ISA Study Abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica

Video and Photos

A three tiered waterfall in Montezuma, Costa Rica
A view from my neighborhood.
Arenal Volcano


Study in the economic, cultural, and political capital of Costa Rica - San Jose. ISA offers students the chance to study Spanish Language, Environmental Studies, Health Care, Business and Liberal Arts at Veritas University, located in the Zapote neighborhood of San José.

ISA has a great history of students being very pleased with the support, excursions, housing, and every other aspect of the program. The excursions included with the ISA-San Jose program include trips to the Arenal Volcano, Playa Tamarindo, and Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio among others. Click the "Visit Our Website" link above to see all of the details!


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ISA is committed to increasing all students’ access to study abroad’s many benefits. We don't let financial hardships to get in the way of a life changing educational experience.

$350 - $2,000

Questions & Answers


based on 10 reviews
  • Academics 7.5
  • Support 9.2
  • Fun 8.7
  • Housing 9.3
  • Safety 8.4
Showing 1 - 10 of 10
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Yes, I recommend this program

Studying abroad with ISA was a great decision

I loved the process of studying abroad with ISA starting from applying, getting credits approved, being in Costa Rica, and even coming back. Applying was easy by doing it online and ISA's employees consistently checked in on me while I was deciding. Their options for Spanish-speaking countries with classes that would transfer back to my school were great. Other options from other programs kept me from studying abroad with them. Being in Costa Rica was also the most fun summer I've had. I learned so much about the culture because of the cultural activities ISA had for us. We walked to the Jade Museum in San Jose, and I thought that was a nice touch because that's probably how locals get there (because it was so close, unless they had a car). I also did service-learning, which helped me get to know other locals from different backgrounds. When I returned to the US, I even chose to become a Global Ambassador so that I can speak about my study abroad experience with my fellow students and convince them to go with ISA!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would've definitely gone on more adventures. I didn't go white water rafting or cliff diving mostly because I was scared and couldn't find anyone to do it with. Unfortunately, both those reasons kept me from having a lot more fun that I could've.
Yes, I recommend this program

5 years later - and still one of my favorite experiences!

My time studying abroad with ISA in Costa Rica is still one of the highlights of my life, and it's been over five years since I was there. The ISA team was very helpful leading up to my departure, upon arrival, and throughout the three months of the program. I always felt cared for, and enjoyed interacting with the fun, on-site staff members. There were so many great people in my program, too! I've been lucky enough to stay in touch with my best friends from the program, and we've traveled all over the USA to visit each other.

Costa Rica is a fantastic country for people who want to practice Spanish, since Costa Ricans speak a very "clean," easy to understand version of the language. The only downside of studying in San Jose, rather than some of ISA's other options in Costa Rica, is that many locals speak English - and there are plenty of English-speaking students as well. It's not as immersive of an experience as a smaller town would be. Apart from that, Costa Rica is incredibly beautiful, full of outdoor activities, and easy to travel around. I'd recommend this experience to anyone!

What would you improve about this program?
My only (minor) complaint with the program is that some of my courses at Universidad Veritas were not very engaging or challenging. I took Spanish and Political Science courses while I was there. The Spanish classes were excellent, but the Political Science ones left something to be desired. Some of my friends focused more on Biology and pre-med classes, and they were pleased with them.
Yes, I recommend this program

Pura Vida Man

A few months before I graduated I was struck with the paralyzing anxiety that life as I knew it was over and I would soon be entering into a decades long career that offered no flexibility, little vacation time, and zero opportunities for me to travel ever again. Ok, so I was being a little dramatic, but regardless, in that moment I resolved to delay my career for a few short months and instead, I flew to Costa Rica the day after commencement and spent two months studying Spanish, living with a local family and traveling throughout Central America. I chose the ISA Intensive Spanish program because it was incredibly affordable and placed an emphasis on language and culture immersion, something that I value when it comes to meaningful travel experiences. The ISA Staff were very attentive and supportive of my needs but not overbearing or intrusive. Costa Rica is a great country for solo-travelers and people who want to learn Spanish. I found the culture to be very welcoming to outsiders, easy to navigate and friendly. As a female traveler, I felt safe, I felt welcome, I felt comfortable in going outside of my zone to learn new things and engage with new people.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Trip of a Lifetime

Choosing to study abroad in Costa Rica offers such a unique experience. While in Europe you have the chance to visit a multitude of countries, in Costa Rica you spend the time seeing the individual country itself. I learned to appreciate everything this place has to offer. I learned so much about the culture, the geography, the history, and the Spanish language. Every weekend was a new adventure. Not to mention, Costa Rica is "the happiest country in the world" and it showed through interactions with the locals. ISA's program made it super affordable and it was worth every penny.

What would you improve about this program?
It could be improved with more integration at the university with the local students. There was a clear divide between the foreign students and the Tico students.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Living in San Jose, Costa Rica for 4 months!

