rica student handbook - Spring 2012

Profiles - ACM Costa Rica program alumni

Costa Rica: Field Research in the Environment, Social Sciences, & Humanities

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Conor Sexton Going into college, I never would have expected to study abroad in Costa Rica, since I am a dedicated French student. But I started studying Spanish when I heard about the ACM Costa Rica spring program, motivated by the opportunity to conduct independent research in my field. In Costa Rica, I was able to combine my passion for coffee, environmental studies, and economics to create a unique and enriching field experience, with steady guidance from my advisor and the ACM curriculum. And beyond academics, I feel lucky to have formed strong relationships with my host families and new friends, and to have adventured around in a breathtaking country for three months.

—Conor Sexton, Costa Rica, Spring 2014

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