Costa Rica: Heredia - Spanish Language, Ecological, and Latin American Studies

Video and Photos

My host family signing my CR flag. My most precious souvenir.
First trip to the beach with these fine gentlemen out in front of our hostel
Heredia and the greater San José area from a hike to Volcán Barva

About

Study abroad next summer, semester or academic year with USAC in Heredia, Costa Rica. All USAC courses during the Spanish, Ecological and Latin American Studies program are taken at the National University of Costa Rica. Needless to say, Spanish language and literature, as well as ecology and Latin American studies dominate the course options.

Highlights
  • Explore the cultural, historic, and urban highlights of the capital city, San José; visit the Pacific Ocean, Caribbean, and Bocas del Toro, Panama; and participate in a field study to Cuba.
  • Join clubs, organizations, and volunteer activities within the university community, all of which will help you practice your Spanish by spending time with Costa Rican students.
  • Enrich your cross-cultural experience through internships, field studies, and volunteer opportunities in the local community.
  • Practice your Spanish by spending time with local students.
  • Discover other parts of Costa Rica and neighboring countries on the optional tours.

New Program: Comparative Studies: Uruguay and Cuba Summer Session

Study abroad Summer 2020 for eight weeks, beginning in Montevideo, Uruguay and continuing to La Habana, Cuba, for a comparative Latin studies program ideal for any student and of particular interest to health, gender and Spanish language students.

Scholarships

USAC Scholarships
USAC Scholarships and Financial Aid

USAC awards over $2 million in scholarships and discounts each year to assist students with their study abroad expenses.

Value
$500 - $1,000

Questions & Answers

Reviews

93%
based on 23 reviews
  • Academics 8.2
  • Support 9.5
  • Fun 9.4
  • Housing 9.5
  • Safety 8.7
Showing 1 - 15 of 23
Default avatar
David
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

What an adventure!

Completing this academically intensive program that lasted for 10 months was one of my life's crowning achievements and first successes along with my military service as an officer.

I don't think there is any other study abroad country where one can advance as quickly in Spanish as USAC's program in Costa Rica. I took an equivalent of 3 years of university level Spanish in 1 year. The professors and administrative staff were the warmest and most supportive people i've ever encoutered anywhere in the world and our committed to every student's success which falls nothing short of accompanying me to doctor's appointments or meeting me outside of school to tutor me. No hubiera podido hacer este programa con éxito sin su apoyo! Which means roughly "I would not have been able to do this program successfully without their support" to demonstrate the uses of haber which fallows a participio.

Though there are also many ery fun scheduled group activities as well where you can cultivate lifelong frienships and great memories.

I would recommend anyone to study abroad if they have the chance and if they are interested in learning Spanish and about Latin America I would put the USAC Heredia program on the top of the list!

Kayla Johnson
Kayla
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Costa Rica. Just Do It.

I spent my junior year of college in Heredia, Costa Rica (2016-2017) and after two host families, countless hostiles, and one apartment I returned to the states without regrets.
At the beginning of my study abroad program search I knew that I wanted to be in a Spanish speaking country but the only Spanish I knew started and ended at "Hola." Sad, I know but I was semi determined to actually using my Doulingo app during the summer leading up to my trip, which got me to introductions and colors.
Price and location came next but my heart was sold on Costa Rica after watching the hundreds of travel videos on YouTube. I couldn’t believe how picturesque it seemed and I wanted to see for myself. Most people would probably just book a long weekend but no, I dedicate a full academic year to this hunch.
After spending roughly nine months in Costa Rica I can wholeheartedly say over and over again that the country lived up to its picturesque moments with so much more than I could have ever imagine.
This trip changed my life in the most cheesy and redundant way and I owe it all to the beautiful people I met along the way, my program advisors, my squad, y yo, Kayla.

Lauren
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Heredia has my Heart

Spending a semester in Heredia, Costa Rica with USAC was one of the best decisions I have ever made! From the first day that I landed at the airport to the day that I left, USAC staff and my host family made me feel safe, welcome, and cared for on a personal level. The country itself welcomed me as I explored beaches, waterfalls, jungles and volcanoes. I made lifelong friends and a lifetime of memories. I am so thankful to USAC staff for guiding me, teaching me, and ensuring that I enjoyed my stay. I am also immensely thankful for my host family who made the best comida and gave me a home away from home. I would not trade my time in Costa Rica for anything, and I hope to experience the Pura Vida lifestyle again very soon.

Default avatar
Kelsey
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This Was the Best Experience of My Life

This was life-changing! I changed as a person and now am planning to return to Latin America to work after graduating from my university. I have already recommended to one friend and would wholeheartedly recommend it again. The program has so many enriching programs that allow travel and have excellent internships available. I was able to get an internship translating and researching, and I was also able to teach English volunteering. There are programs to allow for connecting with local people and practice Spanish and cultural exchange, and the housing is accommodating for any and all dietary needs. I learned a lot about other cultures, myself, and the Spanish language, and I grew exponentially as a person. I also recommended the program to a friend, who then also attended USAC in Heredia, and we still talk about what an amazing experience it was.

