Costa Rica is known around the world for its natural beauty, temperate climate, democracy, and political stability. It has a large middle class and the highest literacy rates in Latin America. The country has devoted itself to educational achievement and environmental conservation, with nearly one third of its territory protected under conservation areas and national parks. These biological preserves and national parks offer fantastic opportunities for students to observe an amazing number of plant, animal, bird, and butterfly species. Studying in Costa Rica will provide an opportunity to experience a country with a strong commitment to protecting its natural resources while exploring its volcanoes, beaches, rain forests, and cloud forests. Admire Costa Rica for yourself here!
All of the courses offered on this program are pre-approved by the Department of Spanish & Portuguese, making this program an excellent fit for Spanish majors and minors. On this program, students will engage with the local community in San Joaquin and put their academic and communication skills to the test in a program with caring host families, diverse volunteering opportunities, and very few tourists.
You must meet the following requirements to be eligible to participate in this program:
All requirements must be completed by the Illinois Abroad Office deadlines: online materials are due by 11:59 PM on the deadline date.
- Good Academic Standing
- Minimum 2.50 Cumulative GPA
- Completed SPAN 141 or the equivalent
Dates & Deadlines
*See official deadlines at the bottom of this page.
Program Costs, Financial Aid, & Scholarships
Program-specific costs are available through the "Budget Sheets" link at the top of this page. For more information about financial aid and scholarships for study abroad, please click here.
You will study in a private school called the Instituto San Joaquín de Flores, usually just called "the Instituto." It was founded 12 years ago by alumni of the University of Illinois, Teresita Camacho and Henry Soto. It specializes in the teaching of Spanish language, Latin American cultures, and environment to Illinois students and other students from the U.S. The structure of the Instituto is that of a large house, with spacious, decorated rooms and plenty of natural light. The building is surrounded by a garden thick with tropical flowers, trees, and birds. The Instituto feels like a home with small classrooms, photos of past Illinois students on the wall, and a kitchen where you can grab some fresh fruit and coffee or tea. Located in San Joaquín, a tranquil suburb of the capital city San José, the surrounding area is as easy to navigate as the Instituto itself. You can walk to school from your host family's house and get something to eat with friends at local restaurants across the street. This is the perfect introduction to life in Latin America.
The Instituto offers very personalized instruction, with classes limited to around 15 students. Local instructors will teach your courses, incorporating their academic background and life experiences into their teaching. One of the strongest components of the program is that you have the time and space to develop a connection with your instructors. The small class sizes and the friendly atmosphere of the Instituto allow you to feel comfortable and secure. This base of support allows you to focus your attention on making the most of your classes and opening up to the experiences around you.
| Contemporary Hispanic Texts
|| SPAN 200
| Business Spanish
|| SPAN 202
| Advanced Spanish Grammar
|| SPAN 204
| Conversation (Community-Based Learning)
|| SPAN 208/232
|| SPAN 208
| Spanish Composition
|| SPAN 228
| Intro to Literary Analysis
|| SPAN 250
| Intro to Linguistics
|| SPAN 252
| Intro to Cultural Analysis
|| SPAN 254
|| SPAN 303
| Cont. Latin American Short Stories
|| SPAN 316
| Intro to Latin American Literature
|| SPAN 316/399
| Cultural History of Central America
|| SPAN 324/326/399
| Latin American Music
|| SPAN 324/326/399
| Latin American Cinema
|| SPAN 326/399
| Conservation & Ecotourism
|| SPAN 399
| Tropical Ecology
|| SPAN 399
| Spanish for Medical Purposes
You will be individually matched with a host family for your stay in Costa Rica, within walking distance of the Institute. The Institute selects a family for you based on your answers to a housing application that you will receive following your acceptance to the program. "Tico" famlies are known for their warmth and friendliness toward visiting students. Life with a host family is likely one of the most full experiences that you will have while abroad, with all of its ups and downs. This is a key opportunity to experience an intimate side of how people in Costa Rica live their lives. In addition, life with a new family in a new place challenges you to develop your language skills, flexibility, and patience with both others and yourself.
This Illinois program has on-site resident directors whose purpose is to support you both within and outside of the classroom during your time abroad. Their offices are just inside the Instituto, just down the hall from your classrooms.
Ana Teresa Alvarado has been with the Instituto since 2006. With a degree in Management and Conservation of Natural Resources from the State University for Distance Learning in Costa Rica and years of experience as a Spanish instructor and tour guide, she leads the four-day, on-site orientation and program excursions around and outside of Costa Rica. Ana also coordinates housing, matching students with a local host family and maintaining regular contact to ensure that communication is flowing. Thanks to her work, it is common for students to form a tight and lasting bond with their host families.
David Pérez has been with the Institute since 2008 as a teacher. However, for the last two years, he has been the academic director. With a degree in Philology and a master degree in Linguistics from the Universidad de Costa Rica, he teaches Phonology and Linguistics, which he combines with his work as the academic director and coordinating students' community service projects. David is always working to maintain the quality of the classes and the excellence of the faculty members, but especially he is working for the satisfaction of the students.
To grasp the environmental and cultural diversity of Costa Rica, you need to get out of the classroom. There are several excursions built into the program and its coursework. These range from one-day trips in the mountainous areas close to San José, cultural excursions around the capital, San Jose, and to other main cities of Costa Rica, multi-day trips to other parts of the country, and during the semester program, an extended excursion to either Nicaragua or Panamá.
Experiential Education Opportunities:
Part of the central theme of this program is student involvement in the local community. Therefore, for one of the semester classes, Conversation: Community Based Learning, you will spend half the time in doing service-learning in the local community, teaching English to children and adults, participating in recreational activities with senior citizens, or another project in your area of interest. You are welcome to volunteer outside of the context of this class as well.
Please click the “Apply Now” button (found at the top-right and bottom of this page) to apply. Upon completion of all application components, the "Submit Application" button will allow you to submit your application for review. When you click "Submit Application," you will be charged a non-refundable $100 Study Abroad Systems Fee to your Illinois student account.
Step 1) Complete the IAGE application, which includes:
- Academic recommendation (completed online by an academic advisor, TA or professor)
- Personal statement
- Host language essay (in Spanish)
- Passport photocopy
- Official electronic transcript (eSCRIP)
- Online questionnaires
Additional information and supplemental application requirements will follow once you are accepted to the program.
Resources & Contact Information
First Steps Workshops:
Just getting started? Click here for the dates and times of the First Steps Workshops.
Walk-In Advising Hours:
Monday - Friday
9:00 AM - 4:45 PM
IAGE Advising and Resource Center (112 International Studies Building)
Illinois Abroad and Global Exchange
910 South Fifth Street
124 International Studies Building
Champaign, IL 61820
Application Deadlines & Program Dates