Costa Rica has a population of five million people and is located in Central America between Nicaragua (to the North) and Panama (to the South). After El Salvador, it is geographically the smallest country of Central America. Named the "rich coast" by early Spanish explorers, precious metals were never found in any quantity, and therefore the country was never heavily settled by the conquistadors. Costa Rica is, however, extremely rich in biological diversity. It has one of the highest concentrations of species for its small geographic size, and is today famous for its protected areas. Approximately 25% of national territory is protected in national parks or wildlife refuges, biological reserves, forest reserves, or other private lands. Costa Rica is unique among Central American countries in its racial composition, and class structure. The country is one of the richest countries in Latin America as measured by per capita income and has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. More information on Costa Rica and the region is available on the 'Links' page.
The principal program site is the centrally located town of San Ramón, Costa Rica. It is situated in an agricultural region at the western edge of the Central Valley at an elevation of 1,000 meters (3,500 feet) above sea level with a population of approximately 65,000. The climate is very mild year-round, with an average high temperature of 24°C (75°F) and an average low of 16°C (60°F)
(see current weather here). The city retains the charm and tranquility of a small town within one hour of the capital city of San José. It has all basic services including markets, banks, social activities, public swimming pools, internet cafés, a mall with cinemas, and a large hospital. For more information, see San Ramón resources here. When in town, participants will have access to the facilities of the University of San José branch campus, where classes will meet.
Lodging during EEI courses and programs varies, depending upon the specific offering. For short courses, a typical itinerary takes us to various locations approximately every few days. Consequently, lodging consists of multiple-occupancy rooms in various mid-range hotels, ecolodges, and biological field stations. With longer (e.g., semester) programs, participants live with Costa Rican families while in San Ramón (see below). For lodging details associated with each specific offering, see the web page for the course of interest.
The Homestay Experience (Semester Programs)
Living with a homestay family provides a unique living and learning environment where participants are immersed in Costa Rican life. This arrangement affords the opportunity to learn or strengthen Spanish skills, as well as to become more intimately acquainted with Costa Rican culture. As a 'member' of the family, participants have a private room and are provided with three meals per day. Families also frequently invite their host students to social activities and on family trips to different parts of the country. All of the homes are within walking distance from the campus where classes are held. For homestay guidelines see residence policies on the 'Policies' page. Graduate students and professionals participating in semester-long programs may be allowed to make their own living arrangements, in which case the housing fee would be waived. However, please note that this option must be requested at the time of registration, and that if this is the case, you will also be responsible for all of your own meals while in San Ramón.
Facilities & Logistical Support
Earth Education International (EEI) works in close partnership with numerous other institutions, organizations, businesses, and individuals that provide logistical support (e.g., housing, classrooms, and facilities) for program offerings. We thus differ from other organizations that are limited to a single location in that we include a wider range of field sites, have more flexibility in program planning, and share experiences as well as provide economic support to numerous environmentally sustainable communities and projects. In San Ramón, classes meet at the local branch campus of the University of San José, where other support services (e.g., computer lab access and mail services) are also provided. When traveling elsewhere, logistical support and lodging is provided by field stations, hotels, community projects, or other appropriate local facilities.
Installing a solar panel in a rural village
All Earth Education International offerings emphasize a variety of learning formats with a focus on experiential learning. These are provided as an extension to the classroom experience, and may even comprise the majority of "classroom" time. Time spent out of the classroom includes one-day field trips in the immediate vicinity; multiple-day educational tours to other regions of the country; and special presentations by, and discussions with, local experts--typically at an outdoor location on-site. Volunteer service-learning work can also be arranged, and is included in some programs. Participants are also provided with an opportunity to focus more in-depth on one or more topics or locations of interest through case study assignments. For more information, see the 'Field Study' and 'Academics' pages.
Health & Safety
Planning for safety is an integral part of EEI operations, and we are acutely aware of the health and security of participants at all times. This includes personal security and accident prevention, as well as preparedness for emergency response (see the EEI Emergency Management Plan). Participants are provided with (or required to have) a minimum level of health and emergency insurance, and a qualified faculty or staff member is always available in case of an emergency (in addition to the homestay family when applicable). The Director has an impeccable safety record through extensive experience leading experiential learning programs in Costa Rica since 1996, and other personnel have similar experience. Program policies
are based upon these many years of experience, and in effect at all times. In addition, participants are educated about safe practices and what to do in an emergency during orientation and throughout their stay. Because these efforts are only as good as they are abided by, though, we ask for full participant cooperation at all times. We have also compiled general travel safety/theft information, as well as recreational travel information to guide participants while in-country. Additional regional information is also available in the health and safety section on the 'Links' page.
Participants are always afforded personal time in addition to time scheduled for academic study. This open time is important in balancing academics with one's personal life in the host-culture. During the week, personal time may be used to study, do the required readings, and/or to engage in sports, arts or other recreational activities. For semester programs, field travel sometimes overlaps weekend time, but other designated free time is always included so that students may also explore Costa Rica on their own. Because short courses are somewhat more intense, most weekends are incorporated into academic field study with those offerings. Therefore, participants are afforded less personal time.
Fees vary depending on the offering, and whether application is made directly to EEI or through a partner institution. For details, see the web page for the course or program you are interested. All participants are responsible for acquiring their own international airfare (separate costs, see the 'Preparation' page for details), as well as any additional health insurance they may desire. Personal expenses, some food during program travel, and any non-program travel are also the responsibility of the participant. See Financial Policies for more information.
Scholarships are available through a variety of organization, including the following: LIVFund, Gilman Scholarship, National Security Education Program, The Fund for Education Abroad, and Rotary International. Current students may also be eligible for scholarships through their campus, and financial aid can used to offset program costs.
In addition, loans are available from various sources such as the Study Abroad Loan Program, which does not require school certification or charge an application fee.
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