Read all about past students' experiences in Costa Rica!

Name: Brianne Butler
Program: UMSL faculty-led program for Spanish Language to San Jose, Costa Rica
Major: Nursing
Term Abroad:
 Winter intersession during junior year

I never thought that I would be able to study abroad based upon my major; nursing. One of my Spanish professors talked about studying abroad over the winter intersession my first semester at UMSL, but I did not look into it. The next year, I realized that this was an opportunity that I would only get once. I decided to look into studying abroad in Costa Rica during the 2012 Winter Intersession. After sitting down and talking to my nursing advisor and a study abroad advisor we determined that I would be able to study abroad while in the nursing program.

When the plane landed in San Jose, Costa Rica, I knew that these next two weeks would be filled with so many new experiences. While in Costa Rica, I attended the Costa Rica Learning Academy (CRLA). My class had 6 students and was very Spanish focused and over the course of 2 weeks, my Spanish improved so much! After classes each day, there would be Spanish dancing and cooking classes along with Spanish conversation. Before class daily, you would have the opportunity to sign up for these extra classes. Every day I participated in these classes because I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity that I had in Costa Rica.


The weekends in Costa Rica were filled with travel to different areas. The first weekend, we went on a boat tour looking for exotic animals, went on a boat tour at the base of Arenal Volcano, went zip lining through the jungle around Arenal, and experienced a Hot Spring. The following weekend, we went to Punta Coral, a private beach. The view was breath taking. I went on a nature hike to the other side of the island and it was astonishing to see the differences for one side of the island to the other. I got to go kayaking for the first time as well. That same weekend, I went on a tour of Doka Coffee Plantation, visited Poas Volcano- which was active-, saw the Blue Lagoon, and visited La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Each of these places were beyond beautiful and I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would get to do any of this.

San Jose is a town where you can just hop on a bus and get to many local hot spots. The people of Costa Rica are friendly and willing to help out in any way possible, especially when you get lost late at night and don’t have a clue where you are.  Over the course of the 2 weeks, we had a Tico Challenge we could do and participate in many local activities and try lots of new foods.  The food in Costa Rica is a lot richer than back in the States and with every meal there would be fresh fruit and juice. At first I was hesitant to try new foods but eventually did and come to find out I really liked it.


The opportunity to study abroad in Costa Rica was one of the best experiences so far in my life. I wish that I would have been able to stay in Costa Rica longer than 2 weeks. If given the opportunity to go back to Costa Rica, I would be on the next plane there. Costa Rica is a great country to go to study abroad. If you love the experience of studying abroad for 2 weeks, there are semester and yearlong programs that you could look into as well. I hope you have a great experience studying abroad and cherish every moment.


Name: Scott Morrissey
Program: Provider program to San Jose, Costa Rica
Major: Spanish & Education
Term Abroad: 
Spring semester during sophomore year

I remember before I was a student here at UMSL, I took a tour of the school. As we were walking through the different parts of the building we stopped by the Office of International Studies. My tour guide briefly informed me of the various programs offered in the Office of International Studies. During this time, I thought to myself, I would love to study abroad, but it feels too difficult to do and too expensive.

One year later, once I became a student at UMSL, I remember sitting in class with a guest speaker promoting a study abroad program offered to UMSL students. I thought that would be so amazing, but I wasn't sure how to achieve this goal. One day, curiosity got the best of me and I walked into the Office of International Studies to check out exactly how much it would cost, and what it would take, and to my surprise, it wasn't unachievable, or expensive! From that point on I started my search for a program that coincided with what I was looking for. I soon applied for a program in Costa Rica and before I knew it, I had received scholarships to help pay for my classes, travel and living expenses.


Although I spent about three months in Costa Rica, I wish I was there for much longer, and despite this, it still ended up being the best experience of my entire life. Not only did this study abroad journey help me to find myself and discover my love for travel, but it also helped open my eyes up to the world and what is going on outside of the US. On top of all of this, my Spanish communication skills improved fivefold within the last couple of months. Now I can sit down and hold a complete conversation in Spanish with a native Spanish speaker, whereas before this experience I was shy when speaking Spanish, even with my professors at school who also learned Spanish as a second language. It was such a great opportunity, and the cost of attending school there ended up being about the same as if I were to take classes at UMSL, the difference was that I was in another country, meeting interesting people, trying all sorts of new things, and learning more than I ever have in my life about everything Costa Rica has to offer.

