USAC Costa Rica: San Ramón - Life Sciences, Spanish Language, and Culture

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About

USAC invites students interested in pursuing health, ecology, and conservation biology studies to come study abroad at the Sede de Occidente campus in San Ramón at the University of Costa Rica. The Life Sciences, Spanish and Culture Studies program is offered for the summer, semester or full academic year term. Looking to hear the rest of the details? Explore the USAC website: http://usac.edu/san-ramon

Highlights
  • Study upper division science or honors courses in an ideal location for ecology, biology, and health sciences, in small groups with field experience
  • Participate in independent research, internships, or volunteer in field-related institutions
  • Get hands-on experiential learning about local flora and fauna in field study courses
  • Explore interesting, beautiful areas of Costa Rica on field trips
  • Enjoy a small town atmosphere with easy access to the cultural, historic, and urban highlights of San José, and to the Pacific coast

Questions & Answers

Reviews

98%
based on 12 reviews
  • Academics 8.3
  • Support 9.2
  • Fun 9.8
  • Housing 9.5
  • Safety 8.8
Showing 1 - 12 of 12
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Kathleen
10/10

Thank you USAC!!

As it was my first time traveling outside of the country by myself, overall it was an amazing experience! Not only did they make the process super simple, the program was fun and life changing! I love how the classes were small and we were able to really learn and get to know the professor. The country was absolutely beautiful, the onsite staff was really kind and helpful and I would really recommend anyone who is interested in studying abroad to go with USAC!!

Yes, I recommend
Laken
9/10

USAC San Ramon, Costa Rica

I had an amazing experience with USAC in Costa Rica. I learned so much about cultural humility by living with a host family and going to classes at a Costa Rican university. I especially loved discovering the natural wonders of the area that I was living in, as well as all over the country. My biggest piece of advice would be to study the Spanish language as much as possible before you go, and to immerse yourself in the language as much as possible while you are there. I had considered applying to be a Peace Corps volunteer before I studied abroad, however, when I came back to the US, I immediately applied to Peace Corps because I had such a wonderful experience.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Allison
10/10

Costa Rica: Ecological Paradise

The beautiful thing about being a biology major at a major university in Costa Rica is that my ecology classes could just take a walk outside to find examples of things we learn in class. Every day, my plant taxonomy class would take a walk around campus identifying the families of plants we learned about. There is a small forest for study right behind “la U”, as they like to call it.

The first day of tropical ecology class, our professora Sonia took us on a walk around campus just to find what ecology we could see. The very first bush we stop at, she sees this giant spider and starts cooing “Que linda, chiquitita” (“how cute, little girly”). Next thing you know she’s picking it up and explaining about the native spiders, as the class cringes a little. That is how you earn respect day one, let me tell you. By the end of the semester, we were all doing the same, and I can still tell you about the 3 major species on campus.

Not only do we explore our campus ecology to the fullest, but we’ve also gotten a chance to study so many other ecosystems in the country of Costa Rica. Our field studies, take us all over the country. Studying in San Ramon has given me the chance to explore in real life the tropical systems I would study as an ecology student in a text book anywhere else. While studying these ecosystems I’ve had the chance to snorkel in the Pacific and Caribbean, visit the major research station for tropical rainforests in Costa Rica, and hike through multiple cloud forests in various stages of restoration and establishment.

San Ramon is perfect for any student that is interested in learning more about nature and Latin American culture. This is also a great place to learn Spanish, you’ll get plenty of practice. Making friends with locals and learning salsa and other latin dances has been a highlight of my semester, and a fun way to learn about Tico culture. And, if you’re pre-med: I’ve only heard good things about the hospital or clinic internships, if your Spanish is already pretty decent. They are very interactive, and challenging in a good way. I have so much love for this city and country. My year was such a positive experience overall, and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a little crazy to me, the Carolina girl, to think that I felt like I was returning home when I got back to San Ramon from a week in say, Panama or Cuba. I’m so grateful, and wouldn’t have it any other way. Viva Moncho!

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Leah
10/10

Incredible Location to study Biology and Spanish

I picked this program location because I was a Biology and Spanish major and San Ramon incorporated these two perfectly. I took tropical Ecology, field study, and medical Spanish. I loved how much we got to go outside and explore and the excursions were awesome. The wildlife in Costa Rica is unbeatable. One of the best experiences was swimming in bio-luminescent water at night on a field trip for ecology. I also highly recommend taking dances of latin america which got everyone out of their comfort zone but was super fun. My host family was the absolute best and I keep in contact with my mama "tica" to this day. The only downside was that the city really shut down at night because it wasn't very safe to be out after dark (which it got dark at about 6:30). But I never experienced any problems and if you are smart about it, you shouldn't have to worry! Pura Vida!

