Intermediate Spanish Study Abroad in Heredia, Costa Rica
Required GPA: Heredia
3.0 (4.0 scale)
- Spanish requirement: 2-3 semesters of university-level Spanish or equivalent
- Application deadlines: November 1 for semester 1 (Jan-June)
- Program advisor: Eryn Espín-Kudzinski
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The Heredia Intermediate program at the Universidad Nacional (UNA) is designed for university students who wish to complete their Spanish minor requirements or prepare for advanced-level Spanish study.
What the Heredia Intermediate program has to offer
- An intermediate Spanish language program perfect for students with two to three semesters of university-level Spanish
- Quick and easy access to the capital city of San José
- Located in Heredia, a beautiful small town with a laid-back atmosphere in Costa Rica's central region
- Combination of intermediate Spanish courses and integrated university courses at (UNA)
- Community-based learning opportunities that are included as part of the mandatory intermediate Spanish course
- Program excursions and activities focused on environmental conservation, sustainable tourism and community development
- Academic tutors available for support during the semester
- Three meals per day and laundry service included in the program fee
- IFSA-Butler arranges housing with a carefully selected host family
- Only one IFSA-Butler student per each host family for maximum cultural and language integration
- Choose up to three specially designed program courses: Intermediate Spanish (mandatory), Latin American Literature and Social History of Costa Rica
- Program courses are taught by university faculty exclusively for IFSA-Butler students
- Students also directly enroll in one to three courses in UNA's General Studies department or Art school taking classes alongside Costa Rican and international students
- All coursework is in Spanish
Students volunteer throughout the semester as part of the mandatory Intermediate Spanish class. Possible projects include environmental conservation and protection, community and beach beautification projects, tutoring children, and working at nursing homes or orphanages. Students are matched with a project depending on interest and level of Spanish abilities.
What is the academic structure of the Heredia Intermediate program?
IFSA-Butler offers a semester study abroad program for the Heredia Intermediate program at the Universidad Nacional (UNA) in Heredia, Costa Rica. The program allows you to enroll in up to three program courses specifically designed for IFSA-Butler students. These program classes, taught in Spanish by local professors, are intended to provide you with an understanding of the events and issues that make Costa Rica what it is today.
In addition, you have the opportunity to take one to three classes alongside Costa Rican students in UNA's General Studies department and Art school. Click on the "University Courses" tab for a list of UNA courses that may be available to you.
What program courses does IFSA-Butler offer?
The following courses are specially designed for IFSA-Butler students on the Heredia Intermediate program. Students are required to enroll in the mandatory Spanish language class; language placement level will be determined by an oral and written exam after arrival in Costa Rica. Additionally, students can choose to enroll in one or both of the additional program courses.
Click here to download all program course syllabi, or click on a course title below to download an individual course syllabus.
Intermediate Spanish (6 U.S. semester credit hours) This mandatory, intensive Spanish course is designed for students who have completed the beginning to low-intermediate levels of university Spanish. Focusing on improving Spanish comprehension, expression and interaction through class participation, written work, reading and community interaction, this course will prepare students for Spanish study at the advanced level. A mandatory community service component will provide field experience and language practice with local Costa Ricans.
Social History of Costa Rica (3 U.S. semester credit hours) The fundamental social-historical issues of Costa Rican society, from pre-Colombian times to the present, are discussed and analyzed in this dynamic course, specifically focusing on the relationships between distinct cultural and social spheres. Emphasis will be given to the years 1950-2008 so students can better comprehend the recent social history of Costa Rica and how it relates to current events. Field trips are planned throughout the semester to help illustrate certain themes discussed in class.
20th Century Latin American Literature (3 U.S. semester credit hours) This course concentrates on the study of fundamental narrative works by 20th century Latin American authors. Along with analyzing the peculiar and historic conditions of these texts, the course will focus on different thematic and cultural aspects presented in the literature. The course may include discussions about short works by Jorge Luis Borges, Miguel Ángel Asturias, Alejo Charpentier, Juan Rulfo and Julio Cortázar.
What is the Universidad Nacional like?
