January in San Jose, Costa Rica

With 4 weeks of intensive Spanish language on an urban campus, this program provides a great way to improve your language skills while exploring a fascinating country that also happens to be one of the most biodiverse nations on the planet. Or, choose to take a Field Course in Tropical Ecology, Tropical Marine Biology or Conservation Marine Biology!

Program Overview

Make the most of your summer break by studying Spanish language, Tropical Ecology, Tropical Marine Biology or Conservation Marine Biology – all while immersing in a vibrant culture set in one of the most beautiful and biodiverse countries in the world!

Regardless of your academic choice, you’ll enjoy cultural immersion by living with a local ‘Tico’ (Costa Rican) family, who will look after you and feed you. Enjoy the urban environment of vibrant San Jose, and be sure to make the most of your free time by travelling to any of the area’s nearby natural and cultural wonders.

Hello Costa Rica – Exploring will be easy being situated only minutes from the heart of San Jose. Picturesque villages, beach towns and the nearby national parks are all calling your name.

World-class location – The urban capital of San Jose offers students the best of both worlds. From museums and pre-Columbian culture to live music, colonial architecture, colourful markets, live theatre, even a butterfly garden, you won’t be short of things to do!

Magnificent landscapes – To the north of San Jose, tranquil Heredia hosts Braulio Carillo National Park and Barva Volcano, two of the region’s greenest and most beautiful outdoor offerings.

International feel – Your professors will be Costa Rican locals and your classmates from across Australia, the US and the world!

Study Spanish – The best way to learn a language is to be immersed in it. You’ll have the opportunity to not only study Spanish abroad but also practice the language with the locals at cafes, markets or even while learning salsa dancing.

Perfect for all levels – Don’t worry if you’ve never taken Spanish before. This course is perfect for beginners as well as those who are close to fluent.

Exciting excursions – One day trip and one weekend excursion with fellow students are offered on your January in San Jose, Costa Rica program. You’ll have the opportunity to wander the local markets on a city tour and explore the beautiful nearby rain forests.


Have you always wanted to visit Costa Rica? Then our January in San Jose, Costa Rica program is right for you! Here are a few of the key highlights that make our program unique:

  • An urban campus in one of the most environmentally diverse countries on Earth
  • Study Spanish in Costa Rica with classes for all levels – there is no language prerequisite
  • Or, take a Field Course in either Tropical Ecology, Tropical Marine Biology or Conservation Marine Biology in one of the most ecologically diverse countries in the world. These courses include field trips and fieldwork in various sites around Costa Rica
  • Day and weekend excursions offered
  • Study at a private, high-ranking university
  • Experience the real culture with a local host family
  • Live in one of Central America’s most lively cities – minutes from all the best entertainment and cultural amenities
  • Cooking classes, dance classes and sporting events are all at your fingertips – so you can bond with your new classmates in your new international location!

Choose Your Course

Our January in San Jose, Costa Rica program is hosted at Universidad Veritas.

Course Offerings:

  • Spanish language* (any level, from basic to advanced and conversational)
  • Tropical Ecology (taught in English)
  • Tropical Marine Biology (taught in English)
  • Conservation Marine Biology (taught in English)

*Spanish language courses include 80 contact hours which is usually worth 1 or 2 full academic course credits. Should a student wish to take a level of Spanish that is higher than Beginner, they will sit a Skype interview with a staff member at Veritas to assess their ability level.

Note: Some years students can choose to take both Spanish and Tropical Ecology; however, it should be noted that this option is very intensive and students will be studying 140 hours face to face over a 3 to 4 week period. For a more in-depth cultural experience over the same time frame, we recommend choosing only one course.

Course Load: 1-2 courses

  • Depending on your Australian university, “courses” may be referred to as “subjects” or “units”.
  • Each course/subject/unit you undertake on a CISaustralia program is designed to be a full-time, semester course that has been condensed to fit into an intensive, short-term program. As such, for any 1 course you study abroad, you should receive the credit points for 1 full-time course/subject/unit at your Australian university.
  • Many universities work off of a 1-for-1 equivalency (1 course abroad = 1 course in Australia), but ultimately credit approval is the decision of your faculty and Australian university.
  • CISaustralia strongly recommends that you have any overseas courses pre-approved for academic credit before you depart for your program. Some documentation that may be useful are the course outline/syllabus, program overview and the contact hours.
  • Your CISaustralia Program Advisor can assist with any questions or details your university needs to make a decision.

How to Choose Your Spanish Language Course: Select the course description that best reflects your current Spanish language abilities. Upon acceptance into the program, we will send you instructions for taking a placement exam online so that Veritas can begin to assess your level of Spanish. Following the online (written) placement exam, you will be assessed orally by staff in Costa Rica via Skype, allowing you to be placed in the most appropriate level of Spanish language before you arrive in San Jose.

