USAC Costa Rica: Heredia

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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
  • Enjoy easy access to the cultural, historic, and urban highlights of the capital city, San José, and to the Pacific Ocean
  • Explore interesting and beautiful areas of Costa Rica on field trips
  • Participate in clubs and organizations at the university
  • Practice your Spanish by spending time with local students
  • Discover other parts of Costa Rica and neighboring countries on the optional tours

Questions & Answers

Reviews

93%
based on 21 reviews
  • Academics 8.1
  • Support 9.4
  • Fun 9.3
  • Housing 9.5
  • Safety 8.6
Showing 1 - 15 of 21
Lauren
10/10

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.

Yes, I recommend
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Kelsey
10/10

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.

Yes, I recommend
Analicia
9/10

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!

How can this program be improved?
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!
Yes, I recommend
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Tiffany
10/10

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.

How can this program be improved?
The housing situation, I wish all the homes could be reasonably close to where students can actually walk.
Yes, I recommend
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Adam
9/10

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!

How can this program be improved?
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.
Yes, I recommend
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John
7/10

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.

How can this program be improved?
Get better science classes and have more activities.
Yes, I recommend
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Brian
8/10

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.

Yes, I recommend
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Alexandra
10/10

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!

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

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.

How can this program be improved?
Definitely pack bug spray and make sure you pay attention to the weather so you know what to pack.
Yes, I recommend
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Natalie
10/10

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!

Yes, I recommend
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Jacob
8/10

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.

How can this program be improved?
The organization. It seemed as not a lot was organized and no one was ever on time... Ever.
Yes, I recommend
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Casey
10/10

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.

How can this program be improved?
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.
Yes, I recommend
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Emily
10/10

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 :)

How can this program be improved?
Take classes with Ticos! Invite Ticos to take dance class with us.
Yes, I recommend
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Mark
7/10

Good program

I previously studied abroad in Spain, so my experience is alittle bias. The staff is not well organized, they take a while to actually get things done. And the program director often lives in Tico Time (late). Tico Time is understandable, people being late for things, its a cultural thing, but as a program director there are standards to keep.

Otherwise, my experiences there were phenomenol. The culture and people are friendly and there nature is beautiful. I remember walking through Manuel Antonio National Park, along the path we saw a sloth in the trees, and then 10 feet later we saw a baby deer (not so common) and then we saw some lizards by the stream. As we reach the beaches inside the park, there are 5-10 white faced monkeys sitting in the tree relaxing. Just amazing!! I played soccer with the locals and made friends even met a beautiful Tica. A 2 hour bus ride to either side of Costa Rica for beaches and Volcanos to visit nearby. I love COSTA RICA!! PURA VIDA!!

The program offered various activities through out the semester. We had a horseback riding and ziplining trip. We went to the national theater to watch opera and orchestra event. We also went to a dance club for our Latin Dances Final. That was amazing, all you did was dance and have some drinks with Locals.

My host family was great, and they made food 3 times a day. Actually my host grandmother sold ice cream out of her house and made food for catering ever so often from home. So she was an amazing cook and always had fresh fruit with every meal. And gallo pinto for breakfast everyday. (gallo pinto is rice and beans cooked together). I had good wifi in my room and they set up a TV with local channels so I could learn more Spanish. It was fun to watch movies I knew in english and see them in Spanish. Fairly amusing. There were plenty of festivals and the country is strongly religious so they celebrated holidays.

I don't want to bore anyone, but if you have any questions. Feel free to ask, and for me the cost of study abroad was cheaper than studying at my university. USAC is an amazing group and I studied in Spain with them as well.

How can this program be improved?
I think there could have been more activities and weekend trips. I know from previous study abroad trip that its very possible.
Yes, I recommend
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Nicholas
10/10

Literally the best program ever, stop looking, you're going here.

Ok, maybe I was bias with title, sue me.
When I got back to the US, I tried to keep the explanation of my experiences brief. I would simply tell people that I loved my time there, I would go back in a heart beat, and I would encourage the most seasoned traveler to the most novice to check out the country.