The Universidad Nacional (UNA) is located on the eastern edge of Heredia, just a few blocks from the downtown area. Very similar to a traditional U.S. university campus, the majority of UNA's buildings are located in one area, surrounded by large trees, tropical flowers and open spaces where you can relax between classes. Approximately 15,000 students attend UNA; however, the small classes and abundant activities offered throughout the semester help give UNA a small campus feel.
What UNA courses are available to me?
Student on the Heredia Intermediate program are permitted to enroll in one to three courses offered through Centro de Estudios Generales (General Studies Department) and the Centro de Investigación, Docencia y Extensión Artística (CIDEA or Art School). Unless otherwise indicated, all UNA courses are worth between 2 to 4 U.S. semester credit hours.
While these courses are open to all UNA students, they are considered the first introductory course to a more specific topic of study. Therefore, they are general in scope and do not require extensive background knowledge in the particular subject.
To register for a course, you must meet any prerequisites, have the required Spanish language level and space must be available. While many course descriptions may be found online, course syllabi may not be available until the beginning of your semester.
Keep in mind the following:
- Nivel 1 corresponds with first-year courses; Nivel 2 corresponds to second-year courses, etc.
- I Ciclo (primer ciclo) is a U.S. spring semester (January to July).
- II Ciclo (segundo ciclo) is a U.S. fall semester (July to December).
- Anual refers to full-year courses.
- When the word Latina appears alone in a course title, it means classic, not Latino ethnicity. This applies mostly to literature courses.
Where can I find a list of courses that UNA offers?
An online course catalogue is available to view courses that may be offered during the semester. You can access class information by following these steps:
General Studies courses:
- Click here to access the online course catalog for General Studies.
- Next, click on your area of interest under "Nombre Carrera" (i.e. Área de Filosofía, Arte, Ciencias or Sociales).
- You will now see a tentative list of general studies courses that may be offered during the semester. Click on a course name or scroll down the page to see brief course descriptions for each course listed.
Art School courses:
- Click here to access the online course catalog for the Art School.
- Next, click on "Arte y Comunicación Visual." You can only take classes listed under this section.
- You will now see a tentative list of art courses that may be offered during the semester. Click on a course name or scroll down the page to see brief course descriptions for each course listed.
Course availability changes every semester, and it can also change at the last minute. For this reason, Heredia Intermediate course information must be regarded as provisional. IFSA-Butler cannot guarantee that a specific course will be offered during your semester in Costa Rica.
If a particular course you are looking for is not listed, or if you have difficulty accessing course information on the Web, contact your IFSA-Butler program advisor for assistance.
Are there any restrictions or additional requirements for courses I can take?
While most classes in the General Studies department and Art School are available for IFSA-Butler students, please keep in mind the following points:
- All students must enroll in the mandatory Intermediate Spanish course offered through IFSA-Butler.
- Students can choose to take one or both of the additional IFSA-Butler program courses.
- All program and university courses are conducted in Spanish by UNA faculty members.
- You can only register for Arte y Comunicación Visual courses in the Art School.
- More advanced art courses (Nivel II and above) may require you to submit a portfolio of previous work completed.
- Some art classes may charge an additional fee, which is not included in the IFSA-Butler program fee. Check with your program advisor ahead of time.
- You are not permitted to enroll in yearlong courses (anual).
How are UNA courses different from the courses at my U.S. university?
The system of higher education in Costa Rica is more specialized than the U.S. liberal arts curriculum, which means that Tico students enter university with some background in the subjects they wish to study. Therefore, local students take most of, if not all, their courses in one faculty and receive a degree in one field. In the U.S. system, students take a little of everything and don't specialize until a couple of years into their studies.
Additionally, you might notice that your Tico classmates know each other very well. This is because students enroll in carreras rather than majors. Carreras are similar to majors in the United States but with a more structured program of study and fewer elective courses. Students from the same carrera enroll in the same courses together during their entire undergraduate career.
I need to provide course descriptions and/or syllabi to my home university advisor. Where can I find those?