NOTE: While Spanish language levels from beginner to advanced are offered, it is assumed that students will have very basic knowledge of the language, even when attending beginner classes. As such, CISaustralia recommends that students take the time to learn basic Spanish in advance of the program. This will help greatly when attending first classes and communicating with host families. Past students recommend Spanish-English dictionaries or language apps like Duolingo.

Academic Requirement: To qualify for this program, students must be in good academic standing with a GPA of 4.0 (out of 7) or equivalent. If your current GPA falls below the requirement, you may still be considered for the program but will need to be prepared to provide supporting documentation. Please contact us to discuss your situation and we will work with you to help find another suitable program if required.

Course Descriptions:

CREDITS: 5 US credits / 80 hours

This course is based on acquiring the skill of self-correction. Students will acquire higher levels of diction and fluency through the exposure to oral contexts, idiomatic language and the varieties of Spanish spoken in different Spanish speaking nations. This course develops skills in reading, discussion, analysis, self-correction and research. Emphasis is given to pragmatic production and students must be prepared to spend a minimum of 2 extra hours per day for assignments.

CREDITS: 5 US credits / 80 hours

Prerequisite: SPN 202

This course is for students who already have a high intermediate level of Spanish and wish to better their communicative skills and pronunciation. The emphasis is set on situational everyday conversation and certain cultural issues. The methodology enhances structured speech to provide a firm base in patterns of spoken Spanish with progression towards free conversation.

CREDITS: 5 US credits / 80 hours

This course is for students with an advanced level of Spanish who wish to learn general information about the development and processes of some of Costa Rica’s main entrepreneurial settings. By the end of the course students will have a general knowledge of business vocabulary and usual business practices in Costa Rica.

CREDITS: 5 US credits / 80 hours

Prerequisite: SPN 301

Dirigido a estudiantes que hablan español como lengua nativa, pero que necesitan profundizar en el estudio de estructuras gramaticales complejas y enfatizar las destrezas de escucha, escritura y lectura. El objetivo es adquirir las herramientas necesarias para lograr una comunicación eficaz tanto a nivel oral como escrito.

  Contact CISaustralia For Syllabus
CREDITS: 5 US credits / 80 hours

Prerequisite: SPN 301

This course introduces relevant topics and issues in the development of Latin America’s cultural heritage. Students will develop an understanding of intellectual, artistic, social and historical perspectives in Latin America with emphasis on Costa Rica.

CREDITS: 5 US credits / 80 hours

This course is based on grammatical analysis, expansion of vocabulary, idiomatic expressions through readings, and student compositions at a complex level. The objective is for students to acquire a high level of communicative Spanish that will permit them to express their opinions and thoughts concerning and controversial subjects.

CREDITS: 5 US credits / 80 hours

This course is for students who want to polish their oral and written skills. Students should have a high linguistic level and full knowledge of grammatical structures in order to work on polishing their style. Students will practise narrative constructions, reactions on non-expected contexts, how to report compiled information. The course also covers important aspects about myth, beliefs and other cultural issues in Latin America.

CREDITS: 5 US credits / 80 hours

This course is an introduction to Spanish for beginners to no previous knowledge of the language is required. Students will develop the basic linguistic skills in order to communicate in common simple situations. The course covers basic grammatical structures, vocabulary, communicative expressions and frequent situations in settings such as restaurants, stores, buses and others. Emphasis is given on understanding, speaking, reading and cross-cultural perspectives.

CREDITS: 5 US credits / 80 hours

This course is for students who have completed a minimum of 60 contact hours in Spanish studies and already have a command on elementary grammatical tenses. Students will advance in their previous experiential knowledge and further develop their oral, reading, written and listening skills. Students will expand their vocabulary and language usage in order to facilitate interaction with the Costa Rican environment and be able to express themselves in the past.

CREDITS: 5 US credits / 80 hours

Prerequisite: SPN 102

Students in this course should have a good communicative command of usual everyday situations and a structural command of the present tense. The objective of this course is to develop the student’s skills emphasizing on oral and written presentations and more complex grammatical structures. Students should develop a good command of all past indicative tenses.

CREDITS: 5 US credits / 80 hours

Prerequisite: SPN 201

This course emphasizes the discourse enrichment on contexts related to description and simple narrations. The contents include vocabulary building and detailed work with the subjective mode and other complex grammatical structures. Students will also learn idiomatic expressions used in Costa Rica.

CREDITS: 5 US credits / 80 hours

Prerequisite: SPN 301

This course focuses on advanced communication and presentation skills. Students will work on communication techniques and efficient oral expressions in formal contexts.