Analicia
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Summer in Heredia

My experience studying abroad in Heredia was incredible, and my only regret is that I wasn't able to stay longer. As a Spanish minor and someone with a goal to become fluent in Spanish, this program was very effective in pushing me from barely a beginner to proficient / conversational in two months. My host family was amazing as well - I was vegan while in Costa Rica and my host mom was so accommodating. The field trips outside of Heredia were another highlight for me. Manuel Antonio and Puerto Viejo were my favorite - so much to explore in this tiny country! I am also an avid animal and nature lover, and CR is so gorgeous and full of life in that aspect as well. My top tips for this program are: 1) stay as long as possible! 2) Dive into Spanish and stay away from English as much as you can while you're there. 3) If you can, opt in for as many of the optional field trips as possible - see as much as you can!

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing I can think of is providing clearer maps and guides to public transportation. For someone who had never been to CR before, navigating the bus lines in Spanish while trying to get somewhere outside Heredia was a bit terrifying. It's all part of the experience though!
Default avatar
Tiffany
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best 9 weeks of my life

I had already traveled to 6 countries before heading down to CR for 9 weeks, so I expected everything to be smooth sailing. When I ended up with some serious culture shock and homesickness, the USAC office members were always there to chat. I learned so much about the world and had so much fun on the included field trips. The classes I took were spanish language courses and a dance class. The dance class was obviously very fun and light hearted, but the Spanish classes were intense. I learned more spanish in 9 weeks of courses at UNA and from my host family then I did in 2 years in the US. Living with a host family was a highlight of my trip, although I had to switch halfway through. Some of the homes are really far from the city center and the school. I had a much different (and I’d say better) experience when I lived a 15-20 minute walk from everything versus one hour.

What would you improve about this program?
The housing situation, I wish all the homes could be reasonably close to where students can actually walk.
Default avatar
Adam
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

USAC Heredia is an outstanding program

This program is phenomenal. Carlitos, Steven, Natalie, and the other staff members at the USAC office or at UNA (the host university) are amazing. They are so well organized, plan a plethora of trips and activities, and are genuinely caring people. They help out a ton with academic and visa stuff so you barely have to worry about annoying transcript or visa paperwork. The teachers are charismatic and incredibly personable. The campus here is gorgeous as well. The atmosphere of Heredia is lively (there are tons of college aged people) and the city is relatively clean and safe compared to most of Central America. I had such a transformative experience interacting with my host family, engaging in the community, learning and improving my Spanish, as well as gaining livelong friends and allies. Ten out of ten would recommend this program. I will be returning soon!

What would you improve about this program?
I honestly thought the program was so well refined, but if I had to make a suggestion it would be to increase the difficulty of the classes and not allow the students to skirt by speaking as much English. Force them to immerse in the language more by not speaking as much english with them.
Default avatar
John
7/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Heredia Costa Rica

Ton of fun. Loved being there. Spanish classes were a bit easy, but the science classes were top notch. If you go bring a small backpack, rain jacket and umbrella, stylish clubbing clothes, good headphones, and a outdoor speaker will make you very popular. Jaco is a tourist trap but it can be very fun.

If you want to go to Costa Rica for the nature, Heredia is right next to San Jose and it is very urban.
From 6am to 9pm you are safe. Anytime afterwords keep an eye out, I had a box of wine stolen from me and 3 knives pulled, And then one night at 2am 2 men tried to mug me. Keep your wits and stay in groups at night.

What would you improve about this program?
Get better science classes and have more activities.
Default avatar
Brian
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Heredia or Puntarenas. Which to choose.

I lived in both Heredia and Puntarenas, Costa Rica for roughly 5 months each while studying with the USAC organization and this heavily influenced my opinion on each program as I was able to see the pros and cons of each program. Puntarenas has a local facility that only teaches to Americans while in Heredia you will be attending a local University where the Costa Ricans study. If you genuinely want to learn Spanish then this alone should deter you from Puntarenas. The moment you enter the USAC building in Puntarenas you will only hear English from the students, and I promise you that this will not change not matter what group enters the program. Secondly the social scene in Puntarenas was severely lacking. It was nearly impossible to go out to bars to meet people unless you went out during a special event where there was a DJ. The bars in Heredia had more people during the weekday than the Bars in Puntarenas did on the weekends. Lastly, the university course work in Puntarenas was a joke. I never had homework nor did I feel I was pushed to truly learn the language. It was high school all over again. The instructors in Heredia will give you homework, they will make you work, but more importantly, they will make you learn the language. What my recommendation boils down to is... If you have a strong desire to meet other Costa Ricans while truly learning the language then I would steer you away from Puntarenas and towards Heredia. If you are a person that wants to enjoy a semester away from the states with very easy coursework, nice weather, and a stress-free environment then I would recommend Puntarenas.