Yes, I recommend
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Allyson
9/10

USAC San Ramon

This program was fantastic! The classes provided (I took Tropical Conservation Biology and its corresponding field study) were very applicable to my majors of Zoology and Environmental Science, and the field study itself was unforgettable. The electives (I took Latin American Dance, but Latin American Cooking was also an option) are also super fun and relevant to the culture of the country. My host family was super friendly and hospitable, and the USAC staff were very accommodating. All of the trips/tours that were provided through the program were loads of fun--I got to zipline through the jungle, see Arenal Volcano from hanging bridges, and ride horses on the beach.
Though the program description says that it is not required for you to know Spanish, I'd highly recommend you learn a bit of it before you go, because many of the locals in San Ramon do not speak English. That only added to the adventure for me, though!

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Robyn
9/10

Pura Vida por Vida

You prepare yourself for all sorts of experiences as you get older: going to high school, to college, moving into your first apartment, but nothing really prepares you for the number of ways you grow as you study abroad. You learn how to be independent, mindful, curious, all while having an amazing time in a country that was more beautiful than you could've imagined through pictures. The homestay was definitely one of the best parts of my journey, and would recommend that anyone going to San Ramon take advantage of this. Not only is it more affordable, and easier than trying to find your own housing, but it introduces you to new foods, culture, ways of life, and a language that you really have no choice but to grasp by the end of your stay. Ticos are wonderful, accommodating people who really want to help you. The local food is different and wonderful, and the street art itself could take an entire day to find and admire. When you do leave your cozy little town to adventure, there's so much more than you could imagine. There's the vibe of the Carribean coast, or Manuel Antonio National Park, Rio Celeste waterfall, or beautiful beach towns in Santa Teresa or Montezuma. There's snorkeling, and ziplining through the cloud forests of Monteverde. All experiences were different, but equally wonderful. The USAC staff is very helpful, and very accommodating during your journey. They understand the concerns a student (or student's parents) may have while abroad, and they meet those needs promptly, while still assuring that the student remains independent and curious. The classes are immersive, and I visited some of the coolest places during my field study courses, such as the Alberto Brenes Wildlife Reserve. They also plan excursions, such as La Isla Tortuga, and an optional trip to Manuel Antonio, which was unbelievably gorgeous, and fun! But honestly, there really is not way you can go wrong, wherever you decide to go during your stay in Costa Rica. It's a beautiful, exciting ride from start to finish.

How can this program be improved?
I really can't think of any way this could be improved. Maybe more clear instructions on airport pickup? But we figured it out.
Yes, I recommend
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Rachel
10/10

Tico Me Pink

I studied abroad in Costa Rica the summer after my sophomore year of college for the first summer session of 2016. I was attracted to the location because it incorporated a lot of environmental science, which is my major. One of my favorite classes I took was called Food Forever, which was taught by a visiting professor. We took a trip to a coffee farm and I learned so much about tropical agriculture. By the end of the course I could spot coffee, cacao, sugar cane, and so much more. It was also really interesting to learn about Costa Rica's exports, like coffee, bananas, cacao, etc. I wish I would have stayed longer than six weeks, but I traveled on the weekends with other students to Manuel Antonio, Santa Teresa, and Monte Verde, where I bungee jumped into a valley. After the session ended, I spent an extra week traveling the Caribbean side of the country starting in Tortuguero and ending in Puerto Viejo! I would suggest traveling as much as you can around the country and maybe even popping into some neighboring countries as well! There is a lot to see in Costa Rica, and a lot to eat too! I lived with a homestay family, and you will too if you study abroad through this program (which you should!!). My Tico family was just a woman and her son and there fluffy cat Hans. They spoke no English, so I had to learn quickly how to communicate (I was in no way fluent before I left!). While it was challenging, it was so worth it and my Spanish improved immensely during the trip. My favorite part of living with my Tico family was my Mama Tica's cooking. Wow! Gallo pinto with avocado and eggs at breakfast, freshly made tortillas for lunch and cheesy potato cakes at dinner... there was never a dull moment for my mouth (or at all really)! I loved my time in Costa Rica and I was so happy I chose USAC's program! I met great people both in San Ramon (including other USAC students that I still keep in contact with) and while traveling around the country! I would recommend going to Costa Rica even if you don't go there while studying abroad because the life style is so laid back and calm. While I was there I ate, I traveled, I learned Spanish, I basked in the sun, and I lived life to the fullest. Pura vida, baby!

Yes, I recommend
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Tyler
10/10

Best. Experience. Ever

There are really no words to describe an experience like this. USAC was an incredible program. They set up everything from classes to home-stay. All I had to do was go there and experience an adventure of a life time. The classes were always interesting. Got to learn from a local professor. The science classes that I took came with an awesome field study. USAC also had planned weekend field trips that were always very fun. I would recommend this to any one!