COURSE: ENV 3160J / ENV 3160S
CREDITS: 10 online course hours, 30 laboratory work hours, 50 field and class lecture hours

This course aims to address the rapidly declining state of marine biodiversity by applying science to conservation. Conservation Marine Biology is a field in science that integrates several disciplines – including geology, oceanography, marine biology, ecology, ichthyology and other – to propose sustainable management strategies based on science.

Marine ecosystems of the eastern tropical Pacific provide a baseline source for species of high commercial interest to satisfy humans’ demand for food worldwide. However, numerous marine species are threatened by unsustainable activities, such as overfishing and habitat destruction. Students will develop a critical understanding of Conservation Marine Biology, addressing biological and ecological questions such as what is tropical marine biodiversity? What do we need to do to conserve marine biodiversity? What are the causes that threaten marine biodiversity? What are the solutions for observed conflicts?

Students will be exposed to several case studies, lectures and practical activities by visiting field stations and natural laboratories along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.

CREDITS: 15 credit points / 60 contact hours

Students will learn about the interactions between earth and land and how these interactions or processes affect our life and the stability of the planet. Emphasis will be given to the study of the most relevant tropical ecosystems such as: tropical rain forests, cloud forests, coral reefs and mangroves. Field trips to selected environments will provide on-site examples of some of the issues learned through classwork and readings. All field trips are mandatory.

CREDITS: 6 US credits / 80 contact hours

Prerequisite: General Biology.

This course is aimed to highlight the importance of tropical marine biology to study the biology and the interaction of marine species that we will discovery in the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Marine ecosystems of the eastern tropical Pacific provide a baseline source for species of high commercial interest in satisfying humans demand for food worldwide. However, numerous marine species are threatened by unsustainable human activities, such as overfishing and habitat destruction. We will develop a critical understanding of concepts and application in Marine Biology, where the students will also be introduced to a wide range of practical activities by visiting field stations and natural laboratories in Costa Rica.


Your January in San Jose, Costa Rica program offers one day trip and one weekend excursion. Here are a couple of the places you might be visiting:

  • Cataratas – A magnificent 92m (300ft) waterfall that pours into an extinct volcanic crater, creating a truly spectacular sight to be explored! This is one of Costa Rica’s best kept secrets. Cataratas del Toro is located in the Bajos del Toro Amarillo mountains.
  • Poas Volcano – Hike around this active volcano and its two lake-filled craters at the summit. This volcano offers the wonderful opportunity to watch the bubbling, steaming cauldron belch sulphurous mud and water hundreds of metres into the air.
  • Monteverde Cloud Forest – Explore the tropical treetops of Costa Rica on this canopy tour in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve! This is a high altitude rainforest with skywalks and 60m high suspended bridges in one of the most biodiverse areas in the world.
  • Tamarindo – Surf, swim, kayak, horseback ride and more in this relaxing beachside town, not to mention the opportunity to visit the local Leatherback Turtle reserves. Located on the northwest Pacific coast, Tamarindo bay is definitely the place if you are looking for an adrenaline rush, or simply some relaxing in the sun. Plus, when you get into town you’ll discover that Tamarindo is extremely multi-cultural and laid back.

NOTE: Students enrolled in the Tropical Ecology course will attend two mandatory field trips over their 3-week program – related specifically to Tropical Ecology – and incorporated within the course structure. Details provided on arrival. Students enrolled in Tropical Marine Biology or Conservation Marine Biology will also undertake a lot of field work, so may not be able to attend the excursions listed. Those students enrolled in the Spanish intensive language program (only) will undertake the excursions indicated above.

Required field work and field trips within a course are mandatory and will take precedence if an academic field trip and a CISaustralia excursion are scheduled for the same day.


Costa Rica, meaning ‘rich coast’ in Spanish, is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east.

Costa Rica is home to a rich variety of plants and animals. The country contains 5% of the world’s biodiversity. Around 25% of the country’s land area is in protected national parks – the largest percentage of protected areas in the world!

With a population of 4.3 million, Costa Rican locals (also knowns as Ticos), are known for their friendly, laid-back demeanour. Costa Rica’s official language is Spanish, though a large number of its citizens are at least moderately bilingual.

Well known for its year-round warm weather, Costa Rica has something for everyone. Are you adventurous? Why not give white-water rafting, ziplining (flying fox) or hiking a go.

Don’t forget to check out the local theatres, markets, restaurants and clubs all easily accessible by public transport – making this a brilliant city to explore.

The University

Universidad Veritas is located in San Jose, the cultural hub of Costa Rica, famed for its National Theatre, busy market life and easy-to-use public transportation. There are plenty of international restaurants, ranging from Lebanese to Italian, in addition to local sodas, where you can eat large helpings of gallo pinto, the delicious national dish. After class, you can head to one of the many local theatres, concert venues, cinemas and salsa clubs.

Did you know?

