Pitzer in Costa Rica Academics
Advanced Spanish and Internship Track (ASI)

An Ideal Option for Spanish Majors

As part of the semester abroad in Costa Rica, Pitzer College, in collaboration with ICADS, offers the Advanced Spanish and Internship Track in Costa Rica. This track is an extension of the Spanish Major program, providing a robust option for Spanish majors/minors as well as other interested students. Through intensive Spanish language courses, a seminar on qualitative/ethnographic research methods, internships, field trips and site visits, family stays, and a Directed Independent Study (DISP) project, students will develop their linguistic and cultural competence in Spanish; integrate appropriate disciplines in the comparative study of global/local education, health, and/or ecological issues; and use the Firestone Center for Restoration Ecology as a base to engage in sustained longitudinal social science research projects of benefit to communities in the surrounding District of Barú region.


Costa Rica

Students spend the first half of the semester in the capital, San José, studying at our sister institution, the Institute for Central American Development Studies (ICADS).  Founded 25 years ago, ICADS is a center for study, research, and analysis of Central American social and environmental issues, focusing on economic development, politics, environmental studies, sustainable development, public health, women’s issues, education, human rights, and conservation. ICADS is well known for its study abroad, internship and Spanish language programs. Students will spend the second half of the program at the Pitzer College Firestone Center for Restoration Ecology, in the tropical rainforest in the Barú area. The center is located four hours southwest of San José and just two kilometers from the Pacific Ocean. The 150-acre reserve is home to pre-Columbian petroglyphs, a harvestable bamboo forest, a riparian zone with waterfalls and streams, secondary growth forest in former pasture, intentionally replanted hardwood forest, original rainforest, a four-pond water catchment system, a seedling nursery, and an Ecology Center with science and classroom facilities. With adjacent Hacienda Barú, a wildlife refuge of 800 acres to the west; the ecologically significant Osa Peninsula to the south; and Manuel Antonio National Park to the north, students have ready access to a variety of tropical ecosystems and rich biodiversity. For pictures of the Firestone Center, click here.

Program Structure

Intensive Spanish and the Core Course

During the first five weeks of the program, students will take the intensive Spanish 80-hour course at ICADS, which will meet for four hours each morning, five days a week. During the afternoons, students will participate in the first half of the Pitzer Core Course: a seminar offered through ICADS entitled Latin American Perspectives on Justice and Sustainable Development. The core course includes lectures, study trips in and around San José, discussion sessions, a variety of oral, interactive and written assignments and a longer study trip to Nicaragua.  As part of an integrated approach to language and culture learning, students will live with Costa Rican host families during their entire time in San José. The intensive Spanish course is worth 1.0 credit. The core course, which will be completed in the second half of the program, is worth 1.0 credit..

Internship in San José and Ethnographic Research Methods

During weeks six through nine in San José, students will engage in an intensive internship of 14-16 hours per week for four weeks. Students will select from three areas: education, health or environment/ecology. These internships will provide students with a focused exposure to the roles that particular institutions play in addressing education, health care, and ecology issues in Costa Rica. A final reflective paper written in Spanish on the internship experience is required. These papers will be compiled as a reference for future students. This internship and report writing is worth 0.5 credits..

During this segment, the afternoons will be dedicated to a four-week intensive course on qualitative/ethnographic methods. This course will introduce students to the characteristics and various approaches to designing and conducting qualitative research projects in education, health and health services, and ecology research. Students will gain understanding in various qualitative methods, analysis techniques and ethical/cultural issues while preparing to carry out their Directed Independent Study Project (DISP) which they will conduct during the second half of the program. It is expected that by the end of the course (week nine) students will submit a DISP proposal and a short bibliography to theoretically support their project. The ethnographic research methods course is worth 1.0 credit.

Internship in Barú and Directed Independent Study Project

For the second part of the semester, students will move to the Firestone Center for Restoration Ecology, where they will work closely under the guidance of the Costa Rica program director and the faculty supervisor to carry out a second internship and conduct their Directed Independent Study Project. Students will participate in their second internship for 14-16 hours per week for four weeks, ideally in the same field (education, health or ecology) as their San José internship or in a field related to their DISP.  A final reflective paper in Spanish on the internship experience is required. The Directed Independent Study Project (DISP), worth 1.0 credit, is a key component of the educational model of the Pitzer in Costa Rica program. It will allow the student to take one topic of special interest and explore it in depth through disciplined field research. The Advanced Spanish and Internship track DISPs will aim to increase the understanding in education, health and health services, and ecology of the Firestone Center for Restoration Ecology (FCRE) and surrounding communities.

During this period, students will also participate in the second half of the Pitzer Core Course which focuses on developing oral proficiency in Spanish while deepening students’ understanding of Costa Rican culture. This half of the core course facilitates students’ integration into surrounding communities through ongoing interviews and ethnographic work with local host families and community organizations. Students also complete a series of field book exercises designed to help students integrate personal experience with readings and lectures, as they reflect upon important issues and critically examine aspects of their own culture learning process. Finally, this half of the core course provides support for both conducting the DISP research in Spanish as well as writing up the final project report and conducting an oral presentation to fellow students, program staff and local community members. During the second half of the program, students will live with Costa Rican host families in nearby communities and take a study trip to Panama to experience some of the ecological and cultural diversity of the region.

Courses: Advanced Spanish and Internship Track
Course Credits
Course Units
Intensive Spanish
Core Course - Costa Rican Studies
Internship in San José
Ethnographic Research Methods
Internship Barú (FCRE)
Directed Independent Study Project in Barú
A minimum of three semesters of College-level Spanish (Intermediate) or equivalent. All courses are taught in Spanish.
Students must be in good academic standing.
Program Dates
Fall: Late August to mid-December
Spring: Late January to mid- May
Students live with families for the entire program except on study trips.