If course descriptions or syllabi are not available online, contact your program advisor for assistance. Please provide the following information in your request:
- University department/facultad
- Course title
- Course number (if available)
Please limit your request to 10 courses at a time. Keep in mind that it may take a few days to a month to obtain this information.
How will I register for courses?
Course registration takes place once you arrive in Costa Rica, typically during your second week of orientation. A designated day will be set aside for registration at UNA. During this time, you will receive the updated course catalog and be able to speak with departmental representatives or professors about courses in which you are interested in taking. You will then select your courses for the semester.
Before leaving for Costa Rica, it is a good idea to start thinking about the courses you want to take while you are abroad. A course preference form (see the "Forms" tab) is provided to help you with this process. While this form is not a final registration document, it is a great tool to help you decide which courses you may want to enroll in for the semester. Be sure to discuss your courses with your U.S. university academic advisor.
The order of registration is determined by your cumulative GPA. International students with the highest GPA register first. Make sure you select more classes than you actually need just in case the class you want to take is already full.
While we are sure that your time abroad will be rewarding, you must be aware of some of the challenges inherent in dealing with the Costa Rican educational system. The resident director will not only discuss these at orientation but will also be available to help you with any problems that may arise during the semester.
Keep in mind that the educational system in Costa Rica is different from the system in the U.S. For example, universities do not usually publish course schedules until just before the start of the semester. In many cases, current course listings are not available until you arrive on site. Registration can be a confusing and frustrating process; remember that IFSA-Butler staff will help you during orientation.
What if I need to take a required course?
Because of UNA's academic schedule, it is difficult to confirm course availability before you depart. If you are flexible in your course choices, you will probably be able to find a course that fits your needs. Keep in mind that if you need a specific course to fulfill your home institution's requirements, we may not be able to confirm the availability of that course or enroll you in it even if it is available. Both academic flexibility and patience are requirements for studying in Latin America.
Science and engineering courses everywhere require a high level of expertise, and students should be prepared for the increased challenge of studying these disciplines in Spanish. As these are fields in which there are generally few international students, visiting students may feel that the support
system is not readily apparent. However, previous visiting students at UNA have found science and engineering course professors to be helpful.
What are the registration conditions?
You must take a full university course load as determined by IFSA-Butler, which is 15-16 U.S. semester credit hours per semester. Credit will be awarded on a Butler University transcript based on a typical U.S. full course load. Please be aware that you may be charged additional fees by your home university or host university to take or process additional credits. Taking less than a full course load may jeopardize your student status and result in personal academic repercussions and/or loss of financial aid.
All courses are graded on an A-F scale, and there is no provision for pass/fail or auditing courses unless pass/fail is the only method of assessment for the course. Students are not allowed to register for on-line, distance education or hybrid courses. See the "Academics" and "Program Fees and Financial Aid" sections in Preparing to Study Abroad for more information.
What do I need to know about exams?
Due to the difference in academic systems, your exam schedule will not be available until after you register for courses at UNA. Be sure to confirm exam dates with your professor at the beginning of the semester. You are not permitted to reschedule exams, request alternate assessment or arrange to have your exams proctored in the United States. If this occurs, IFSA-Butler will not be able to assist you in conducting an academic record query on the class in which you made this arrangement. Additionally, all academic obligations, including final exams, must be complete before leaving Costa Rica.
How will my home university know what my classes were and what grades I received?
After you return to the U.S., IFSA-Butler will send a Butler University transcript to your home university. The transcript reflects the courses taken, credits attempted and grades earned on the Heredia Intermediate program during your study abroad semester. We will also send an official transcript to your permanent home address.
What if I need academic help during the semester?
In addition to the formal Spanish class, IFSA-Butler organizes tutoring sessions for students throughout the semester or year. These may be scheduled at various times during the week, when students meet with the tutor on an individual basis. Please speak with the IFSA-Butler resident staff if you would like the assistance of a tutor.
The Heredia Intermediate program is designed not only to help you improve your Spanish skills but also to provide a unique opportunity for you to become personally involved in your new host culture. As a part of the Intermediate Spanish course, IFSA-Butler has included a community-based learning component.