For you novice adventures, USAC is a wonderful program. They're going to get you the necessities- housing, classes, quick tips about the city, and they even throw in a few group adventures for those who like their trips planned out for them so they can relax.
If you're nervous about the language barrier, don't be. USAC offers beginner courses. When I first got there I didn't speak any Spanish, y ahora puedo hablar español un poquito. Do be warned that a lot of the locals (especially the university aged students) speak a fair amount of English, you will have to be persistant at times if you want to practice your Spanish.

Host families will very from student to student. Usually their rules are pretty basic. Respect their house, don't be noisy when you come home, and don't do anything you wouldn't do in your grandmothers house. Some folks will build a great relationship with there families, but don't think your family wants to take up all of your time. They often will invite you to events and try and help you experience the culture, but if you would like to make other plans they are very supportive of that. Sometimes there is a student or two who will have an issue. USAC does a great job to mediate any issues or help you change host families as needed.

When it comes to the people in your program it really varies. I was not a big fan of my first semester group (although there were a few fantastic people), but when Spring 14' came around we were like a big family. (oddly enough, it was the opposite for other programs. 1st semester great group dynamics, second ok). You really can't predict who your fellow students will be, but you should be able If your nervous about being alone, just remember that everyone's out of their element, and the majority of your group will be their to support you.

For you more experienced travelers, I would say other then classes and two mandatory meetings you're free to do as you please. Obviously, the less you hang around the gringos and the more time you spend with the locals the more emerged you will become into the culture, and it'll probably help out your Spanish quite a bit too.

There are many places to travel to in Costa Rica especially if you love seeing some beautiful nature. Being in Heredia you're only 30 minutes north of the capital city in San José, the center of the country and all the busses to any destination you're looking for. It may be a small country, but you're not in flatland Kansas anymore. The longest bus ride I had was to Puerto Jimenez (Southwest tip of the country) which was about 8 hours. There are other locations you can check out that will be much closer.

What else do y'all want to know about? 500 colones is roughly equal to 1 USD. Don't think that that makes you a millionaire though. Other then the busses, prices for most common goods runs about the same. Local beer (Pilsen or Imperial) is about $2.50 at the bars, which for people from UNLV is the craziest thing in the world, but being from a small town that seemed pretty standard.

Can I drink the water straight from the tap? Heredia most definitely, but you'll want to ask for anywhere you stay.

Will I have WIFI? You should. The program as a whole tells you not to expect it, but I didn't know anyone in the program who didn't have it in their home. They also have it at the University and most hostels/hotels. Understand that it will be slower, you will get over it in a month I promise.

You should be able to buy most everything you need here in Costa Rica. Save more, pack less. I lasted a year with a fully packed suitcase, 75 liter backpack, and normal backpack. (That's 1 checked luggage (under 50lbs), 1 overhead, and 1 carry on for no extra fee!) Still I feel like I packed too much. Remember you are going to want to buy things when you get here.

SAFTEY- You're going to be fine. I had two situations where I was almost robbed. One was when I was hanging with a Tica in the park at 2 am, and the other was when I was walking alone along a dim lit little traffic road in Puerto Viejo. Common sense tells you, that's my fault. Most of the stuff that happens is petty theft, and usually it is because the individual was not being too bright. Be aware of your surroundings, stick with friends, keep an eye on your valuables and you'll be absolutely fine.

I really hope you didn't read all that, I really did ramble. Just remember that one of the best ways to learn is by doing. If you want to be in the heart of this nation, with easy access to the rest of it, come to Heredia!

How can this program be improved?
The most negative experience I had abroad was one of the host families I lived with. It came to a breaking point where I needed to move and the USAC advisors were quick and responsive to help immediately relocate. I had two other host families (I switched one for a different experience and then got stuck with the crazies) both of whom where lovely and very welcoming. Housing wasn't much of a help with the situation, but USAC was. Carlitos and Dahalma will have your back.
Yes, I recommend

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