Default avatar
Alexandra
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best Experience of My Life

This program literally changed my life. USAC is absolutely perfect for your first international experience because they handle almost all of the details that make travel difficult. I felt so supported and comfortable through the entire program, which allowed me to make friends and memories that will last my entire life. My time in Heredia inspired me to pursue more opportunities abroad in the future and changed the way I see the world and myself. Go in with an open mind and you will absolutely love Costa Rica and USAC!

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing I can think of would be more opportunities to interact with local students, but there were already quite a few.
Default avatar
Aly
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

USAC Heredia-Pura Vida

I absolutely loved my time in Costa, Rica. Heredia was a really good option for academics but I wish I had known how much time my internship was going to take! Still a really good experience.

The host families are hands down the best part of this program. They cook for you and really help with acquiring the language.

The town is a little boring but you can always find an adventure. Definitely go on the field trips.

What would you improve about this program?
Definitely pack bug spray and make sure you pay attention to the weather so you know what to pack.
Default avatar
Natalie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

my home away from home

Studying abroad in Heredia, Costa Rica was one of the best decisions I could have possibly ever made. Every minute of everyday felt like a dream come true. I lived an amazing adventure for several months that I could never possibly forget. Costa Rica itself has amazing places to see, very kind and humble locals, delicious food! I spent nearly every weekend out exploring and trying new things I never would have done! I went bun-jee jumping with the most peaceful views in Monte Verde, hiked up to miradores that had amazing views of the cities, laid on the beach for hours at a time enjoying the sun and the amazing views Costa Rica offers, rode horses along breathe taking rain-forests, zipplined nearly a million times in several different parts of Costa Rica, repelled down water falls, spend hours dancing to latin music at local clubs, and made some of the most amazing and unforgettable friendships and memories that I wouldn't trade for the world. My experience in Costa Rica would have never been the same without my USAC family, each and every one of them hold a special place in my heart. My mama tica y mi hermana tica who literally treated me like their own! The program directors Dehalma and Carlitos were more than amazing. They always went above and beyond to make sure you were happy and having a great time. The professors were all fantastic, you learn so much in so little time!! I found myself completely in love with Costa Rica and wishing I was a local. When it was time to finally go home I as well as most of the USAC students that I studied with started crying. I did not want it to end. Even now, 6 months later my experience never leaves my mind. I miss everyone and everything so so much!

Default avatar
Jacob
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great opportunity

My experience with USAC program in Heredia, Costa Rica was overall great. I think the program lacked plan Bs when it came to group trips. It was also evident that they focused a lot more on the semester program which was noticeable when I studied there for a summer program. The staff was very friendly, my host family was amazing, and the social life was great. Overall, it was a life changing experience and I would definitely go back.

What would you improve about this program?
The organization. It seemed as not a lot was organized and no one was ever on time... Ever.
Default avatar
Casey
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Not just an experience, a lifestyle.

I stepped off the plane as an American but when I got back on I don't know what I was. The Costa Rican lifestyle had changed me within weeks, so much to make me extend from a semester to a year long program. Everyone is so happy and carefree and as you're stressing out about what homework you have to do they're there to tell you "tranquila" or "tranquilo" if you're a boy. There, the people have coffee time where you sit around with family drinking the best coffee you'll ever taste and spend time with eachother talking about your day, something that seems to be lost in U.S. Pura vida, or pure life, a common saying you'll learn in the first few days, is Costa Rica in a nutshell. And immersing yourself in a culture will be the very best thing you do for yourself. You will gain a new way of looking at or doing things, like for me I became a lot more green. In Costa Rica they hang their clothes in the sun for them to dry and open the curtsins instead of using the lights. You will want to travel and see more. You will learn how to make new foods, like Gallo pinto (which at first you may not like but don't worry, it'll grow on you). You will speak another language. You will feel like you have become one of them. Maybe you will stay a few years, like I did. And maybe just maybe when you're least expecting it you will fall in love with your host brother's best friend and marry him, like I did. Study abroad, you won't regret it.

What would you improve about this program?
I would have liked if my classes at the university were with Costa Rican students. The classes were with all the people from my program which was ok because I made great friends but I think I would have caught on to the language faster if I hadn't been in classes with all American students. Being with the natives would have forced me to speak Spanish.
Default avatar
Emily
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

USAC Heredia was awesome!

Dahalma and Carlitos are the best program directors ever. My host family was great, but Dahalma and Carlitos were there for me whenever I needed. All classes were great! Especially cooking and dance! Naranjo's film class was a lot of fun--lots of great films. Gustavo was a great Track 4 and Novel professor. The program field trips were so much fun. Highly suggest the program trip to Nicaragua. Nicaragua was beautiful, there were so many activities included in the $600 cost, you get to hang out with Dahalma and Carlitos all week, and it was nice to travel without having to figure anything out (Dahalma and Carlitos did all of that). Highly suggest this program! I improved my Spanish and can call myself bilingual now :)

What would you improve about this program?
Take classes with Ticos! Invite Ticos to take dance class with us.