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Costa Rica is an excellent location in which to pursue tropical biological studies. The country has been the center of much of the research and teaching on tropical biology in the Western Hemisphere. Costa Rica is also a model for the rest of the developing world in conservation and in preserving its natural resources by creating extensive national parks and biological reserves.
Offered through the Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE), the program in Costa Rica is co-sponsored by UW-Madison. The program takes place in Monteverde, a small, bi-lingual community surrounded by a cloud forest reserve. A short walk leads to a wide range of undisturbed natural habitats including the ever-wet cloud forest of the mountain crest; dry, deciduous scrubland on rock outcrops and cliffs; and montane deciduous forest.
This program is designed for students with biology-related majors. Highlights include visits to many of Costa Rica's reserves, the opportunity to gain extensive research experience conducting an independent project, participation in field trips, and the opportunity to get to know rural Costa Rica through a homestay with a local Costa Rican family.
The program takes place in the Monteverde and Cerro Plano communities, high in the Tilaran range and contiguous to montane cloud forests in northwestern Costa Rica. Within walking distance of Monteverde's cloud forest are the Pacific Valley and the rain forest of the Atlantic slope Penas Blancas Valley. Between these extremes are a breathtaking variety of forest types and the biodiversity they contain. Monteverde enjoys a cool, invigorating climate throughout the year. The community is friendly, bilingual, and supportive of biological studies. Local landowners are accustomed to scientific and educational activities and are generous about permitting students to study on their farms.
Getting to Your Program
Students are responsible for arranging their own transportation to Costa Rica but are given guidelines for arrival dates.
A visa is not required for U.S. citizens for this program. U.S. citizens must have a U.S. passport valid for at least six months beyond the end of the program.
Students are required to participate in a pre-departure orientation at UW-Madison as well as an on-site orientation upon arrival in country. The orientations are designed to introduce students to the program and prepare them for living abroad.
Housing and all meals are included in the program fee. Students live in a biological station located next to the forest where all classes are taught. Students stay in four-person rooms with private bathrooms and hot showers. Meals are taken at the biological station and served family style. Vegetarians/vegans can be accommodated. A teaching assistant lives with the students during the program to answer questions on health, living conditions, and the courses, as well as to help plan social activities and keep the group aware of cultural and community events. Students spend several extended periods of time traveling with their professors throughout Costa Rica to explore the country's various ecosystems. There is also a one-month (semester) or one-week (summer) homestay during which participants live and take their meals with local Costa Rican families.
Excursions and Activities
As part of the program, students take field trips to explore Costa Rica's Atlantic and Pacific slopes and several trips to Monteverde's many diverse forests. In all, approximately half the program is spent off-site exploring and studying the diverse ecosystems within Costa Rica. Camping, hiking, snorkeling, swimming, traveling by bus and boat, and research are all part of the trips. In addition, a variety of cultural events and activities are open to students in the town of Monteverde.
A mandatory two-day orientation session conducted in San Jose at the beginning of the program introduces students to the country, culture, and academic program, while providing practical information about living in Costa Rica and the Monteverde community. It includes both structured activities and independent sightseeing. Students attend lectures, tour museums, and purchase last-minute supplies in the capital city. For the semester program, orientation continues with a Pacific Coast field trip to highlight the diversity of tropical ecosystems. Upon arrival in Monteverde, a special orientation to the program site is held.
You will be enrolled in the UW System required health insurance through Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) and the cost of the insurance coverage is included in program fees.
Use the links below to find out more information on academics, daily life and student impressions for this program.CIEE Costa Rica Academic Notes
(Summer - 2012-13)
Returned Student Network
to see testimonials from students abroad or to contact a returned student.
"It was the best experience of my life! It was incredibly challenging but also rewarding. It's a chance of a lifetime!" Read Alex's Blog!
Alex studied on this program during the Spring 2012 semester. You can read about his experiences and see his pictures here.
Read about current & past students' adventures.
Students study at a biological station situated adjacent to the Monteverde Cloud Forest. The courses combine classroom-based academics with field study. U.S. and Costa Rican biology professors teach and evaluate students in both the classroom and on field trips. Students should expect an academically intensive experience and be willing to learn in a variety of settings. Semester program participants are required to take all courses offered: Tropical Diversity, Tropical Community Ecology, Independent Study in Biology, Spanish, and Humans in the Tropics. During the summer term, students are required to take Tropical Biology, Independent Study, Spanish Conversation and Grammar, and Humans in the Tropics. All biology courses are taught in English.
Use the links below to see a list of courses that students have taken on this program before and the UW equivalents. Note: this list only includes pre-approved courses for your program and may not be an exhaustive list of courses or departments. You will get instructions on the course equivalent process after acceptance.
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