Costa Rica: Puntarenas - Spanish, Ecology, Latin American Studies

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About

Study abroad with the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) in Puntarenas, Costa Rica next January (short-term), summer, spring/fall semester or academic year! The Spanish, Ecology and Latin American Studies program is held at the USAC Puntarenas Center at the National University of Costa Rica, which overlooks the ocean just a couple blocks from downtown. Puntarenas is a small beach town located right on the pacific and is within reach of attractions such as the Nicoya Peninsula and a variety of national parks and nature reserves.

Highlights
  • Live in a small beach town on the Pacific Ocean with ferry access to the Nicoya Peninsula
  • Enroll in Spanish courses, and in Ecological Studies courses—which include field experience and the opportunity to participate in independent research, internships, or volunteer activities at field-related institutions.
  • Savor your proximity to breathtaking national parks, nature reserves and discover interesting and beautiful areas of Costa Rica on field trips
  • Discover interesting and beautiful destinations on included field trips.

Questions & Answers

Hi Eli, thanks for asking about Puntarenas! There are plenty of surfing opportunities when you attend this program. You should know that there is not surfing directly in Puntarenas but there is surfing at beaches that are a short bus ride away from the city. If you take the USAC surfing class it will be hosted at Jaco Beach which is about an hour bus ride away. It's very common for students to...
I'll answer this question now, even though Daniela has already done her semester! In fact, we both attended USAC on the Puntarenas campus. We really enjoyed it - school is LITERALLY across the street from the beach, there is a USAC-only pool on campus, and the town is a good size for getting to know all of it. Puntarenas is also the only campus where USAC students are the only students, rather...
Awesome! Thanks for your insights.

Reviews

97%
based on 34 reviews
  • Academics 7.9
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.3
  • Housing 8.8
  • Safety 8.6
Showing 1 - 15 of 34
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Kaitlyn
9/10

Cultural Experience

USAC Puntarenas is a great program for students looking to improve their Spanish and have a better understanding of Latin American culture. The city itself is rather small and number of english speaking locals is... limited. The USAC staff (both on-site and back home) go above and beyond to ensure students are happy and safe. The housing at this location is primarily home-stay, which most students prefer. The USAC building has an on-site gym, pool, games, pool/ping pong tables and more. Couldn't be more grateful for the support of my teachers and staff while abroad.

How can this program be improved?
I would encourage USAC to offer apartment living as a housing arrangement as well.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Ciara
10/10

Living in Puntarenas, Costa Rica

If you have never studied abroad...you need to! This experience changed my life, and my perspective about myself and about the world. My host family was so loving and they cared about me more than just a student. My host mom always called me, "Princesa," in an endearing way! The faculty and staff members at the USAC school I attended were always available and helpful with anything I needed, whether that be finding stores around town, or finding a place to volunteer in throughout my stay. Personally, I had a wonderful experience studying abroad in Puntarenas, Costa Rica through USAC, and highly recommend it to all!

How can this program be improved?
Having a few more ideas for volunteer places around the town, and providing transportation there.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Giulia
8/10

Best experience ever

I was in Costa Rica, and it was the best month of my whole life.
I experienced the goodness of people, the beauty of unspoiled nature, new delicious foods but most of all i discover a better way to see the world.
I have made unique experiences living them as a protagonist!!!
I lived that one month as a whole beautiful and full of emotion life.

I love USAC for giving me this amazing gift!
PURA VIDA to everyone!

Yes, I recommend this program
Charlie
10/10

An Experience of a Lifetime

This program site is absolutely wonderful, especially if you are looking to improve your Spanish. I literally lived right on the beach with some of the friendliest people I've ever met (and they made me great food). Costa Rica is truly one of the happiest places on Earth. If I weren't graduating I would do this program over again. The healthcare system there was phenomenal, I had a few hiccups and the program staff helped me out so much.

How can this program be improved?
Honestly, there is nothing I would change.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Maria
10/10

Costa Rica

I had so much fun in Puntarenas, Costa Rica. I got to experience their lifestyle, culture, and holidays. I got to interact with many local people and made great friends from there and from other parts of the world and United States. My host family took me to different places that I would have not gotten to see. To the future participants, go out and have fun.Get out of your comfort zone and travel. Interact with the locals and help out at a local school.

How can this program be improved?
Have more field trips and have the trips be longer
Yes, I recommend this program
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Audiel
9/10

Experience

I decided to study abroad alone without knowing anyone which made my experience memorable. I was able to meet a lot of great people from the program and local people. They became some of my best friends showing me around the area so I became quite familiar. The best thing is that I still keep in touch with those friends, definitely recommend my friends to study abroad! IT is a life changing experience, leaving the country and meeting a whole new culture was very interesting. I fell in love with Costa Rica and have plans to return some day! A great place to spend vacation.

How can this program be improved?
N/a
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Ben
10/10

Awesome!

I really enjoyed my experience abroad and would recommend it to anyone who want to travel abroad. I learned a lot about myself and gained insight on the US in a global context. Costa Rica is a beautiful country full of lush greenery and an abundance of animals. Anyone who loves the outdoors would feel at home there. The beaches look like they came directly out of a movie. There is clear blue water and depending on where you go you can see dolphins and sea turtles.

Yes, I recommend this program
Laurel
10/10

If you're looking for a sign, this is it.