After an informational workshop, you will select from a variety of community organizations in the Heredia/San José area that you will work with during the semester. You will be required to commit at least two hours per week with organizations such as:
- Inbioparque (Instituto de Biodiversidad) - Environmental conservation and protection
- Programa Bandera Azul - Community and beach beautification projects
- Nursing homes for the elderly
- Tutoring school-aged children
See the "Volunteer" section of the Heredia Intermediate website for more information.
What are my housing options?
Study abroad is much more than academics. Learning takes place not only during class, but 24 hours a day. One of the best out-of-class experiences is the homestay, which is a vital, required component of the IFSA-Butler program. One IFSA-Butler student is placed with a carefully selected, program approved host family for the duration of the study abroad semester.
In addition to the program application, be sure to click on the "Forms" tab to download and complete your Family Placement Form. Once finished, submit your Family Placement Form to IFSA-Butler via email, fax or regular mail.
The Heredia Intermediate program includes three meals per day.
Is my housing included in the program fee?
Yes. Your program fee includes accommodation with your host family while classes are in session and during short university breaks. If you are studying abroad for an entire year, you will need to find alternate housing during the semester breaks. You will be responsible for the any commuting costs you may incur.
When will I receive my housing assignment?
You will most likely receive your housing assignment one to two weeks before your departure. However, in some cases you may not receive your housing assignment until you arrive in Costa Rica for orientation. Your program advisor will notify you of your housing assignment via email when it is ready.
Please keep in mind that while IFSA-Butler guarantees housing, we cannot guarantee your preferences.
Do I have to pay a housing deposit?
The Heredia Intermediate program does not require a housing deposit.
Can I arrange my own housing?
All students who participate on the Heredia Intermediate program must live with a program approved host family for the duration of the program.
Living and Studying in Heredia, Costa Rica
Population: 103,000 (greater area)
Location: Central Costa Rica, seven miles from San José
- A college town with a laid-back atmosphere for students
- A great location to visit historic buildings reminiscent of colonial days
- Universidad Nacional's large campus is located on the east side of town, easily accessible by public transportation
- Offers a welcoming community with a small town feel, yet close to big-city attractions
- Known throughout the world for its coffee plantations and volcanic national parks just outside the city
- Explore charming neighborhoods of Santa Lucía, San Pablo, San Rafael, Mercedes Norte, Barva, Fátima, Santo Domingo and San Joaquín, all surrounding Heredia
- Climb a volcano, visit a butterfly farm and take a tour of Café Britt coffee plantation
- Visit the tropical forests, picture-perfect waterfalls and gleaming rivers that surround Heredia
- Enjoy the beauty and serenity of the region when hiking, biking and sightseeing
- Travel by bus (one leaves every hour) to San José or locations throughout Costa Rica
More about Heredia
Costa Rica National Chamber of Tourism
Lonely Planet Costa Rica
The Tico Times Online
Visit Costa Rica
Embassy of Costa Rica
Costa Rican Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Dates & Fees
Heredia Intermediate Dates
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* All students should book their return flight on this date. The flight should leave from San José (SJO).
Your program end date may change due to circumstances beyond IFSA-Butler's control. Upon arrival at your host university, be sure to verify your exam schedule and program end date. We also strongly recommend that you investigate fees and penalties associated with your airline tickets in case you need to make date or route changes.
Program housing is available only until the date listed as “Program ends” on the calendar.
Exams must be taken where and when scheduled. Under no circumstances may students request that an exam time be changed. In Costa Rica, exams are taken under formal examination conditions, and changes cannot be made for individuals.
Heredia Intermediate Fees
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What's included in our Costa Rica program fees
Payments Due: December 15
Program Fee Bills
IFSA-Butler will send a single bill for the entire program fee, which includes tuition, services, housing and some meals.
Each student lives with a carefully selected host family. The program fee includes three meals per day.
Personal Cost Estimates
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These figures are designed to assist students with financial planning but are only estimates based on past students’ experiences at the current exchange rate. They do not include any entertainment or vacation travel costs.
