USAC Costa Rica: Heredia
94% Rating
(14 Reviews)

USAC Costa Rica: Heredia

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
Locations
North America » Costa Rica » Heredia
North America » Costa Rica
Program Type
Provider
Subject Areas
Cultural Studies
Ecology
Food Science and Nutrition
Latin American Studies
Sociology
Timeframe
Academic Year
Fall
Spring
Summer
Accommodation
Host Family
Language
English
Steps
Online Application
Visa Requirement

Questions & Answers

Program Reviews

  • Academics
    83%
  • Support
    92%
  • Fun
    96%
  • Housing
    97%
  • Safety
    86%

Program Reviews (14)

Default avatar
Alexandra
Female
21 years old
Chicago, IL
Loyola University Chicago

Best Experience of My Life

10/10

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.

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Aly
Female

USAC Heredia-Pura Vida

8/10

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.

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Natalie
Female
24 years old
Henderson, Nevada
University of Nevada

my home away from home

10/10

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!

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Jacob
Male
24 years old
Toledo, Ohio
University of Toledo

Great opportunity

8/10

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.

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Casey
Female
32 years old
Las Vegas, NV
University of Nevada

Not just an experience, a lifestyle.

10/10

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.

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Emily
Female
24 years old
Maryland
University of Maryland

USAC Heredia was awesome!

10/10

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.

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Mark
Male
24 years old
United States
University of Toledo

Good program

7/10

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.

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Nicholas
Male
24 years old
Chico, Ca
California State University- Chico

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

10/10

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.

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Ben
Male
24 years old
College Park, Maryland
University of Maryland

Pure Life

10/10

Pura Vida! It means pure life and is what Costa Rica is all about! A very laid back culture where education and personal relationships are valued; Heredia, Costa Rica creates a fun and memorable environment. From day to day experiences with your host family such as eating meals, traveling to beautiful local parks and volcanos, and just talking about your different cultures, Heredia provides an opportunity for students to not only learn in the classroom but in all aspects of the 4 month experience.

Many students travel on the weekends as beautiful beaches and towns are all a fairly short bus ride away. An average weekday will probably consist of eating meals with your family, heading to the public university in the city center to take a few classes and spending time with locals (Ticos) as well as making American friends in your program. There are always opportunities to speak Spanish with your host family as many families have very limited knowledge and exposure to English. And since almost all the classes are taught in Spanish, you will leave Costa Rica much more confident in your Spanish language skills.

Classes are taken with other American students who are in your program but all of the classes are taught by local professors who challenge you to only speak Spanish and to work hard to improve all aspects of the language. If you are looking to make memories, improve your Spanish, and spend a considerable amount of time enjoying another culture, then Heredia, Costa Rica with USAC is the place to go!

How can this program be improved?

I think the safety of the students is the only area that could be improved. I think there needed to be more orientation to the potential dangers of the area, perhaps with a short video advising for specific safety precautions for students to take. There were a few times when some students put themselves in very precarious situations.

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Yasmeen
Female
24 years old
Maryland
University of Maryland

I came back a different person!

10/10

Studying in Costa Rica was perhaps one of the most life changing experiences in my life. One of my favorite aspects was living with a host family! I became really close with my host mom and dad and my host sister. I also went to their family gatherings, and my family always made sure to include me! I loved to ask my host mom for cooking tips so I could make the same food back at home. One time she let me make fried plantains with her!

I also had the opportunity to volunteer in an orphanage. I loved the chance to be completely immersed in the Spanish language. The kids didn't know any English, so I taught them a few words. They would burst into laughter because the words sounded so funny to them! I saw a real side of Costa Rica, which I wouldn't have seen otherwise.

The Spanish language classes were also amazing. I had a highly qualified teacher, and I learned more than I have in any other Spanish class!

For anyone who truly wants to experience a new culture, I would recommend Heredia, Costa Rica. The combined host family and optional volunteer experience will give you a true taste of another country. I know you won't regret it!

How can this program be improved?

Perhaps more group activities? Overall I loved the program though!

Default avatar
Haley
Female
24 years old
Chico, Ca
California State University- Chico

Life changing experience you won't regret!

