Though not a classic study abroad destination, Puerto Rico offers a unique experience for study abroad students. Just a quick flight from most major U.S. cities, it's both easy and affordable to study abroad in Puerto Rico -- either for a semester or a short summer program.
Whether you're looking to learn Spanish in Puerto Rico, or want to know whether you should choose to study abroad in San Juan or somewhere else on the island, this guide will give you the information you need to plan your study abroad trip on this Caribbean island.
So pack your bags and get ready to study abroad and explore rainforests, swim beneath waterfalls, and visit the beach between classes!
Photo credits: Ricardo's Photography.
San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, is popular among students. This coastal city has beach access and all the perks of city living. Stroll around Old San Juan to learn about the city’s colorful history and view some of its original structures. Over 18? Take a tour of the Bacardi Factory and enjoy San Juan’s nightlife in its many bars, restaurants and clubs. Home to several universities, the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras is a popular choice in San Juan. One of 11 UPR campuses, UPRRP is located in the city, has about 17,000 students and offers 80 undergraduate programs.
Looking for a fun location without the faster pace of San Juan? Set your watch to “island time” and head to the west coast! Located between the coast and the mountains, Mayagüez is a short drive to the beach. Head a little further north and stumble upon surfing and snorkeling paradise at Rincon. Mayagüez is home to the UPR Mayagüez (RUM) campus, with about 13,000 students. RUM’s four faculties are Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Business Administration and Agricultural Sciences. Mayagüez has many shops, bars and restaurants, but with more small town charm.
Planning Your Trip
A good education is at the top of everyone's list when searching for a university. When considering studying abroad, students can be most curious about academic life, language and housing.
- Language: Spanish and English are both the official languages of Puerto Rico, although Spanish is dominant. At many universities, textbooks are in English while classes are taught in Spanish. You do not need to be fluent in Spanish to live in Puerto Rico (although it helps!), but many programs require several college level Spanish courses. However, the Inter American University of Puerto Rico offers an English Trimester Program, taught solely in English.
- Housing: Many programs will provide housing to study abroad students. Some Puerto Rican universities do not have on-campus housing, in which you might be assigned a shared apartment close to campus. If on-campus housing is available, study abroad students will most likely be housed in Residences Halls, living side by side with local students.
- Academic Life: Puerto Rican students are very passionate about their education. Within the past several years, there have been several student-lead strikes at UPR campuses protesting rising tuition fees. In 2010 a strike lasted two months, delaying classes, but ending in student victory!
Student Visa and Passport Information
For US citizens studying in Puerto Rico, no visa is required. US citizens can travel freely in and out of the country with government issued picture identification, such as a driver’s license. Because Puerto Rico is a US territory, visa requirements are the same as entering the US. All non-US citizens looking to study in Puerto Rico must first be accepted into a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) school and then apply for a US Student Visa.
Social Life and Student Culture
When visiting Puerto Rico, there are certain things everyone MUST do!
- Visit the El Yunque Rainforest. Mountains! Rivers! Waterfalls! Coquí tree frogs! Sierra Palms! El Yunque is a real, honest-to-goodness rainforest, and it is BEAUTIFUL. Go exploring and let yourself get lost in this amazing landscape, just beware the stinging nettle.
- Swim in the bioluminescent bay at night. THE WATER GLOWS! Or at least, little microorganisms do. It’s literally the coolest thing you will ever experience. Google it.
- Tour the forts in Old San Juan. These beautiful forts are hundreds of years old and oozing with history.
- Eat, drink and be merry. Mofongo is the signature dish of Puerto Rico, and for good reason. Try it with a side of tostones and wash it all down with a Medalla.
- Go to the beach. Go to all of them! Really, or as many as you can. Swim, snorkel, reapply your sunscreen and relax. Puerto Rico has beautiful beaches, take advantage and work on the best tan of your life!
Puerto Rico is absolutely breathtaking, filled with extremely kind people and natural wonders. So go set “Island in the Sun” on replay and get ready for the greatest adventure of your life!
Costs & Funding
Scholarships: Puerto Rico
True or False: there are people willing to give you money to help you travel. True! There are tons of scholarships out there, such as the Phi Kappa Phi Study Abroad Grant. This grant is open to ALL undergraduate students with a chapter on-campus, including non-members, to study in any location! However, it is always smart to check if your home university offers study abroad scholarships.
- More Study Abroad Grants and Scholarships
- Spanish Studies Scholarship
- Benjamin Gilman Scholarship Program
Contributed by Sarah Morgan
Study Abroad Programs in Puerto Rico
Not enough options in the Puerto Rico? Check out these other Study Abroad programs in the Caribbean!
Tours & Trips in the Caribbean
Looking for something to do during your time in Puerto Rico? Check out some of these tours and trips!