The above numbers are general estimates of expenses during a program abroad. We recommend taking into account your current spending habits, the cost of living in your host country and the current exchange rate. Your IFSA-Butler program advisor can be helpful as you attempt to work on a personal budget for your experience abroad.
Meals: The program fee includes three meals per day.
Personal Miscellaneous: Covers general expenses of college life, including course supplies, photocopying, toiletries, snacks, personal care, etc.
Commuting: Estimates are for transportation between housing and university. Transportation for personal or recreational purposes is not included in the above estimates.
All costs are in U.S. dollars.
To apply to the Heredia Intermediate program, use our easy online application.
Applicants to the Heredia Intermediate program must complete two additional forms as part of the application process:
Please submit these forms with the remainder of your program application. They can be sent to IFSA-Butler via email, fax or regular mail.
If you have already started an application to the Heredia Intermediate program, you can check the status of your application using the Student Portal.
Meet Your IFSA-Butler Team
IFSA-Butler has a dedicated team of staff who are here to help students prepare for their program in Costa Rica:
Assistant Director for Student Safety Eryn Espín-Kudzinskiassists with the application process and is here to answer program, cultural and academic questions before departure. Eryn lived abroad in Ecuador teaching English while learning Spanish, and she has traveled extensively throughout Latin America. In 2004, Eryn joined IFSA-Butler in order to help students study abroad and experience new cultures. Contact Eryn at the email link above or at 800-858-0229 ext. 4269.
Student Accounts Coordinator Marty Weinbrecht assists with the financial side of study abroad and processes payments and invoices. Marty can be reached at the email link above or at 800-858-0229 ext. 4218.
Student & Parent Services Manager Donnetta Spears is available to both students and parents for travel questions and information. Donnetta has worked with IFSA-Butler since 2000, and she has traveled through parts of Europe, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand. As the mother of 4 college students (one who has studied abroad too), she has a deep understanding of the ins-and-outs of study abroad from a parent perspective. Donnetta can be reached at the email link above or at 800-858-0229 ext. 4252.
Once abroad, our students are in the capable hands of our on-site office, including our resident director. Click here to read more about Resident Director Teresita Camacho.
Upon return from your study abroad program, Academic Affairs Coordinator Sara Bell processes your Butler University transcript and assists with any academic record queries. Sara can be reached at the email link above or at 800-858-0229 ext. 4261.
Volunteering while studying abroad in Costa Rica is an enriching experience, both personally and academically. Students report that even volunteering a few hours per week enhanced their study abroad experience by providing them with access to the local culture and a deeper understanding of problems that face Costa Ricans on a daily basis. Opportunities to volunteer are available for IFSA-Butler students in many different fields such as environmental projects, working in rural communities, or tutoring children after school. Additionally, many of the program excursions and activities in Costa Rica are focused on volunteerism and giving back to the local community.
As a participant on the Heredia Intermediate program, you will gain first-hand experience volunteering in the local Heredia/San José community. A mandatory community-based learning component is offered through the Intermediate Spanish course. You will be placed with a local community or environmental organization of your choice (depending on availability and your Spanish language level). Additionally, you will be required to commit at least two hours per week to volunteer service. The volunteer experience is integrated into classroom discussion and assignments, giving you a chance to process and analyze your experiences working with the local community.
Examples of places where students can be placed:
- Proyecto Esperanza Joven - Students support rural communities in education, building maintenance and assistance with natural emergencies.
- Fundación Oratorio Don Bosco - Work with children from high-risk areas through workshops, tutoring and sports.
- Programa Bandera Azul - Beach and community beautification projects.
- Asociación Volunatrio en Investigacion y Desarrollo Ambiental (VIDA) - Help rural communities with community and environmental service projects.
- Inbioparque - Assist with recycling programs, community ecotourism and sustainable development.
This is just a sample of the volunteer opportunities available to our students, and these may change from semester to semester. If you have specific interests, please discuss them with your IFSA-Butler program advisor, who can research other opportunities that may be available in your area of interest. Your program advisor can help you determine opportunities that fit your interests (if they are not listed above), but you will not sign up for a placement until after orientation.