These four months were a BLAST! ISA does a great job at ensuring that all of the participants stay safe and have a great time. The classes were a good challenge but not too time consuming. I never felt like they were getting in the way of my study abroad experience.

I had the opportunity to do an amazing internship with Fundacion Rahab, an NGO that helps women who were the victims of sex trafficking. This is a field that I have always been extremely interested in, so getting this opportunity was pretty big for me. I did a lot of fundraising for Fundacion, in addition to working on their budget. I became pretty close with the founder, and one day after my work was done she took me along to meeting she had with the Chilean ambassador and his wife!

ISA plans a few included weekend excursions which were a little nicer than our other weekends, which were usually spent in $15/night hostels (completely our choice). The included excursions were at three or four star hotels, and were a good way to get to know other students on the program.

I would have liked more activities that helped the program immerse more in the Costa Rican culture. In retrospect, I wish I had made more local friends but wasn't quite old enough at the time to have the confidence it takes to branch out like that. Additionally, I had a pretty tough home stay situation that I wish had been fixed earlier. My roommate and I reached out to ISA about our complaints, and no serious steps were taken to address them. Finally, we were moved out our final week for a few days. The good news is I don't think they'll be using that host home anymore, and no one else seemed to have any issues with host homes.

Overall, such a fun four months. ISA definitely understands the types of students that are coming to Costa Rica for a semester abroad and does a great job catering the experience to them.

What would you improve about this program?
I would have ISA check in on host homes throughout the program.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I Loved Costa Rica!

I absolutely loved Costa Rica! I would definitely recommend this program! I would go to the ISA office almost daily because the ladies in the office were so welcoming and accommodating that I made friends with them. I was in intermediate Spanish which was not difficult but somewhat challenging. I wasn't honestly overly fond of the classroom but when you are there, the classroom is not the best place to learn Spanish anyway: the people are. If you really want to learn Spanish, then I would highly recommend that you make friends with the Ticos and not with Americans. Then use the classroom to facilitate what you learn from speaking with constantly with locals. With that being said, I didn't follow that advice very well. I made very good friends with other American students there with me and we spoke too much English (which was not my plan), but I forged friendships that were so tight that I still speak with most of them regularly almost two years later. I
I had a host family that I loved and we became so close that they even too me to a family reunion and later included me in their Father's Day family photo.
I also liked that ISA provided two excursions and left the rest of the weekends open. This way I was able to be lead in the first two weekends to get my bearings in the country and then my friends and I could plan our own trips after that (which were not very expensive at all).
Overall I can easily say that I had a 5-star experience!

What would you improve about this program?
I would have stayed longer for sure! I actually tried when I was there but it was too expensive for me to extend so late and I would have had to have found my own housing.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Experiencing the Tico Life

In the three short months I was in this program, I had the time of my life and benefitted in different ways. One of my favorite memories was falling asleep in a rocking hammock, listening to the waves crash on the beach. It is the combination of all my memories that cause me not to want to change my experience for the world, but there is always some advice to be given! Be prepared to spend a little bit of money on taxis each week (bus routes are difficult to figure out at times and you cannot walk in the dark). Also eating out for lunch every day can get expensive, so I would buy cheap groceries for 1-2 weeks and make my own. You really won't wear shorts as often as you might think. At least my group wanted to fit in with the ticos/ticas as much as possible, and often times that meant wearing pants. Really integrate yourself with your family, local students, and ticos in the community--it will make the experience much richer! I made huge advancements in my Spanish-speaking skills because I took advantage of the immersion and necessity to use the language in daily life. I also gained new perspectives on life being in a completely different culture than I was used to, which made me more open-minded and has helped shaped who I am as a person today. Your experience truly is what you make it; seize every opportunity you can because time flies and you may never get the chance again!

What would you improve about this program?
I would have liked to be around fewer international students and have more interactions with local students.
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Yes, I recommend this program

San Jose, Costa Rica

I studied in San Jose, Costa Rica Fall 2013. I took intensive Spanish classes in the morning and electives in English in the afternoon. The university I attended was very small, which I liked, because it was easy to get around campus and I was able to meet people. On the weekends I was able to travel to the beach and other places like Monteverde. The ISA onsite staff is a great resource for ISA students. I had to go to the hospital while I was there and a staff member accompanied me to the hospital and made sure I was okay. There were also excursions that are included in the price of the programs that are really fun because you get to see the beautiful sites of the country as well as get to know the other students in your program.
As well as taking classes, I did an internship at a local children's hospital. It was an amazing opportunity because I was able to learn about the healthcare system and interact with the community. I am a Health Promotion and Education major so it was hard for me to find classes that transferred back to my major abroad. ALL of my classes went to my major requirements or general education credits. Overall, it was all that I wanted in a study abroad. I got to meet so many great people, learn about the culture and the Spanish language, and get credit for the experience!