The classes, though intense, were not as hard as I thought they might be. My teachers were so caring and were always willing to help out with anything I might have needed to adjust to the new culture and style of class. Another great thing about being there, of course, was traveling. I ended up traveling every single weekend except for one, which I spent touring San Jose where I stayed during the weeks of class, and doing that helped me to experience everything the country had to offer. I saw rainforests, volcanoes, waterfalls, beaches, a live Central American soccer game, exotic animals, and I visited two other countries (Nicaragua and Panama). I even went on a zip line tour through the tropical cloud forest! I did end up spending a good amount of money on travel, but overall it was, as they say in Costa Rica, "Vale la pena", or, worth the penny.


Though my experience felt like it went too fast, I am glad I did it because it was the greatest life changing experience I have ever had. Thanks to all of the traveling I did I don't regret a single thing about the trip. However, if I could have, I would have made my time in Costa Rica longer. To wrap it all up, all I have to say is two words, which add up to be a universal phrase they used meaning everything that is good and pure life. Pura Vida!


Name: Katie Kratzer
Program: UMSL faculty-led program for Spanish Language to San Jose, Costa Rica
Major: Criminology & Criminal Justice
Term Abroad: Winter intersession during sophomore year


Studying abroad is scary, I know. Like you , I went through the excitement of realizing that I would be traveling to a foreign country, and then the nervousness of realizing that I would be traveling to a foreign country, but trust me when I say that it will all work out. You might get on the wrong bus and end up on the other side of the city (like this kid) but you will make it back. While you are traveling, try new foods, go out with friends to local markets, speak with the native people and learn their language. Experience everything you can because your time abroad will not seem long enough.

I went to Costa Rica for 2 weeks during the winter of 2012 and had a blast. I learned so much about Costa Rica, its people, Spanish in general, and of course made life long friends. The Costa Rican people are so friendly and helpful in times of need. In Costa Rica, like any other country, there are going to be things that are different from the States and that is good. Embrace these differences. Accept the fact that you can't flush toilet paper and that you need to eat with your hands above the table.


For the 2 week program to Costa Rica, you will be staying with a host family and will attend school at CRLA, Costa Rican Language Academy. The school is located in the center of the capital San Jose and is close to many sodas, or small restaurants that provide "comida tipica" as well as markets and malls. San Jose is a beautiful that is easy to navigate, once you figure out the bus system, and it also makes it easy to travel all over Costa Rica for relatively inexpensive prices. In C.R., you can go to the beach, zip-lining, travel to volcanoes, or just walk around the city and take in the sights.

My only regret is that I did not get to stay longer and would go back in a heartbeat! I wish you best of luck on your abroad experience and hope that it is just as amazing as mine was.


Name: Brianne Clemons
Program: Spanish in Costa Rica
Major: International Business
Term: Winter Intersession 2015

costa rica beach

Little did I know that my first step outside of my comfort zone would lead me into a world that I had only ever dreamed of. My decision to participate in the faculty-led program to Costa Rica during the 2015 Winter Intersession came as a surprise to my family and friends, but I was determined to have an adventure that I would remember long after my time here at UMSL ends. I was invited to join the International Business Club by a friend who had just returned from Tokyo after last year’s Winter Intersession. After attending one of the International Business Club’s meetings where everyone gave presentations about their experiences in different countries, I wanted to have a story of my own.

brianne in her room

Traveling to Costa Rica presented me with so many possibilities to explore. It did not matter that none of the students knew each other beforehand, because we were all so anxious to have an adventure like no other. We all became fast friends as we took excursions and classes together. On the weekends we traveled to different parts of Costa Rica, including Tortuguero and the Punta Coral, to visit the rainforest, mountains, volcanoes, waterfalls, and beaches. We were able to participate in boat tours, hiking, zip-lining, snorkeling, jet-skiing, and so much more!

During the week we took Spanish classes at the Costa Rican Language Academy (CRLA), which we all absolutely loved. My class had only 3 students, including myself, so our professor really took the time to understand each of us individually. My Spanish improved so much through all the conversations and activities we had in class. After class, many of us took advantage of the free Latin dance, cooking, conversation, and yoga classes that the school offers. They even took us on a history tour of downtown San Jose, Costa Rica where we learned so much about the culture and what the beautiful city has to offer.

I loved staying with a host family during my time in Costa Rica, because my family made me feel right at home. I enjoyed all of the conversations, meals, and memories we shared in our home. Having a support system while going on this journey in Costa Rica helped me fully experience the Costa Rican lifestyle. I still talk to my family in San Rafael, my professor from CRLA, and the friends I made there from UMSL.

costa rica

If you are even the least bit curious about studying abroad, I say go for it! My experience in Costa Rica was incredible and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I only wish that I could have stayed longer. UMSL also offers semester and year-long programs for those who wish to, so do not hesitate to talk to someone about planning for your own adventure.