Every year, thousands of American college students make their way down to Central America to study abroad in the beautiful country of Costa Rica. With an overwhelming amount of college credit study-abroad courses available, it can be difficult to narrow down your choice and decide which company to go with.
That’s where I come in! I have listed here the top ten reasons to study abroad in Heredia, Costa Rica, and why you should specifically go with the company Sol Education Abroad.
(In case you need any more convincing that Costa Rica is amazing – check out my post on what to do with ten days there!)
#1: An Affordable Study Abroad Experience
Compared to other study abroad programs of this caliber, this program is surprisingly affordable. Housing, meals at your home-stay, tuition, textbooks, weekend excursions and weekly cultural and social events are all included in the overall price. Also, flights from the US to Costa Rica (compared to Europe for example) are a much better number to see, and once you are in Heredia the day-to-day cost of living is great.
#2: The Staff
Costa Rica is amazing, so it’s not surprising that the Sol Education staff is so passionate about the program– it would be hard not to be! The onsite directors were there to help us 24-7, always just a phone call away, and would help with anything from “hey I’m running late”, to “AHH I’m lost downtown!” The ladies working at the Heredia office were all super friendly, supportive, accommodating, and didn’t judge your errors when you spoke bad Spanish 😉 ! While you are at class at at the Universidad Latina de Costa Rica, they are always nearby, and easy to find if you have questions or concerns about anything at all!
#3: “Mama Ticas” & Homestays
For a true immersion experience, living with a host family is a must, and the families that work with Sol are definitely top notch! Having a local Costa Rican as your house mom (fondly known as your mama tica) is a fabulous experience. I chatted with my “mom” every day, sometimes for hours, and she invited me along to many family events. Some students who stay for longer time periods will attend weekend vacations or even go to a cousin’s quinceañera, it all just depends. Everyone I spoke with, myself included, had incredibly welcoming, kind, and fun host families. It is THE best way to practice your Spanish, and if you are open to it your family can introduce you to locals so you can make new tico friends around your own age too. If that isn’t enough, they do your laundry for you and always cook you big, delicious meals! 🙂
#4: Centralized Location
Heredia is a suburb of the capital city of San Jose. If you look at a map of Costa Rica, San Jose is basically smack dab in the middle. While you are not directly by a beach during the school week, fear not- there is plenty to do! You can take a local bus to the big city and be there in about 45 minutes, or you can walk the streets of Heredia during the day to explore the “real” Costa Rica. From this central city, you can head south and be at a beach in about 2 hours. Alternatively, you can go west for 3 hours and see a volcano and go zip lining in a cloud forest. All public buses offer round-trip options from San Jose, and several local airlines too.
#5: The Weekend Trips
I stayed for 6 weeks during my program with Sol, and the first 3 we had included excursions. These were such a blast, and we went to some truly phenomenal locations! The last 3 weeks were “free time”, so I planned trips with my friends from the program, and those trips were just as fantastic. In addition to earning 6 Spanish language credit hours, I was able to go to the following locations:
La Fortuna – Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna Waterfall, Zip-Lining and Baldi Hot Springs
Manuel Antonio National Park – Ocean, Rainforest, & White Water Rafting!
Poás Volcano – A stunning still active volcano
Jacó Beach – A pebbly beach with a great nightlife scene
Dominical Beach – Isolated nature with pristine beaches
Montezuma Beach (a 1.5 hour flight from San Jose using Natureair)
#6: The Cultural / Social Activities
From the first day of the program on, the staff begins to fill you in on the history, modern society, and traditional culture of Costa Rica. You get a great feel for the area you live in, as well as the surrounding cities. You learn everything from tico slang, to where to find the best churros. Once you are introduced by the program directors to the nearby attractions, they begin offering activities during the week-days after classes (all optional). We were able to visit an animal rescue center, try exotic fruits, learn how to salsa dance, cook local dishes at a nearby farm, volunteer at schools or animal shelters, and dance the night away at a Discoteca! They also organized group outings to downtown San Jose and the local market in Heredia, all of which helped us feel comfortable in our new city. Plus, one thing I love is how honest the directors were about safety. They told us straight-up if an area was sketchy or dangerous, and gave us solid personal safety advice.
#7: Pura Vida
Pura vida means “The pure life”. The relaxed lifestyle of Costa Rica and its inhabitants is so refreshing. Rated as the happiest country in the world by the world happiness index, it’s easy to look around and feel the love. The pura vida lifestyle is just an overall feeling, a great atmosphere, and an intangible element that makes visitors fall in love with this beautiful nation. My experience studying abroad with Sol made me understand what the “pura vida” is all about!
#8: The Fruit and Local Markets
Ask anyone who has visited Costa Rica, and they will rave about how fresh and flavorful the fruits are. I can’t say exactly why, but eating a pineapple in Costa Rica is about one hundred times better than eating one in the US. Everything is fresh, local, and in abundance. Street markets are everywhere, and the popular dish gallo pinto isn’t too bad either! Studying with Sol, we were able to try dozens of fruits on one of our after-school activities, and learn where to find them at the market too.
Okay, so maybe I’m the only one who thinks sloth deserve their own number in this list- but sloths are SO CUTE! I had always wanted to see one, and with Sol I had the chance to see more than I could count! In many of the national parks, you are basically guaranteed several wild sloth sightings (I mean, they aren’t going anywhere fast), and visiting the Toucan Rescue Ranch with Sol allowed me to see them up close and personal (they even let me take a photo with one!) If you love sloths, you will without doubt love Costa Rica!
#10: Your Fellow Students
Again, it might just be me, but it seems like everyone who studies abroad in Costa Rica is just an awesome person. I came into the program as a Masters student, so I was about 7 years older than the majority of the participants, and that worried me a little. In hindsight, I have no idea why I was ever concerned! I’m going to make a grand assumption here and just say that everyone who comes to Costa Rica with Sol is fun, happy, upbeat, and adventurous! Everyone was welcoming and very friendly. Most students genuinely love and want to learn the Spanish language too, and it’s great to be with like-minded people. It is easy to make friends when you go through such memorable experiences together, and I know that I found many lifelong friends from my time in Heredia.
I should also note that I received no compensation for this post and was not asked to write this piece. My experience was so great that I simply wanted to share it with other students who may be looking to go abroad!
CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE FOR MY POST ON WHAT TO DO WITH A 10 DAY VACATION IN COSTA RICA!
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