Costa Rica is currently undergoing a period of rapid economic and social change. As this resource-rich, wonderfully biodiverse country continues along a path of rapid development, it is increasingly influenced by global policy such as the Central American Fair Trade Act (CAFTA) and foreign markets. Costa Rica's economy has shifted from one predominately based on agriculture to one driven by ecotourism and technology exports. At the same time, brisk population growth is straining natural and developed resources. The country is at a critical juncture as resource management decisions are being made in an effort to keep pace with competitive global markets. Our goal is to study different development and resource management models that protect the biodiversity of Costa Rica's ecosystems while promoting socioeconomic benefits for its people.
The semester program consists of five courses including an in-depth directed research project . This program's curriculum is highly interdisciplinary, focusing on the links among natural ecosystems and social and economic systems in Costa Rica. Field Trips and Community Engagement are central components of the academic plan. All student will enroll in the following five courses:
EE(NS) 377 Tropical Ecology and Sustainable Development (4 credits)
EE(SS) 303 Economic & Ethical Issues and Sustainable Development (4 credits)
EE(NS) 374 Principles of Resource Management (4 credits)
EE 491 or 492 Directed Research (4 credits)
(LS) 205E Language, Culture and Society of Costa Rica (2 credits)
Students will examine the effects of globalization on classic development issues such as agro-ecology, biodiversity protection, economic development, urban sprawl, population growth, waste management, and water resources. Students focus on evaluating the success of Costa Rica's world-renowned land and biodiversity management systems and developing alternative strategies for economic development and biodiversity conservation, such as land use planning, organic agriculture, and conservation outside of protected areas. Visits to cloud forests, dry forests, volcanoes, lowland rainforests, and plantations offer opportunities to examine management schemes, identify the benefits of protected areas, and determine which systems offer the best option for economic development, the maintenance of cultural norms, and the preservation of biodiversity. Understanding the forces that are driving Costa Rica's policies as well as those driving change will be key as students analyze potential solutions for Costa Rica, and throughout the Central American region.
For more information about the coursework and previous , please visit the SFS: Costa Rica homepage.
One semester college-level ecology or biology
One semester college-level Spanish or the equivalent. NOTE: Students with no college level Spanish may meet the language requirement with a minimum of 3 years of high school Spanish by submitting an official high school diploma to the Education Abroad office by the application deadline.
Education Abroad Credits
You will receive credit for all academic courses taken at this institution, and all of your grades from abroad will count toward your Penn State cumulative GPA. You may not take any courses overseas of a Pass/Fail basis. Students will register for 18 credits for the program.
To see what kind of credit students in past semesters have received for courses taken on this program, visit the SFS Costa Rica Course Equivalency List. Keep in mind you will need to complete the course equivalency process once you have been accepted to your program and after you have completed your registration abroad. Students may not fulfill GHA (General Health and Activity) general education requirements abroad. To obtain specific instructions on this process visit our Course Equivalencies page.
Housing and Meals
The Center for Sustainable Development Studies is a small farm on a hillside with spectacular views overlooking the Rio Grande River in the fertile Central Valley. The field station includes a large house, an outdoor classroom, an organic garden, a patio, and pool. Students live in a dormitory (up to four to a room) with bathrooms. There is a classroom, small laboratory, and a library/computer room with internet access. The field station is part of the small neighborhood of La Presa/Los Angeles. The friendly town of Atenas is a short walk from the field station while Costa Rica's tropical forests, beaches, mountains, and volcanoes are within a day's travel.
For more information on program costs, please be sure to review the Budget Sheets listed above. These budget sheets include information on costs that are billable to the bursar bill, as well as estimated additional costs. Costs vary by program, so it is important to review this information carefully. Please note that tuition rates above may vary depending on major and class standing.
Financial Aid & Scholarships
Penn State students studying through Education Abroad can use most components of their existing financial aid packages toward the cost of study abroad. This may include federal and state grants, VA educational benefits, federal student loans, and University scholarships and grants. Notable exceptions include work-study awards and some athletic scholarships.
The University Office of Global Programs also administers a number of grants and scholarships. Eligibility is based on academic excellence and/or financial need. There is also funding available for study abroad programs in diverse locations and for students from diverse backgrounds. In most cases, applicants should have a current year FAFSA on file with the Office of Student Aid. Funding opportunities may also be available through Penn State academic departments. For detailed information on financial aid and scholarship opportunities and application procedures, please see Funding Study Abroad.
For More Information
For more information about this program and education abroad at Penn State, we encourage you to meet with our Peer Advisers. These study abroad returnees can explain program options, give an overview of the education abroad process, as well as provide information about his/her program. Students at University Park can also contact their International Coordinator within their college. If you're not at University Park, students at Commonealth Campuses can contact their Campus Global Representative.
To learn more about the specifics of this program, schedule an appointment with Whitney Strickler, the education abroad adviser for this program.
For the inside scoop on life in a foreign country, be sure to check out the GeoBlogs of Penn State students currently studying abroad.
How to Apply
If you would like to participate on this study abroad program, you will need to apply to Penn State Education Abroad by clicking the "Apply Now" button at the top of this page. You must complete the following materials in your application:
Education Abroad Questionnaire
1 academic recommendation
Visit the How to Apply section of our website for more information.
Please note that you will also be instructed to complete an application with the host provider as a part of your Penn State application either at time of application or upon acceptance. Applications open approximately one year before the program term begins.