USAC Costa Rica: Puntarenas

Video and Photos

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
  • Study in small groups with field experience
  • Participate in independent research or volunteer in field-related institutions
  • Savor your proximity to breathtaking national parks, nature reserves and discover interesting and beautiful areas of Costa Rica on field trips

Questions & Answers

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 16 - 30 of 34
Default avatar
Patrick
10/10

A culture unknown

Costa Rica was a unknown culture to me and many of my colleagues. What many may think as just being another Latino culture, it truly has a unique ethos of its own. You will find affable locals to practice your Spanish and beautiful sunsets on the beach. Eat delicious food, go for a swim in the ocean, and learn some Spanish.

How can this program be improved?
There needs to be more push for students to meet with tico students for language improvement.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Mariana
10/10

Puntarenas costa rica

My experience in costa rica was unforgettable. Everyday I woke up to a fresh breakfast shared with my host family and walked along the beach to school. I interacted with the locals and became a part of the town.

How can this program be improved?
Offer more classes!
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Chandler
10/10

USAC Puntarenas!

Studying abroad was the best experience for learning a new language. The time I spent in Costa Rica was the best time of my life! I encourage anyone who wants to travel to Costa Rica to do so through USAC and in Puntarenas to get the best cultural experience possible!!

How can this program be improved?
Any bad experiences that I had usually had nothing to do with the USAC program.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Zachary
10/10

¡Pura Vida!

Studying abroad in general offers a great experience where you are given the opportunity to focus on yourself and learn who you truly are. While I was in puntarenas my schedule was fairly consistent. Most days I was done with class by noon and I had the opportunity to travel, live with locals and participate in their events. After class I usually went home to eat and take a nap before heading to the beach or gym for the afternoon. Weekends I traveled with my surfing class to Jaco, and learned to surf.

How can this program be improved?
I think it would be beneficial to have roommates or Tico friends within the region. Walking around by yourself and introducing yourself to locals can be nervewrevking if you don't have the right personality for it. On the flip side, being approached by a group of Americans is also intimidating for locals. I think a small group or pairs could make the whole intermingling experience better. On my free weekends I went to travel costa rica. I remember going to coco beach and getting my Padi Scuba certification. Public transportation is both efficient and inexpensive which makes traveling easy. All in all this is a great program.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Ambra
10/10

Best months of my life

Originally, I thought I was going to Europe to study abroad. Last minute, I decided to make the decision to move to Costa Rica instead. From the first day I arrived, I KNEW I had made the right decision. The months I spent down in Puntarenas, and traveling Central America, were some of the best of my entire life. My only complaint is that I can't get back down there to visit sooner.

How can this program be improved?
I think the only complaint I would have is to maybe give us more breaks for traveling.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Adam
10/10

GO TO PUNTARENAS

I can honestly say that the 5 months I spent in Puntarenas were some of the best months of my life. I made so many close friends so quickly, and it's great because everyone's in the same boat as you. Everyone is out of their comfort zone and everyone needs to make new friends ASAP. The social scene is great, and all the professors are very easy to work with and the school is informative.

How can this program be improved?
I think moving people's homestays closer to the school would be better. Most of us were close, but there were a few people who lived quite a walk away.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Michaela
8/10

Life as a Tica

As new as I was to the culture of Costa Rica, I was lucky enough to have gone into the program knowing a good amount of Spanish. Communication is key in social situations, and I was extremely grateful to have had sufficient background in the language. This unique aspect completely altered my experience, specifically in regards to living with a local family, completely. I was able to communicate with my host family fairly fluidly, and with that we were able to build a strong connection. However, the USAC Program did a great job of helping students who had come to Costa Rica with no more Spanish knowledge beyond "hola". Their respective host families were understanding of their communication boundaries, and helped them learn along the way.
Although language didn't prove as much of a difficulty for me, it was challenging for me to adjust to Costa Rica's leisurely culture.With the extremely hot and humid climate of Puntarenas combined with the heaping plates of hot, greasy food in the afternoons and the three hour breaks the whole town took for almuerzo and a siesta every day, I wasn't used to relaxing so much and not being constantly busy. Naturally, I am a very active person which didn't coalesce with the tranquila vibes of Puntarenas, Costa Rica. However, I slowly adjusted to my new environment abroad and eased into my daily life as a tica which proved to be just the break that I needed.

How can this program be improved?
If I could change one thing about the USAC Puntarenas, Costa Rica program it would be to host more culture inclusive extra curricular activities such as bringing local ticos to introduce to the study abroad students or planning a beach clean-up day to help the local community.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Brock
10/10

Best Year of My Life

Spending the past year in Puntareñas, Costa Rica was the most challenging and rewarding decision I have ever made. The language, the culture and most of all the people are what make this location a destination that I can not wait to get back to. The memories that came along with the exciting classes, amazing surf and unbelievable family all while doing these things with my best friends made it a dream come true. I love Costa Rica.