10/10

I had an incredible time in Heredia and there's not much I would change! The usac staff at UNA and the other sites in CR are so supportive and will help you with anything you need. Definitely take advantage of any travel opportunity you can get, especially week long trips at the beginning/end of program. My host family experience was great, I loved my house and neighborhood even though it required a short bus ride to school each day. You will make amazing, lifelong friendships and be prepared for extreme reverse culture shock/ homesickness when you return to the states. The pura vida lifestyle will change you for sure!

How can this program be improved?

For a summer program it was a bit harder to make local friends and connect with my host family. For example, I wasn't matched with a conversation partner until 1 week before the end of the program and only got to meet with her once. I would suggest usac provide more social activities to bridge that gap and it will also help with language skills.

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Haley
Female
24 years old
Scottsdale AZ
California State University- Chico

Pura vida!

10/10

The reason USAC excelled in making my study abroad experience one to remember is because they combined unique experiences, with plenty of assistance (if necessary) at a low cost. I lived in a city I probably never would have visited and they took us on field trips I never would have found on my own. This enriched the whole experience for me. On top of that, the Resident Director Carlitos was there for me whenever we needed him. He showed us how to use the bus system, cultural nuances we should be aware of, best places for the night life, bet beaches to visit, and he even threw a going away party at his own house! From relationship problems, to school troubles, no one was a better problem solver than him. On top of all this, it was affordable. I'm a college student. My meals consist of oatmeal and free pizza from club meetings. I was ecstatic to find a program that was flexible, helpful, included field trips, and cheap. So grateful to USAC for the fantastic semester and all the assistance I received along the way!

How can this program be improved?

I wish I had stayed longer! And that I had started sooner on my visa. No issues with the program

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Kyra
Female
24 years old
Reno, NV
University of Nevada Reno

My Home Away From Home

9/10

Having to leave Heredia, Costa Rica after a semester was incredibly difficult. This "city of flowers" became like a second home to me in ways I could have never imagined. I was fortunate to study through USAC, who was helpful in arranging everything from housing to classes to extracurricular activities and providing support throughout the duration of the program.
A typical day included eating breakfast with my host parents and siblings and then heading to the National University where I took classes in grammar, literature, culture and even Latin American dance. After that, I volunteered in tutoring a blind student in English, which was an incredible opportunity also given to me by the USAC program assistants. I was able to get some studying in at a local cafe and had the evenings free to play soccer, go to concerts, watch movies or just hang out with the family.
Living with a host family was the best way to practice my Spanish as they invited me to family functions, and I was constantly forced to converse in the language. They took such good care of me, and again it was difficult to say goodbye. They have plans though to come visit me next summer, which I would absolutely love.
Studying abroad through USAC is something I would highly recommend. It was one of the more affordable options and the staff is extremely supportive. They were available by phone any time of the day and the office was conveniently located a quick walk away. The central office staff in Reno was quick and happy to answer my questions ranging from financial aid to course selection. I never felt like a bother with my many emails and confusions.
I would highly recommend studying abroad through USAC and encourage anyone considering Costa Rica to go.

How can this program be improved?

I wish they had provided the students with a clear map and description of the bus system in San José. It took me months to get the hang of it, for things were always changing! However, I suppose the challenges like this are a part of living in a different country.
Also, I wish I had been advised on what to pack better. I ended up investing in some flip-flops, hiking shoes, sunscreen, and bug spray at ridiculous prices. They were all things I should have brought with me!

Default avatar
Aaron
Male
24 years old
Reno, nevada
University of Idaho

Excellent Study Abroad Experience

10/10

I had a fabulous time abroad meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, learning a different language, transforming myself, finding out who I was, and much much more. It was a great program. USAC does the best job at making the students feel as though they are at safe and comfortable in their foreign environment. I know my program was not the only one that received glowing reviews! It was the best experience of my life while I was abroad and I would do it again in a heartbeat!

How can this program be improved?

NOTHING! Great trip and excellent program provide. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO USAC!!!!

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USAC is a non-profit consortium of U.S. universities that collaborates to offer affordable, academic and authentic study abroad programs. There are abundant opportunities to immerse in the culture, history, and academics of other countries providing an unforgettable experience. Each program is designed to help you

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