Overview | Academics | Cost | Location | Life Abroad | Student Voices
Offered through the School for Field Studies (SFS), the program in Costa Rica is co-sponsored by UW-Madison. The program takes place at the Center for Sustainable Development Studies in Atenas, Costa Rica. SFS's goal is to study different sustainable management models that protect the biodiversity of Costa Rica's ecosystems while promoting socioeconomic benefits for its people. Students will examine the effects of globalization on classic sustainability issues. Visits to cloud and dry forests, volcanic parks, lowland rainforests, and plantations offer opportunities to examine management schemes, identify the benefits of protected areas, and determine which systems offer the best option for economic development and preservation of biodiversity.
This program is designed for all students who like to learn in an interdisciplinary and experiential environment, although it may be most appropriate for students with biology or ecology- related majors. Highlights of the program include field research, participation in field trips, community service trips, and the opportunity to gain research experience through an independent project.
The Center for Sustainable Development Studies is a small farm on a hillside with spectacular views overlooking the Rio Grande River in the fertile Central Valley. The field station includes a large house, an outdoor classroom, an organic garden, a patio and pool. Students live in a dormitory (up to 4 to a room) with bathrooms. There is a classroom, small laboratory and a library/computer room with internet access. The field station is part of the small neighborhood of La Presa/Los Angeles. The friendly town of Atenas is a short walk from the field station while Costa Rica's tropical forests, beaches, mountains and volcanoes are within a day's travel.
Getting to Your Program
Students make their own travel arrangements but are given guidelines for arrival dates and times.
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.
The Center for Sustainable Development Studies, the SFS field station, is a small farm on a hillside overlooking the Rio Grande River. The field station includes a large house, an outdoor classroom, an organic garden, a patio, and pool. Students live in a dormitory (up to four to a room) with bathrooms. There is a classroom, small laboratory, and a library/computer room with internet access. The town of Atenas is a short walk from the field station while Costa Rica's tropical forests, beaches, mountains, and volcanoes are within a day's travel.
Excursions and Activities
Students participate in a pre-departure orientation at UW-Madison and an on-site orientation in Costa Rica. Students participate in field trips to sample and examine an array of forests. Camping, hiking, traveling, and research may all be part of the trips. An extended field expedition to Nicaragua is included to compare and contrast development and resource use issues between the two countries. Past field trip locations have included: Palo Verde National Park, Braulio Carrillo National Park, Volcan Arenal National Park, Rincon de La Vieja National Park, and the Monteverde protected zone. In addition, a variety of cultural events and activities are available to students.
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.
Center Director and staff
Use the links below to find out more information on academics, daily life and student impressions for this program.SFS Academic Notes
(Summer - 2012-13)
Returned Student Network
to see testimonials from students abroad or to contact a returned student.
"I never imagined we would stand around a bog or sit on top of a mountain to have discussions and lessons. If this isn't interactive, hands-on learning I don't know what is!"
SFS's interdisciplinary, experiential approach to education is designed to train students to learn by doing. Participants are able to work side by side with an international research team and learn state-of-the-art field research skills. The program combines classroom-based academics with field study. SFS's interdisciplinary approach to research teaches students about tropical ecology, agro-ecology, socioeconomics, sustainability, park management, natural resource management, ecological economics, and Costa Rican history, culture, and the Spanish language. Each field station is staffed by a Center Director and two to three full-time, resident faculty. Most of the SFS faculty are native to the country/region in which they teach.
Semester students are registered in five academic courses: Tropical Ecology and Sustainable Development (four credits), Economic & Ethical Issues and Sustainable Development (four credits), Principles of Resource Management (four credits), Directed Research (four credits), and Language, Culture and Society of Costa Rica (two credits).
Summer students register for Sustaining Tropical Ecosystems: Biodiversity, Conservation, and Development (four credits).
School for Field Studies
Program Web Page(s)
SFS Costa Rica Program
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.
Sort by Foreign Course Titles
Sort by UW-Madison Course Titles
Group by host institution and Sort by Foreign Course Titles
Group by host institution and Sort by UW-Madison Course Titles