API Abroad: Instituto San Joaquín de Flores

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Join API and study abroad in Costa Rica at the Instituto San Joaquín de Flores. This study abroad program is offered to students during fall/spring semesters, and during the summer. Students take courses taught by Costa Rican faculty from local students. All coursework has been specifically designed for American students with the goal of maximizing their linguistic and cultural exposure. The location of the Instituto takes advantage of the beautiful natural environment, with picturesque views of distant mountains and volcanoes.

The city of San Joaquín de Flores is located only 20 minutes away from the capital of San Jose and 90 minutes from Costa Rica's pristine beaches. Students have the opportunity to live with a local host family to maximize their Spanish learning potential.

Questions & Answers


based on 7 reviews
  • Academics 7.7
  • Support 9
  • Fun 9
  • Housing 8.4
  • Safety 7.7
Showing 1 - 7 of 7
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Pura Vida Maee

I loved the experience best time of my life!! you really get to travel and see so many different types of places throughout Costa Rica! The city can get boring but you for sure live through the weekends and at night there is a lot to do you just have to be safe walking around the neighborhood! I love their lifestyle i seriously had no worries when I was down there it was beautiful and i miss every minute of it!

How can this program be improved?
not me personally but others did not like their housing situations
safety around the university and housing
Yes, I recommend this program
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Best experience!!

My family was amazing! I lived in a little complex of 5 different houses. Most of my aunts, uncles, and cousins lived there. I would wake up with my breakfast, which consisted of fresh fruit and/or toast with jelly and a coffee, set out on the counter for me. Any clothes that my mom had washed would also be set out, already folded, and ready for me to put into my room. She washed clothes every single day, and if I didn't have time to make my bed before class she would take care of it.
I would go to class (and eat more fresh fruit and coffee and the Instituto) and go back home. As soon as I was ready to eat lunch all I had to do was ask my grandma or aunt and one of them served it to me. I would either go back to the instituto for more class or stay home and exercise or do homework until my mom came home from work and my cousins from school. We would then have an afternoon snack with coffee and then spend time just talking, watching T.V., or playing soccer together until supper time. Supper was usually a huge meal where almost everyone gathered, and sometimes there were up to 17 people! After supper, we usually watched an hour of T.V. and then they all went to bed at about 9. Although early, it worked out alright because that was when I usually went to my room to either do more homework or go online and chat with my friends back home.

On a majority of the weekends a group of us students would go on a weekend trip to a beach, a waterfall, or a national park. The bus there and back was cheap, and we were able to find many cheap hostels to stay at. We would explore or relax during the day and at night go out. One of the negatives was that we were all scared to walk at night (even when things were located closely) so we always had to call a taxi which eventually did add up.

How can this program be improved?
The classes could have been a little more difficult or placed more emphasis on the use of the language. Many of the students didn't put much effort forth because they knew they could get away with it. I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could because I was only there for a short period of time and many of them were not as serious about it.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Pura Vida! Living and Learning at the Instituto San Joaquin de Flores

The Instituto San Joaquin de Flores in Heredia, Costa Rica was my perfect haven for traveling outside the U.S., learning the Spanish language, and learning about the world around me. This friendly town in central Costa Rica embodied just about everything I was looking for in a study abroad experience: a safe location, a beautiful setting, home stays with local “tico” families, and an affordable price. During my four month stay, I was able to make the most of my experience by living with a welcoming host family, taking classes in Spanish at the institute, volunteering teaching English at a local elementary school and travelling extensively throughout the country.

Arriving in Costa Rica for the first time wasn’t easy because I was filled with a whole jumble of emotions; sadness about leaving my family behind, excitement about finally living my dream of studying abroad and anxiety about being a whole new, unfamiliar place. Thankfully, while experiencing these typical culture shock emotions, the staff members on site in Costa Rica were there to guide me every step of the way through this rollercoaster of a ride. They provided safety information, numbers I could call in case of an emergency, and general information we would need to know while still acclimating ourselves to the country. One of the greatest gestures API made was providing the incoming students with a calling card to make the first call home just to check in with our families to let them know we had arrived safely!

The Spanish-intensive classes I took while at the Instituto San Joaquin de Flores were a very important part of my transition to a higher level of Spanish fluency. They were taught in Spanish and my classmates were all students from the U.S. Although sometimes it can be nice to be integrated with local university students from the host country, I liked that the professors at the institute were able to cater to my needs as a native English-speaking student. The school itself was set in a beautiful location right in the center of town. One of my favorite parts was grabbing fresh fruit and Costa Rican coffee that was prepared for us each day before class!