How can this program be improved?
I wish the class transfer units would be a little bit more clear. I am now a tad behind my graduation date, which I by no means regret, I just wish that there was more clarity on which classes would and wouldn't transfer back to my university.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Karma
10/10

Puntarenas

Puntarenas day to day was awesome! Something I loved was that we all lived near each other so we could meet up at local cafes. It was also really cool because the people in charge of local shops were really nice and helpful and I got to know them.

How can this program be improved?
I would like it if we had access to the school later at night
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Leah
10/10

The Punt

I was in Puntarenas for about 9 months, from August 2013- May 2014. I loved the staff in the University and they offered some AMAZING tour options including a 7 day tour of Cuba which was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I will always cherish.

The host families were very hit or miss, they need to be held accountable more for the roles in the students lives, especially the role in feeding the students- some families let the students eat leftover meals while they went out to eat- or feeding them the basic beans and rice while the host family ate other dishes, make sure they are feeding you what they are paid to feed you.

The community has put a lot of money into the area recently- so the pool at the point has been finished and looks nice- the beach is a nice way to tan and cool off on hot days, although the water is not cleanest, still refreshing. The location was good because the ferry to the Nicoya peninsula is right in town and there are busses to take you all over to prime destinations.

If you are looking for a relaxed time abroad- this is the best location in USAC for Costa Rica- the others are more fast paced and demanding. The professors in the location are awesome- great for learning Spanish. There is a Burger King and Pizza Hut in Puntarenas which was sad, this country is so Americanized, they have Wendys, Mc D's, Popeyes, Taco Bell, Subway, KFC, and other American food chains....

I wish there were more diversity in students, I studied with primarily American students, and some whom, as expected, went to Costa Rica expecting to be in Miami or Palm Beach Florida.... Please remember that Costa Rica is in Central America- a LATIN Country, not North America. The only hot water you will get is in a hotel or the city. Hearing the students complaining got to be a drag- making local friends can help you beat this annoying spell.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Tyler
10/10

USAC

In the fall semester the days were hot and the water was warm. The locals are more than friendly and the USAC program selects excellent caregivers for the students as well as an incredible expirience.

How can this program be improved?
The environment is often littered with trash it's not well kept but something we did to make a difference was organized 2 successful beach clean-ups.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Erin
10/10

Best Experience of My Life

I can't think of anywhere else I would have rather studied than Puntarenas. I went to Costa Rica knowing minimal Spanish, and having never been too far out of the Northeast US. Puntarenas is unlike anything we have in the United States. It's small size (you can easily walk through the entire town) and laid back atmosphere was so different than the pace of life that I am used to.
I really liked the way USAC structured their Spanish classes. Because hardly anyone in the town spoke English, it was incredibly important to fit in as much Spanish language instruction as possible. I took 14 credits of Spanish during the one semester that I was there. They basically split the semester into multiple different classes, so that for the first few weeks you are in intro to Spanish, then in the middle you switch to Intermediate, etc. The staff was also phenomenal!
Students are also given the opportunity to volunteer at the nearby marine park. I figured they would have me mopping floors, or other meaningless tasks, but when I got their for my first day I was able to apply medicine to an injured sea turtle's shell and help with a pelican's amputated wing. It was a completely unexpected and awesome aspect of the program.
Finally, USAC is super cheap! It cost me less in tuition to go to Costa Rica then it would have cost me to go to my own state school for the semester. Cost of living is pretty cheap too, so you don't have to spend a small fortune every time you go out.

How can this program be improved?
The way my schedule worked out, I had class monday-friday at 8 am. This sometimes was annoying when traveling during the weekends. Some of the more advanced Spanish speakers had fewer classes and had mondays and fridays off. That would have been nice.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Katie
10/10

Year in Costa Rica

My year in Costa Rica was amazing. Not to say many challenges didn't come my way. I honestly, cried for the first month! Though, after my year I can happily say that it did indeed make me a different person and helped me grow.

Every morning I would wake up for a run, enjoy gallo of course, drink some coffee, eat fresh fruit, then walk 2 minutes to class, arriving every day dripping in sweat.

How can this program be improved?
I would have enjoyed classes with Ticos
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Brittany
10/10

The Best Program

This is one of the best programs. You go to class than right after go to the beach, get ice cream or just hang out with friends. The classes are awesome because they are small and more personal. The trips you get to take with the program are great.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Madi
10/10

I wouldn't change a thing!

I loved the staff who worked at USAC. They helped me through a lot! Costa Rica was the best experience and it only makes me want to travel more! This was my first time out of the U.S. And it was perfect! The town is located in a great traveling area and has a lot of buses to go all over Costa Rica. Puntarenas isn't considered a beautiful spot if you go there with no expectations or comparing it to the states it is an amazing spot! I would hang out with my friends by the beach everyday! My host family was perfect and made me feel like I was one of their own children!

How can this program be improved?
A very select few of the teachers I did not like. He or she always had a complaint from a lot of the students. I guess I could say a downfall is that it is super hot there and there is no ac. Also a lot of times the water would shut off at night, but we all got over it and dealt with it
Yes, I recommend

Interviews

Meet the Alumni

About USAC

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...