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*UTK Service Learning in Costa Rica
Cartago, Costa Rica; San Jose, Costa Rica (Outgoing Program)
Program Terms: Summer 1
This program is currently not accepting applications.
Costs Sheets Summer 1
Dates / Deadlines:
There are currently no active application cycles for this program.
Fact Sheet:
GPA Requirement:
Language of Instruction:
English, Spanish
Class Standing:
Junior, Senior, Sophomore
Language Prerequisite:
see program description
Course Prerequisite:
Consent of Instructor
Program Type: UT Faculty-Directed Open to non-UTK Students: No
Experience Type:
Service Program Coordinator: Anne Hulse
Field of Study:
Latin American Studies, Spanish
Program Description:

Service Learning in Costa Rica!

Costa Rica

San José, the capital city of Costa Rica, is set in the lush Central Valley of the Costa Rican highlands. As the cultural, economic and political center of Costa Rica, San José is where the majority of Costa Ricans live, work, study and play. Students studying in San José will be able to experience a vibrant and busy Latin American metropolis while also having the rest of Costa Rica's pristine natural wonders at their fingertips. Downtown San José features a pedestrian-friendly walkway down which students enjoy strolling, stopping at a café and sipping on a coffee and shopping at the Mercado Central. The city is filled with cultural offerings including numerous unique museums and students enjoy catching musical and theater performances at the elegant Teatro Nacional.

Students will engage in Costa Rican culture and society via service-learning. Placements will depend on students' level of language proficiency, personal interest, and availability and will be assigned prior to departure. In addition to averaging 30 hours per week of volunteer service in the San Jose or Cartago area, students will spend two class hours per week at the ISA office in San Jose. The remaining academic component of the course will occur asynchronously online. Sample service-learning placements by level of language proficiency include:

Beginning Spanish

Conservation Park
Promote awareness of the value of biodiversity and the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources at this non-profit organization dedicated to scientific research and conserving the country’s rich biological diversity. Assist with the collection, sorting and classification of butterflies, other insects, animals and plant life, or help to translate written materials into English.

Environmental, Cultural and Recreational Park
Bring surrounding communities together by dedicating your time at a free and open recreational space for children and youth. This park aims to promote an appreciation for nature and the environment, arts, and various recreational activities including music, sports and technology. Participants will have the opportunity to work on environmental projects or assist to design and run workshops and recreational activities for the youth.

Public School
Serve as a teacher’s aide by grading papers, assisting students with homework and supervising the classroom. Tutor special needs students one-on-one or teach English. Facilitate recreational activities and gain practical classroom teaching experience.

Intermediate Spanish

After School Program

Work with an organization that provides after school and daycare services to children of limited economic resources. Be a positive role model and help students with homework and education activities. Engage the children by facilitating recreational activities, art and music projects.

Medical Clinic

Learn about health issues and health care delivery in Costa Rica by observing medical practices in various public and private clinics. Assist with checking vital signs and taking blood pressure and aid local staff in developing and analyzing X-rays and blood tests in the lab. Accompany trained professionals to conduct outreach surveys and health campaigns on such topics as nutrition, dengue, TB, digestive health, women’s health and immunizations. Participants can indicate if they would prefer to be placed in nutrition, orthopedics, general medicine, or dentistry. This placement is ideal for individuals in nursing or pre-med fields.

Teach English at a Non-Profit Christian Organization
San José is home to many religious-based organizations which provide support to indigent people, individuals living with HIV/AIDS, pregnant women, street children and other marginalized groups. Serve as a role model to young students and assist with English classes and other classroom projects. Facilitate arts, crafts and other activities that help to eliminate the education and career gap.

Advanced Spanish

Center for Disabilities

Shadow physical therapists as they work with patients with Down Syndrome and other disabilities. Assist with physical education classes, help to develop health campaigns and assist with micro-enterprise projects that aim to instruct its members on sustainable forms of generating income and becoming self-sufficient. There may be opportunities to help with English classes, cooking lessons and/or art projects.

The rich cultural history of Costa Rica can be explored at one of several organizations including an art museum, natural history museum and children’s museum. Promote awareness of the rich cultural history of Costa Rica by organizing and coordinating projects for children, lead guided tours, assist with marketing and PR projects, coordinate special events and translate marketing materials. This placement is ideal for individuals interested in archaeology, anthropology, museology, education and administration.

HIV Non-Profit Organization
Provide workshops and educational talks to the public, conduct research and provide emotional support for patients affected by HIV, AIDS and/or STIs. Assist the organization in strengthening their prevention efforts and contributing to a better quality of life for patients.



Students will have the opportunity to be immersed in the Spanish language and experience aspects of the Costa Rican culture that are inaccessible to most visitors by living with host families. Students are typically housed two to a home, and the homes will be located throughout the city within walking distance or via local bus, 10-45 minutes from where classes will be held. The families will provide 2 meals per day and laundry service weekly.


Upon successful completion of the program, students will receive 3 credits in MFLL 300 Global Cultures and Texts, Spanish 491 (via petition) or Latin American/Caribbean Studies 491 (via petition).  In addition to averaging 30 hours per week of volunteer service in the San Jose or Cartago area, students will spend two class hours per week at the ISA office in San Jose. The remaining academic component of the course will occur asynchronously online. Students seeking Spanish credit will complete all work in Spanish while students seeking LAC credit may choose to write in Spanish or English.


In addition to receiving an in-depth orientation and city tour upon arrival in San José, students will have the opportunity to participate in the following excursions:

Volcano Arenal (two nights)

Arenal Volcano is located near the agricultural community of La Fortuna, where it dominates the village landscape. During this excursion participants will explore the area around Arenal, the town of La Fortuna, and experience the many natural wonders of the region. They will also get a tour of a local sustainable farm, and enjoy a lunch made from products grown right there on the spot! At night, students can observe glowing hot boulders descending from the volcano and relax in the area's hot springs whose waters are heated by the volcano itself. Other optional activities in the area include horseback riding and hiking in the rain forest.

Manuel Antonio National Park (overnight)

Students will also get the opportunity to visit and explore Manuel Antonio National Park, one of the most renowned and famous parks in Costa Rica. Hiking, surfing, swimming, snorkeling, and horseback riding are just a few of the activities available along the white sand beaches.

Costa Rica beach


Faculty Contact

Dr. Lisa Parker
Lecturer of Spanish Studies
Assistant Director of Language and World Business

Information Sessions

Friday, January 27, 2017
1:00 - 2:00 PM
International House
1623 Melrose Avenue


This program is currently not accepting applications.

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