What would you improve about this program?
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Yes, I recommend this program


I enjoyed every second of my experience in Costa Rica, and I think program and the staff had every bit to do with it. The family that ISA chose to put me with was fantastic, I still skype with them today. They wanted to be involved in my life and I even took dance classes with my mama, and she taught me how to cook traditional food.
The food was full of carbs, and I gained lots of weight, but it was delicious. Gallo Pinto, Platanos, Casados, everything that I was served or ordered out was always very traditional. It was so different to what I would eat at home, but never once was I homesick for American food; however, now I'm homesick for Costa Rican food! Their food uses a lot of meat, but also a lot of dishes that were chopped vegetables, and it would definitely be easy to be a vegetarian if that was desired.
The staff at ISA was wonderful, from when they picked us up at the airport to our very last goodbye. The director did not only want to be our director, but also wanted to be our friend. She held meetings with us to make sure everything was going okay, and any problem was immediately addressed. When we were in the office they would help us plan trips, with our homework, tell us the best places to go, or just hang out with us. The classes I took were challenging because they were all in Spanish, but not only were they challenging, I felt like I learned way more in these classes than I ever did in any Spanish class in America. Also, the school was very welcoming, everyone wanted to get to know the Americans. There was even a club made just for us, the "culture club" where students from the university got together to show us traditional things that Costa Rican's would do.
I was always worried before leaving to go abroad; going to a foreign country, with a foreign language, with no one that I knew. However, once I arrived there, I immediately bonded with people in the program, and realized that these would be great friends. Now looking back I know that every single person I went on this study abroad with will be my friend for life. The experiences we had together are to great to put into words. I wish that someone would have told me to relax before I leave, be less uptight, because I didn't have anything to worry about.
Bottom line, I would recommend this program over and over again to a friend. I got to live in a city and experience a life completely different to my normal one. I think this program made me a better person, and I take so much less for granted now. Also, I had the opportunity to travel to beaches that people go to for their honeymoons. Some of the sites that I saw were incredible! As soon as it was time to leave I wished that I had signed up for a year abroad. Even now I find myself wishing I was still there living the Pura Vida life.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Pura Vida!

My time in Costa Rica was amazing!! I worked hard (their school system can be kinda intense) but 3 1/2 day weekends on the Caribbean are amazing!!! It was harder re-adjusting to America when I got back than it was getting used to Costa Rica. Pura Vida is a way of life.

Packing: (SEP-DEC) Clothing – San Jose is damp, Caribbean is humid. Generally pack for AZ winter (sweater in the am, tank top after noon). jeans are good most nights, but cargos/breathable fabrics are better. Bring comfy shoes for walking!!!! Umbrella and waterproof purse/backpack are the best investments EVER. Sun screen and Bug Spray only needed outside of San Jose. Bring Peanut butter. It’s super expensive there, so bring some. You’ll miss it. Trust me.

Safety: Petty theft is a problem in Latin America, but nothing much worse than that. You probably don’t look Tico/Tica… so just be AWARE and be smart… Taxis are expensive BUT DO IT!! People I knew got robbed after dark! Get friends together and split it. Be cautious – roads are ridiculous and J-Walking is common law.
Food: Try the food!!!! Seriously!!! Pan integral with guyabana jelly. And ceviche – with enough hot sauce and mayo to turn it pink. So. Good. Gallo Pinto and Arroz con Pollo are obvious traditional favorites.

The Homestay Experience: It's fantastic. My "Mama Tica" was a wonderful woman (and an even better chef!), I really felt like a part of the family while I was there. She went out of her way to help me, and always had suggestions for things to do out on the town. I've studied Spanish for a long time, so I didn't struggle with that too much, but she worked with the other student who stayed with us(who had less Spanish) really well too.

Travel Advice: You’ll have enough time on busses to do homework (So don’t worry about it! ¡Pura Vida, Mae! :P) In addition to the ISA trips, be sure to hit the following: (1) Puerto Viejo, Limon on the Caribbean side for surfing and snorkeling – chill little surfer town (2) Playa Hermosa for shorter trips. It’s the closest NICE beach to San José. Just south of Jacó, which is really popular for some reason I don’t understand – it has painful rock beaches and dangerous surfing… (3) Montezuma for absolutely beautiful nature!! Waterfalls, forest – it’s surreal. (4) Chirrpó for a really cool & challenging hike – it’s one of the highest (if not THE highest) mountain in CR… (5) Also, try to hit one of the community-based ecotourism groups while you’re there. Ecotourism is HUGE in Costa Rica and this is the purest form! (I did field research on efficacy of ecotourism groups while I was there.)

General Advice: Yes, you’ll miss people back home, but don’t let it get in the way. Skype is FANTASTIC, but you shouldn’t be hooked up 24/7. That being said - live it up! Learn as much as you can, try as many things as you can, make as many friends as you can… Don’t pass up an opportunity; you might not get to go back.