One of the most memorable aspects of my study abroad experience in Costa Rica was my home stay with three wonderful people who I have grown to care deeply for. I lived with a young woman and her two children, a son, who was four years old, and a daughter, who was eight. I found that by breaking out of my shell and really making an effort to make conversation with them, my Spanish was able to improve immensely! The family really made me feel welcome in their home as they invited me to many family events and gatherings which really gave me the opportunity to experience genuine Costa Rican culture. I also got to try typical Costa Rican food on a regular basis as my host mom would provide three meals for me each day. As someone who considers herself to be a picky eater, I was surprised by how much I loved the country’s food. Although I might have been a little too daring when I decided to try “lengua de vaca” (better known as cow tongue!), I would give anything to have another homemade batch of “gallo pinto,” a meal of rice and beans typically eaten at breakfast.

Aside from all of the aforementioned assets, I will never forget the country’s overall beauty! It was incredible to see such a diverse landscape. Well-organized API excursions, along with my own travel adventures, took me to the waterfalls of Montezuma, the beautiful beaches of Manuel Antonio and Puerto Viejo, the nearby Poas Volcano, and the unforgettable cloud and rain forests of Monteverde, just to name a few! API even included an international excursion to Panama where we were able to see the Panama Canal! For those who love adventure, zip-lining in Monteverde is a must! All of these exciting travel experiences introduced me to new friends, broadened my cultural awareness and played a key role in my own personal growth. I would whole-heartedly recommend this program. In my opinion, it is one of API’s hidden gems!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Great Experience

I enjoyed my 10 minute walk to the institute each day. My family was very welcoming and accommodating and I could come and go as I pleased. I felt very safe in the town during the day, however at night we were warned to not walk alone. I would go for a run each morning.

During the weekends, I would travel to different parts of the country by using the outstanding Costa Rican bus system.

The program was very helpful and responsive to our requests. We had a chance for tutoring and the instructors were always willing to help.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Summer 2011 my first study abroad experience

Studying abroad in Costa Rica was my first time ever flying, and my first time being out of the United States. The experience was great there were a few things that could have made it better; such as planning/timing, but overall it was a good experience. The people of API try to help you every way possible.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Experience of a lifetime

My time spent at the Instituto San Joaquin de Flores was truly one of the best experiences of my life. Everyone is friendly and helpful, not only the teachers and site directors, but also the people of the town. Definately a great program that balances learning and recreation perfectly.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Summer Abroad 2010

My experience with API in Costa Rica was amazing. I spent a summer abroad there and participated in the Spanish for Nursing program that was just starting up. Our API group consisted of 10 students and only one other was doing the Spanish for Nursing program with me. However, once we arrived in San Joaquin de Flores we combined our program with one from the University of Illinois so that there was a bigger group.

While there I stayed with a host family that was unbelievably great. My tico family was an elderly couple who had kids and grandkids living in the area. Although the couple lived alone they were always having people over. They were so welcoming and kind that I felt comfortable right away. I was also lucky enough to be living quite close to the school so that I could easily walk to class every day.

As far as the classes went, they were pretty good. The Spanish for Nursing class that I took was different from what I expected but really interesting all the same. Instead of focusing on learning vocabulary that would apply to the health care field we learned a lot about the Costa Rican health care system and did field visits each week to different types of clinics and hospitals in the area. It was interesting to see how a universal health care system works and discuss pros and cons of their system with the locals. The other class that I took was a film class that was interesting in that we watched a lot of movies that demonstrated how different the Latin and Hispanic cultures are and how they are portrayed in film; however, if I were to do it again I probably would have taken one of the history classes instead.

I think what really made this experience as great as it was was the API staff in Costa Rica as well as the other students on the trip. The two API staff members were outstanding. They were always so kind and helpful when we needed any assistance with school stuff or trip planning. They were really great resources to have and just really fun to talk with. The program itself was planned out so well and everything went so smoothly, getting us from one place to the next, taking group trips, etc. All of our accommodations on the excursions were amazing and they just took really great care of us. Lastly, the other students in the API group were so much fun to be with. I'm not sure if we just got lucky with such a great group of people but we all got along really well and planned out group trips to different parts of the country almost every weekend. (Getting from San Joaquin de Flores to other places was fairly easy since it was about 45 minutes from San Jose, and almost all destinations were accessible from San Jose.) It was nice to go out and experience everything with other students who were as enthusiastic to be there as I was.

Overall I thought that this program was fantastic and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to go. I improved my Spanish a lot, made new friends, and fell in love with Costa Rica. If I could have stayed longer I would have, but unfortunately my major was difficult to work into study abroad curricula. Regardless, I think it was a a great time and a great experience that I would highly recommend.

Yes, I recommend this program


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