Costa Rica

Center for Sustainable Development Studies

Costa Rica

The dense rainforests and mountainous landscapes of Costa Rica are brimming with life – from sloths and frogs to brightly colored toucans and hummingbirds. Costa Rica hosts an astounding 5 percent of Earth’s species despite covering only 0.03 percent of its area. Shaded coffee farms integrated into tropical forests constitute just one example of the sustainable conservation strategies for which the country is known.

Programs

semester

Sustainable Development Studies

Experience a semester of sustainability in Costa Rica, home to rainforests, volcanoes, rushing waterfalls, and a laid-back culture that reflects the national motto: “Pura Vida.” Immerse yourself in the country’s many national parks, farms, and tropical ecosystems full of incredible biodiversity. Design and conduct a rigorous field research project and learn how Costa Ricans are creatively addressing conservation and development issues.
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15 Weeks
18 Credits
Spring 2021

Jan 25 - May 7

Filling Fast

Fall 2021

Aug 30 - Dec 10

Open

winter session

Foundations of Sustainable Food Systems

Spend this winter break exploring Costa Rica – from mountains and tropical rainforests to farms and agricultural communities. You’ll step behind the scenes to learn about global versus local food production and the connection between ecosystems, climate change, and agricultural practices. Meet with an Indigenous group to hear about their connection to nature and the preservation of traditional agricultural knowledge, and explore the role that gender plays in food production.
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03 Weeks
03 Credits
Winter 2021

Dec 28 - Jan 15

Closed

Winter 2022

Dec 27 - Jan 14

Open

summer session I

Biodiversity and Sustainable Food Systems

Using coffee and chocolate as case studies during this summer study abroad program, explore the relationships between food systems, ecology, conservation, and sustainability. Learn how different agricultural techniques have the potential to restore biodiversity and combat climate change. Study the sociocultural history of coffee and cacao, from Indigenous histories to modern production and exports.
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04 Weeks
04 Credits
Summer 2021

May 31 - Jun 30

Open


What Students Are Saying:


 
“SFS offers students some really unique opportunities. Much of the semester was devoted to experiential learning. This meant hiking through the cloud forest and observing first-hand the ecological processes we had learned about in lecture. This meant conducting wildlife research on camping trips. This meant conducting our own research under the guidance of passionate and knowledgeable faculty advisors. I left SFS with a new depth and breadth of knowledge, as well as tangible projects and skills to show for it.”
 
– Georgie, George Washington University


 
“On a personal level, I learned how to be independent and succeed in a new setting. Aside from learning a lot in my classes, I also learned (from living at the center) about sustainable living and efforts we can make to truly make a difference.”
 
– Laura, Brandeis University


 
“Not only is this program run by very intelligent and personable faculty and staff, but also the students that participate in this program are one of a kind. This program attracts individuals who are concerned about the environment and desire to make a positive difference in the world, but more importantly who realize that the best change can only occur collaboratively. As a result, this program fosters an academic work and living environment like no other.”
 
– Seamus, Bucknell University

 

Where You'll Be Living

The Center overlooks the vibrant Central Valley, where green is the predominant color as far as the eye can see. As part of an active sustainable farm, dorms and classrooms are nestled among orchards and gardens, while Center dog Hera keeps watch over it all. The friendly town of Atenas is a 10-minute cab ride away, offering restaurants, shops, parks, and cultural events.

  • Dorm living with four-person bunkrooms
  • Classroom, library, computer lab, and laundry room
  • Open-air porch with hammocks and chairs
  • Dining hall with scenic valley views, and on-site cooking staff
  • Swimming pool, soccer field, outdoor classroom, pizza oven
  • Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farm
Click here to read stories from students, staff, and faculty on our blog

 
 
 

Program Costs

Study abroad is an investment in yourself – you’ll return home with new experiences, skills, knowledge, and friendships that will stay with you for the rest of your life. SFS program costs cover a variety of expenses, including:
 

  • Pre-program advising and on-site orientation
  • Tuition and research fees
  • Housing at the field station and on excursions
  • Daily meals and snacks
  • Airport transfers (for arrival/departure)
  • Field excursions and cultural activities
  • Student success and wellness team on site
  • 24/7 mental health and well-being support
  • Emergency evacuation and repatriation insurance
  • Official transcript processing

View Costa Rica Program Costs

Financial Aid

We know cost can be one of the biggest barriers to studying abroad. At SFS, we’re committed to making our programs accessible to students which is why we award more than $650,000 in need-based financial aid each year. Our Admissions Team has worked with thousands of students and are here to answer your questions about the SFS aid process, aid available through your home school, and funding from external sources.
 
SFS Financial Aid: Need-based aid packages typically consist of a combination of scholarships, grants, and zero- and low-interest loans. SFS matches Federal Pell Grant funding for students applying to an SFS semester program.

Home School Aid: Be sure to ask your home school study abroad office or financial aid office what financial aid resources might be available to support your study abroad experience.

External Funding Opportunities: Organizations such as the Fund for Education Abroad or the Gilman International Scholarship Program award scholarships to students going abroad. These can be a great opportunity to reduce the cost of your program even more.
 
Learn More about Financial Aid


 
 
 

 

Research

Research at the Center for Sustainable Development Studies focuses on the connections between conservation and development. Costa Rica’s lush ecosystems, conservation areas and national parks, communities, and farms provide a varied landscape for research on the impacts of climate change, globalization, tourism, and land use change. Our research provides valuable data for community members, NGOs, and government officials as they seek to further the sustainable development goals of Costa Rica.

Our research focuses primarily on the following themes:

  • Climate change in tropical ecosystems
  • Agroforestry, permaculture, and conservation
  • Impacts of human development on bird communication
  • Urban ecology and water management
  • Food security
  • Sustainable ecotourism

Environmental Issues

Our Centers are strategically located in regions facing critical environmental issues. Students and faculty study these issues and collect data to help facilitate sustainable responses. In Costa Rica, we’re currently investigating the following issues:

Climate Change
Biodiversity Conservation
Land Use Change
Tourism Impacts
Pollution & Waste Management
Natural Resource & Water Management
Learn More About the Issues

Community

Atenas, Costa Rica

 
SFS is an active part of the Atenas community, where we have been based since the early 90s.

We have built long-term, collaborative relationships in the communities around the Center, and developed our research plans based on the environmental issues they and the surrounding ecosystems face. Throughout the program, students help maintain a local recycling program, teach environmental education to local students, and participate in waterways management projects. They get to know local families and host them for community dinners, attend festivals and cultural performances, and join soccer matches.

At the end of each semester program, we host a Community Research Night where select students will present their research findings to the community. SFS research data is shared with the community, local NGOs, and the Costa Rican government.
 

Read stories about our community in Costa Rica