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IAGE Illinois in Costa Rica: Spanish, Culture, and Community
San Joaquin, Costa Rica (Outgoing Program)
Program Terms: Fall Semester,
Spring Semester,
Homepage: Click to visit
Program Dates & Deadlines: Click here to view
Budget Sheets Fall Semester,
Spring Semester,
Fact Sheet:
Language of Instruction:
Language Requirement:
Host Family
Non-Illinois Student Options:
Illinois Sponsor:
Study Abroad Office (campus-wide)
Credit or Not for Credit:
For credit
Foreign Institution:
Instituto San Joaquin de Flores
Program Description:
Costa Rica Volcano

Program Overview

Students who choose to study in Costa Rica want something different, an alternative perspective. They recognize the presence and influence of Latin American cultures in the U.S., and they recognize the personal and professional growth that will come from learning more about these cultures in the context of Latin America. They know that they will benefit from studying in a school with small class sizes and a strong support network. And they know that they will put their academic and interpersonal skills to test in a program site with caring host families, diverse volunteering opportunities, and very few tourists. All of the courses offered on this program are pre-approved by the Spanish & Portuguese Department, making this program is an excellent fit for Spanish majors and minors. Available fall, spring, summer, and academic year terms. A special discount may be offered to students who participate in the semester program. Learn more 

Check out this promotional video for the program!

Quick Links

Program Specific Information
General Study Abroad Information
Program Costs, Financial Aid & Scholarships
*Please note that program-specific costs are available through the "Budget Sheet" link at the top of this page.
Academic Environment
Where You Will Live
Costa Rica is known around the world for its natural beauty, temperate climate, its 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.
plant bird butterfly

Where You Will Study
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 and other U.S. students. The physical space of the Instituto is nearly as inviting as the people that work there. The structure 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 front door opens to a living room with local artwork on the walls and a group of couches where students can be found practicing spoken Spanish or reading a newspaper. The Instituto is not a large sprawling campus that is difficult to navigate. Instead, it feels like 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. You will get to know your teachers well and the on-site program staff have their offices right down the hall.

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.
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All courses at the Institute are taught by faculty from local Costa Rican universities and have been created specifically for Illinois students:
Course Title Term Offered Illinois Equivalent
 Contemporary Hispanic Texts  FA/SP/SU  SPAN 200
 Business Spanish  FA/SP/SU  SPAN 202
 Advanced Spanish Grammar  FA/SP/SU  SPAN 204
 Conversation (Community-Based Learning)  FA/SP  SPAN 208/232
 Conversation   SU  SPAN 208
 Spanish Composition  FA/SP/SU  SPAN 228
 Intro to Literary Analysis  FA/SP/SU  SPAN 250
 Intro to Linguistics  FA/SP/SU  SPAN 252
 Intro to Cultural Analysis  FA/SP/SU  SPAN 254
 Phonology  FA/SP/SU  SPAN 303
 Cont. Latin American Short Stories  FA/SP/SU  SPAN 316
 Intro to Latin American Literature  FA/SP/SU  SPAN 316/399
 Cultural History of Central America  FA/SP/SU  SPAN 324/326/399
 Latin American Music  FA/SP/SU  SPAN 324/326/399
 Latin American Cinema  FA/SP/SU  SPAN 326/399
 Conservation & Ecotourism  FA/SP  SPAN 399
 Tropical Ecology  SU  SPAN 399
 Spanish for Medical Purposes  SU  TBD

Class Size
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.
The official language of Costa Rica is Spanish. Plan to use it in all of your classes, with your host family, and around the country. 
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Experiential Learning/Volunteer Opportunities
Part of the central theme of the San Joaquin program is the students involvement in the community. Therefore, for one of the semester classes, Conversation: Community Based Learning, you will spend half the time in the community, teaching English to children and adults or participating in recreational activities with senior citizens. You are welcome to volunteer outside of the context of this class as well.
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.

On-Site Support

Illinois has on-site directors who are there to support you both inside and outside of the classroom during your time abroad. Their offices are right inside the Instituto, just down the hall from your classrooms.

Ana Teresa Alvarado, Resident Director
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. She noted that, "It's amazing how many of the students return to Costa Rica to visit their families again. And now, with new technology, they stay in touch all the time."

David Pérez Retana, Academic Director
David 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.

You will be individually matched with a host family for your stay in Costa Rica, within walking distance of the Institute. We select a family for you based on your answers to a housing questionnaire 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.
2 2 church

Application Process


To be eligible to participate in this program:
  • Minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA 
  • Must have completed Spanish 141 (or the equivalent) prior to the start of the program. If you have not taken any Spanish in college, you need to have completed four years of high school Spanish. If you are a heritage speaker of Spanish and have not taken a Spanish course(s), this program might be the perfect one for you -- please contact Illinois Abroad to talk about your linguistic background and goals.
  • The only non-Illinois students that may apply to this program are students from University of Illinois-Chicago and University of Illinois-Springfield.
Dates and Deadlines

All requirements must be completed by the Illinois Abroad Office deadlines: online materials are due by 11:59 PM on the deadline date.

*See official deadlines at the bottom of this page.

How to Apply
Please click the Apply Now button (found at the top-right of this page) to apply. Note that you will be charged a non-refundable $100 Study Abroad Systems Fee by clicking Apply Now and logging in.
The application requires:
  • Letter of recommendation - done electronically (must be an academic advisor, TA or professor)
  • Personal essay questions
  • Host language essay (in Spanish)
  • Passport photocopy
  • Official transcript (eSCRIP)
  • Online questionnaires
Additional information and supplemental application requirements will follow once you are accepted to the program, which should ocurr within one month of the respective deadline.

Walk-In Advising Hours
Monday - Friday
12:00 pm - 4:00 pm
IAGE Advising and Resource Center (112 International Studies Building)

First Steps Info Sessions
Click here for the dates and times of the First Steps Info Sessions.
Program Advisor
Clair Bryan

Location and Mailing Address
Illinois Abroad and Global Exchange
910 South Fifth Street
124 International Studies Building
Champaign, IL 61820

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Program Dates

Please review the program dates table below:

Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Fall Semester 2017 02/15/2017
02/16/2017 08/22/2017 12/16/2017
Summer 2017 02/15/2017
02/16/2017 05/16/2017 07/01/2017
Spring Semester 2018 09/15/2017
09/23/2017 01/09/2018 05/12/2018
Fall Semester 2018 02/15/2018 02/15/2018 TBA TBA
Summer 2018 02/15/2018 02/15/2018 TBA TBA

Indicates that deadline has passed