I had a blast on my summer semester on the Puntarenas campus! Not only did I get to take awesome classes, but I was steps away from the beach the whole time! We also traveled to many beautiful destinations on the weekends, including, islands, national parks, a water park, the capital city and rain forests. You can literally do everything from Puntarenas. People were questioning if I was even studying at all! My Instagram might not look like it, but I was definitely doing academic work too. I made AWESOME friends that I still talk too, and if you want a picture-perfect summer abroad, this is the place for you. The locals are wonderful, the food is amazing (my host family owned a restaurant!), the town is gorgeous, and I can't complain about anything. I would absolutely do this program again. If you have the opportunity, make sure to take David's dance class or Elena's cooking class. Both are amazing cultural immersions, and like everything else on this trip, way more fun with friends!

How can this program be improved?
Honestly, I don't even know if I could answer this question without being whiny. Every experience is what you make of it!
Yes, I recommend this program
Renae
10/10

Still thinking about it daily 5 years later

I studied abroad at USAC Puntarenas in 2011 and came back to the states a different person (and fluent in Spanish!). It is now 5 years later, I've graduated college, traveled the continental U.S. for a year in a converted school bus RV, and I'm now a mother to an almost 2 year old boy. I STILL think about my time in Costa Rica on a weekly or even daily basis. It was one of the most beautiful experiences and adventures I have had to date. I'm hoping to return in the next few years.
The country is beautiful, the people are welcoming and amiable, and the staff at USAC honestly could not be better. They are so supportive and the perfect security blanket for someone who may be traveling outside the U.S. for the first time and/or leaving home for an extended period of time for the first time (like I was!). If you are considering studying here, do not hesitate. You won't regret it. This was the greatest investment of time and money I put into myself in my early 20's.

How can this program be improved?
Honestly, it's hard for me to say. I loved everything about it. I felt like my classes were challenging but not overwhelming, the staff was very supportive, and my host family took GREAT care of me.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Don
10/10

Costa Rica Living

My experience in Costa Rica was so much fun and enriching. I learned so much new information and facts while I was in Costa Rica! The staff/counselors were so much fun, and I really connected with them. I spoke lots of Spanish to the locals and really got to try out the language I've been learning in school for four years! I seriously miss my time in Costa Rica! The highlight of my trip was the warm weather and gorgeous place I was in.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Johanna
10/10

La Pura Vida

Costa Rica is such an amazing country with wonderful people. The USAC Puntarenas team loves what they do and wants everyone to make the most of their experience. I learned a lot of Spanish and traveled throughout the country all while meeting great new friends. I would highly recommend studying abroad and USAC makes it so fun and easy.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Kenzie
9/10

Pura Vida in Puntarenas

Puntarenas is unique from USAC programs in Costa Rica because it truly immerses you in authentic Costa Rica. Many of the families who live in Puntarenas have lived there for decades, and it is reasonably un-Americanized in comparison to big cities like San Jose. Though things like the water shutting off occasionally, and the lack of a/c was difficult, it was part of the experience of studying abroad in a developing country and was to be expected. Though my host family and I could only communicate on a basic level, they treated me as their own and called me their daughter. The locals are friendly and Tico's have some cool traditions that are kept alive in Puntarenas. USAC helped integrate us into the community with volunteer opportunities that were once in a lifetime opportunities. USAC set me up to volunteer at the Marine center where I got to feed and be up close and personal with injured sea turtles. I would not trade my study abroad experience in Puntarenas with USAC for anything.

How can this program be improved?
I would've liked to have studied with more international students, since USAC draws primarily American students. It would also be nice to ensure that the homestay's have wifi for when the homesickness gets overwhelming.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Desirae
10/10

Wintermester in Puntarenas

I've always had trouble waking up in the mornings to start my day, but that wasn't the case in Costa Rica. I woke up before my alarm every single time, eager and excited for the day! It was nice starting the morning with my host mom, practicing my Spanish while eating breakfast. My class was challenging, as a language course has never been that demanding for me, but I feel like I actually learned. The dance class was SO much fun. The teacher explained everything patiently and it made everyone that took the course a lot closer. After dinner my friends and I would meet at the beach every single night. There would be times when I was tired, but we only had 3 weeks so I didn't want to waste a single moment not enjoying the beauty that Costa Rica had to offer or getting to know the amazing people I still keep in touch with today.

How can this program be improved?
A list of other activities students did during their free time and what company they went through would be helpful!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Caitlin
9/10

La Vida Pura

I remember that the first time I woke up in my new home in Costa Rica, I underwent a number of emotions. I remember waking up the welcoming bright sun and the warm skin-hugging air and having a moment of disbelief that I actually did it, I am officially studying abroad! I don't know if it was the thousands of birds sing-songing on the tree in my backyard, or the warm welcome I received from my two new host pets (two gorgeous poodles, one black and one white), but I felt like I had instantly found a home away from home. As I continued to experience the life of the Costa Rican, I found myself not looking forward to leaving the beautiful relaxed lifestyle, in which I truly belong, to go back to the City That Never Sleeps. Though I love my loud and bustling New York City, the "pura vida" atmosphere that I experienced in Costa Rica was unlike anything I had experienced before. It allowed me to be able to relax and enjoy my thoughts as I embraced the subtle soundtrack of the waves of the beach and the soft rustling of the trees that I am so often deprived of by constantly being surrounded by cement and loud noises.

How can this program be improved?
I would have loved to have more organized group trips by USAC. It was great to have the opportunity to have trips with my peers and the staffmembers at USAC and it would have been awesome to have more of those experiences.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Jane
10/10

pura vida

Costa Rica is a beautiful country that I got to explore with this program. The country is great for any type of traveller and there are so many great places to sight-see or escape the tourism. I learned a lot about a new culture and improved my Spanish without being pushed out of any comfort zones. Awesome first time abroad!

Yes, I recommend this program

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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...