  • Universidad Veritas is one of the best private universities in Central America and just minutes from the city centre of San Jose
  • The university has approximately 1,500 Costa Rican students and 300 international students from around the world – a truly global campus
  • Strong university reputation for architecture, marketing and design courses
  • Outstanding staff support with academic advising and cultural and personal counselling
  • Small classrooms oriented to advance your Spanish language skills
  • Salsa dancing lessons, cooking classes, free self-defence class and the opportunity to join sports teams
  • The university provides weekly dance classes, intramural sports, martial arts classes, Costa Rican cooking classes, religious organizations, volunteer opportunities and more


Accommodation for the duration of this program is a homestay. This gives you the perfect opportunity to truly immerse yourself in the local culture and lifestyle. During your stay, you are provided with bed linen, blankets and pillows. Other homestay inclusions include:

  • Private bedroom
  • Daily breakfast and dinner – what better way to experience true Tico cooking! (Families are accommodating about providing vegetarian meals when asked)
  • Weekly laundry service, including ironing
  • Hot water*
  • Internet connection
  • Towel for the house (please bring your own beach towel)
  • Toiletries: shampoo, soap, toothpaste (if you require a particular brand, please bring your own)
  • Security box/safe in bedroom

*Please be aware that having no hot water is not uncommon in Costa Rica. Most host families should have hot water facilities for their house, but sometimes they may not be the most reliable.

Lunch is on your own. There are many restaurants and cafes in the area where students usually eat lunch. There are also a few restaurant options close to campus. The homestays are located in a residential urban area that is fairly close to downtown (approximately a 30-minute walk) and are within close access to public transportation. There are grocery stores, a mall and other places of interest in the area.

Homestays are allocated with reference to information provided by the student about their level of Spanish and living preferences. The same families have been participating in the homestay program for years and all are vetted and regularly checked. Most families will have two or even three international students staying in the house.

Students will be treated as an adult during their time with the host family. Please be aware there are no curfews in place for students, but it very important to always remain respectful of your family. Always let your host family know if you will not be attending a meal for any reason, and clean up after yourself when appropriate. Always communicate with them, or your Site Director, if an issue arises. Most host families have hosted international students before and are sensitive to cultural differences, and will expect the same in return.

Try to do your best to spend time with your host family and get to know about them and the Costa Rican culture. The idea is not to act as if you are staying at a hotel, rather that you can share with them and spend time with them as part of the family.

Program Fee & Dates

January 2021: Spanish Language
Note: 4-week Spanish language programs are offered throughout the year, month-to-month. If the offered dates don’t suit your availability, please contact CISaustralia for additional dates.
Application Deadline05 November 2020
Arrival Date02 January 2021
Departure Date30 January 2021
Program Fee A$ 5,449
OS-HELP A$ 6,913
January 2021: Tropical Ecology
Application Deadline05 November 2020
Arrival Date02 January 2021
Departure Date23 January 2021
Program Fee A$ 4,999
OS-HELP A$ 6,913
January 2021: Tropical Marine Biology
Application Deadline05 November 2020
Arrival Date02 January 2021
Departure Date21 January 2021
Program Fee A$ 8,599
OS-HELP A$ 6,913
January-February 2021: Conservation Marine Biology
Application Deadline05 November 2020
Arrival Date23 January 2021
Departure Date13 February 2021
Program Fee A$ 7,999
OS-HELP A$ 6,913


Program fees include the following:
  • Tuition fees
  • CISaustralia support services before, during and after the program
  • Academic advising
  • Financial advice
  • Assistance with travel arrangements
  • Pre-departure guide and session
  • Airport pick-up (on specified program arrival date within designated arrival times)
  • CISaustralia Site Director Orientation (first Sunday) and welcome pack
  • Universidad Veritas orientation (first Monday)
  • Homestay accommodation with a local family
  • Breakfast and dinner with your host family
  • On-campus internet access
  • Weekly laundry
  • Cultural / social activity + farewell dinner
  • *For Spanish intensive students – 1 x one-day excursion and 1 x weekend excursion (some costs may apply). Excludes Tropical Ecology and Marine Biology students who attend separate / mandatory field trips as part of their course.
  • *For Tropical Ecology and Marine Biology students – 1 x half-day excursion (some costs may apply). Excludes Spanish intensive students.
  • CISaustralia 24/7 on-site support – Site Director
  • Universidad Veritas official transcript
  • CISaustralia Certificate of Participation (available on request)

What is not included:

  • Flights
  • Medical insurance
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa fees
  • Vaccinations (if required)
  • Meals (unless mentioned above)
  • Extra travel/excursions (other than those mentioned above)

Dates are for reference only and are subject to change. Please do not book flights until you have received the confirmed dates in your acceptance paperwork.

CISaustralia reserves the right to alter fees at any time due to currency fluctuations and/or fee changes made by our partner universities.

Adventure Awaits

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