Costa Rica with out a doubt is a beautiful and culturally enriched place. During my three and a half months living and studying in Costa Rica, there was not one day that I can say I was bored. The day to day routine of course involves attending class, but the classes I took were very interactive. Our Professors not only made Universidad Veritas our campus but the city that surrounded us. We went on many field trips: to Museums; the Zoo; visited the indigenous Bri Bri tribe; the Basilica de Cartago; Professors' homes where we engaged in group discussion and activities (and received a delicious meal).
After classes there were many activities to partake in. During the evenings on selected days we could participate in dance class (where I learned how to Bachata), cooking class and Tae Kwon Do. We also have the option of becoming a Veritas Ambassador or joining the mentor social group where we had the opportunity to meet local students, hangout and share experiences. The night life in Costa Rica is awesome there's a little hangout spot called Los Professionales (right off the Zapote la pista) where a lot of the students (including myself) like to hangout and unwind and have a all around good time, with great music, foosball, dancing, socializing, and great food. It is a great place to mingle with the international students and nationals that attend the local Universities and vive en el Barrio de Zapote.
On the weekends you pretty much go where the wind takes you, if you decide not purchase any of the excursions that come with your progra- no worries! You can still experience those same activities as others (like myself) did, and you'll probably save yourself some money as well. There are buses that will take you all over. From the Pacific to the Caribbean and back to the mainland. One of my personal favorite places to go is Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. It's off the Caribbean near Puerto Limon. It is not as touristy as Tamarindo, and that's what I like about this city. It has a rich African Caribbean influence and reggae, reggaeton, bachata, salsa, cuban, latin and american music can be heard in almost all of the night clubs. Mangos and Johnny's Place are the favs. Zip lining, hiking, biking, national parks, kayaking, camping, beaches, hostels, etc. are all in abundance in Costa Rica, you should never have a dull moment. If you plan on studying in Costa Rica I would say that during the dry season is the best time to go. Plus, you'll be able to attend the largest Carnival in Central America; Carnival Puntarenas.
Now you don't always have to leave the city to have a great time there are plenty of things to do in the city visiting downtown or central ciudad. The many festivals that take place during the year will keep you plenty busy and you eat plenty of good food. A couple dishes in particular that are native to Costa Rica is Gallo Pinto and Casado (frijoles, arroz, platanos, and su eleccion de carne). If time permits vist restaurante Nuestra Tierra they have awesome traditional and fusion dishes.
City transportation is easy to come by; there are taxis and buses all over. They are muy barto for the most part but taxi's can start to get muy caro depending on how far you are traveling. My advice; learn how to ride the bus, it's super cheap about 25- 35 colones depending on how far you are traveling but usually in that price range. (The most I've paid was about 65 colones which is about a $1.30 in USD and thats because I had to go to Hatillo to get my hair done and to take a taxi would be very costly.)
During vacations, during the holiday of Samana Sanata (the city is pretty much no man's land literally) and school breaks I traveld outside Costa Rica with friends to Panama and Nicaragua. Nicaragua is AMAZING! lots of culture and one of my favorite trips outside the country; and if you think Costa Rica is awesome wait till you see Panama it will blow your mind and they use USD as currency. So, if you do decide to travel outside the country of Costa Rica during your downtime or to renew your tourist visa, I would suggest you visit Granada, Massaya, Managua, or Bluefields in Nicaragua or Bocas Del Toro, Panama City, or David in Panama. Also keep in mind Bocas Del Toro is the probably the closet place to travel, as it is only a 6 hour drive to the border of Costa Rica and Panama and about 35 minute drive to the water taxi port where you will board and take a 45 minute boat ride to the island of Bocas Del Toro.
Moving on to my living experience. My living situation could have been better starting off. My first host mother was not all that great, I would have to say this is the only difficulty I faced and it was solved. My CIS Program Director Lisa P. made sure I was comfortable and found me a more suitable family which was awesome! and whom I still keep in contact with today. Choosing the homestay options was a great choice there are many benefits versus that of living independently.
CIS takes pride in its program and wants everyone to feel welcomed, accepted, and comfortable. You will meet a lot of people from all over and it's your job to get in there, break the ice and make friends-life long friends. I still keep in touch with my friends I met in Costa Rica and I've visited those who stay in different states, and frequently hangout with those who stay near. After it's all said and done, you will be happy with your choice in Choosing the CIS Costa Rica study abroad program. I can go on and on but I don't want to spoil everything for you. I want you to be able to make some discoveries on your own.
Bottom line, if you don't do anything in Costa Rica besides study and stay cooped up in your room (which I highly doubt); make an effort to get out in the city meet new people, mingle with the locales and get immersed in the culture. This is the best way to learn your surroundings, learn Spanish, gain first hand experience of the life people live outside the U.S. in parts of Central America, and learn that life can actually be great outside our nations borders. I can honestly say choosing to study abroad was a life changing experience and one of the best conscious decisions I have made in my life.
Pura Vida and Safe Travels!
Note: If you have your program cost covered and the only thing your really worried about is expenses when you get there. A budget of at least $250 per month (assuming your there for a full four months and your choosing the homestay option) will suffice. A budget of $2000 for four months is more than enough.