How can this program be improved?
Sometimes the field trips felt a little unorganized, but still very fun. They've really perfected this program.
Yes, I recommend
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Kelli
10/10

I left my heart in San Ramon

Studying abroad for a semester was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and doing it in San Ramon only enhanced my experience. Costa Rica is a teeny tiny country which means it is very easy to travel through! A 7 hour bus ride places you across the length of the country in warm oceans among laid back locals, while another coast is an easy hour bus ride away and offers great surf and camping options.

San Ramon offers a great climate (particularly in the Spring semester) with lots of friendly people. Many people don't speak English, so the opportunity to practice Spanish is very available. The staff is extremely available and helpful to the students, and all of the students in my program were very happy with their families they lived with. The classes that I took in Spanish language, literature, and culture were all fantastic, and the marine biology class allowed me to go on two snorkeling trips. The most fun classes were definitely the cooking and dancing classes. I also had the opportunity to volunteer at a preschool and teach English which was amazing.

My family introduced me to loads of different foods (especially fruit!!), taught me how to make tamales, told me loads of stories, and even celebrated my birthday with me. Over Spring break I was able to travel to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. All of the travel trips set up by USAC were fantastic, I would highly recommend them!

Make sure to visit Las Musas, a secret San Ramon destination ;)

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

Pura Vida

I loved this program! I had so much help from USAC before I went so I wasn't nervous at all. They walked me thorough the whole process. Once I got to Costa Rica I met my host family and the USAC staff and they were so welcoming and friendly and made me feel right at home.

As a plant science major and Spanish minor, this program had perfect classes for me to take. My favorite were the field studies that I took alongside my bio courses. We got to go out into the forests and jungles and do a lot of hands on learning.

I loved everything about this program and highly recommend it!

Yes, I recommend
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Anna
10/10

San Ramon

The best part about the San Ramon program is San Ramon. If you really are interested in learning a new language San Ramon is the place to study. There are few English speakers in town so you are really forced to practice your Spanish. It's a cute city that is small enough to navigate by feet but still large enough to get lost. There is hardly any American influence at all. San Ramon is about as tico as it gets.

How can this program be improved?
The program could be improved if the USAC students were able to use more of the University or take classes with native speakers. USAC students had their own little space of classrooms away from the ticos and we were not able to use the University wifi. I think having classes with or even near the native students would be beneficial rather than having all the USAC students huddled in one area not interacting with the natives.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Chase
10/10

Big-Time Experience, Small-Town Feel

I could easily say studying abroad was one of the greatest experiences of my life. It taught me about cultural acceptance, how to speak another language, dealing with different types of people, how to get out of and stay out of my comfort zone, and much more. San Ramon is an excellent, out-of-the-way location with a very small-town and community feel to it. Non-locals are few and far between, whereas the locals are very accepting of us and willing to show us their language and culture. The classes were not so difficult that I spent all of my time stuck in my bedroom studying, but plenty challenging enough to give me a broad depth of the topic and language. We still had plenty of time to go travel on the weekends to the far reaches of the Costa Rican countryside and attractions.

USAC was also very accommodating for housing, classes, and any problem that arose. The on-site staff were only a phone-call or a short walk away to help answer or solve any problems that came up, from medical problems to helping book a hostel. I also had an internship in the hospital with the local orthopedic surgeon, and was able to experience many surgeries as well as how the Costa Rican healthcare system truly works. I strongly recommend an internship. I also was able to take 3 upper division biology classes (9 credits) plus some language while abroad. You won't set yourself behind by studying abroad.

Just a few recommendations: 1. Do not bring too many clothes; 2. Bring only what you would wear at home. If you wouldn't wear it at home, you will not wear it abroad; 3. BRING EXTRA SUNSCREEN. The sunscreen is very mediocre over there and is very, very expensive. Bring enough for your travels; 4. Don't be afraid to travel on your own! Get a travel backpack, throw in a couple shirts, pants, socks, and underwear, and get on the road! You will see so many things and meet so many incredible people; 5. Be free and have fun!

How can this program be improved?
I wish I would have been able to talk to someone before-hand about what to bring (i.e. extra sunscreen and not too many clothes). USAC gives you a list, but I had more questions (I guess I could have emailed USAC, but I didn't think of that.) Also, although the optional field study was a good representation of the culture (as it was supposed to) and you did get your money's worth, it was very expensive. I feel as though I could have taken that same amount of money and be able to travel on my own for much longer period of time. Also, see my recommendations in the review section.
Yes, I recommend

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...