• Experience the picturesque beauty of Costa Rica by visiting world-renowned mountains, beaches, and rainforests while enjoying a vast range of outdoor activities including zip-lining 

• Deepen your perspectives on sustainability, social justice, and community development by engaging in an immersive and interactive academic experience in Costa Rica through International Center for Development Studies (ICDS). 

• Engage with the local culture by living in a homestay with a family selected to complement your Spanish language level, or by participating in a service-learning course that includes weekly community service. 

• Explore one of the most biodiverse countries in the world at large with accessible and affordable transportation bus and flight options available to countless bucket list destinations in Costa Rica. 


Live in San José, the bustling capital city of Costa Rica where it is warm all year long, surrounded by lush green mountains. Gain relevant skills through experiential-learning focused on sustainability in one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. 


Dive into the Pura Vida lifestyle and connect with locals by living in a homestay! Develop lifelong connections with your new family who will be matched with you based off your language abilities even if you speak little to no Spanish. 


Taste traditional mouth-watering Costa Rican specialties prepared by your host family including gallo pinto, chifrijo, and patacones! Host families provide breakfast and dinner during the week, and three meals a day on the weekends. On your way to class, stop by a café and sip on beverages Costa Rica is famous for—batidos, agua dulce, and some of the world’s best coffee!   


Dive into Costa Rican culture through a guided tour of the city exploring markets, theatres, and San José’s downtown district. Enjoy cultural activities available to international students at ICDS including dance classes, visits to indigenous communities, and a tico cooking class! Participate in overnight excursions outside of San José that balance academics and leisure.  Locations for excursions vary term to term but previous groups have traveled to the Los Santos region to visit a coffee farm, or to the coastal rainforest of Carara to take in one of Costa Rica’s most beautiful national parks, all while learning about local sustainability methods throughout the visits. 


Costa Rica offers endless outdoor adventures in one of the most biodiverse locations in the world! Zip line above the clouds in the world-renowned rainforest of Monteverde, spend a weekend on the beach, or hike to the unbelievably blue waterfall: Rio Celeste. 

Service Learning 

Connect with the local population by participating in a course with weekly opportunities to give back through community service. Gain hands-on experience and invaluable insight into the lives of Costa Ricans at community and non-profit organizations.  Enhance the international education experience through service-learning opportunities organized by ICDS to match academic, professional, and language criteria.  

What We Love About ICDS 

Studying in San José offers endless opportunities to connect with the natural and cultural beauty of Costa Rica. Embrace the happy and warm Pura Vida lifestyle while gaining hands-on professional experience. 

See ISEP Direct budget and estimated expenses

Course Description

This program offers students the opportunity to learn about sustainable development and Latin American culture through an immersive, integrated program that combines coursework, community service, and cultural activities. Students will take 4-5 classes: 

• Spanish Language (required) 

• Community Engagement & Sustainable Human Development in Latin America: A Service-Learning Course (required) 

• Current Environmental Issues in Latin America (elective) 

• Sustainable Development in Rural and Urban Latin America (elective) 

• Responsible and Sustainable Tourism (elective) 

• Development in Latin America from a Gender Perspective (elective) 

The service-learning core course includes weekly sessions of community service in and around the greater San Jose area. Each student is individually matched to a community work site that aligns with their experience, career interest, and Spanish language level. 

Credits Earned 

Students who complete the program in good standing can expect to earn 12-15 US Credit Hours. Each class will be worth 3 credits. 

If you use financial aid, please speak with a qualified financial aid advisor to understand your academic obligations and the requirements for using financial aid. 

ISEP STUDENT SERVICES OFFICER Kira Hakanson 703-504-9991 | Thanks for your interest in ISEP Study Abroad! I’m your Student Services Officer and main point of contact here at ISEP. As you search for programs, I'll be available to answer any questions you might have. Feel free to contact me at any point in your search process for help, tips or advice.


(in English)

*This program is OK for Sophomores

Fields of Study

  • Area Studies Recommended!

    Latin American Studies

  • Foreign Languages and Literatures

    Spanish Language and Literature

  • Hospitality and Tourism Recommended!

    Tourism Management

  • Natural Resources/Conservation Recommended!

    Sustainability Studies

Academic Requirements

  • U.S. GPA: 2.75 or higher
    *accepts lower GPA with explanation
  • LPR Required
  • LPR Writing Score: C1 - Advanced Plus-Superior
  • LPR Reading Score: C1 - Advanced Plus-Superior
  • LPR Listening Score: C1 - Advanced Plus-Superior
  • LPR Speaking Score: C1 - Advanced Plus-Superior
LPR = ISEP Language Proficiency Report

Special Application Instructions

Passport: All students must have a valid passport to participate in this program. If you do not have a valid passport, we suggest you start the application process as soon as possible. 

Visa/Residence Permit: Students do not have to apply for a visa prior to departure. For more information on the process, please review the ISEP Country Handbook.

Special Needs Support

  • Mental Health
  • Learning

Other Academic Conditions

Students will enroll in four to five courses: 

Required Courses: 

Spanish Language (3 U.S. credits) 

• Community Engagement & Sustainable Human Development in Latin America: A Service Learning Course (3 U.S. credits) 

Elective Courses (select 2-3, 3 U.S. credits each) 

• Current Environmental Issues in Latin America 

• Sustainable Development in Rural and Urban Latin America 

• Responsible and Sustainable Tourism 

• Development in Latin America from a Gender Perspective

Click here for course syllabi 

No prior Spanish language experience is required for this program. A language test is given at the beginning of the term to place students in the appropriate Spanish course.  

Please note: Elective courses with fewer than six students will be cancelled and students interested in the cancelled course will select another elective course. 

Semester & Prices (based on your filters)

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International Center for Development Studies



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ISEP Application Fee US$100

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