Costa Rica Summer Health Program

Summer 2015 Information Sessions
October 14, West Hall P103, 4:15 PM
October 15, West Hall P103, 12:15

Applications for Summer 2015 are due no later than November 17, 2014.

Credit Credits
Semester Units
Sociology of Health & Health Care in Costa Rica
Intensive Spanish Language
• Completion of the second semester of college-level Spanish or a demonstrated equivalency is required. A third or fourth semester is preferred and recommended for students who wish to maximize their learning and internship opportunities on the program.
• Coursework in Sociology of Health and Latin American area studies recommended.
Program Dates
Spring semester: Approximately eight class meetings in Claremont AND
Summer: Six weeks in Costa Rica


Costa Rica


Organized by Pitzer College in collaboration with the Institute for Central American Development Studies (ICADS), the Summer Health Program in Costa Rica takes place in Claremont during the spring semester and in Costa Rica over six weeks, usually from late May through early July. Through intensive Spanish language courses, a seminar on health and health care in Costa Rica, internships, and family stays, you will explore health care in a developing country while furthering your Spanish language skills and gaining an understanding of the life and culture of Costa Rica. A study trip to Nicaragua will provide a comparative perspective on health problems and health services in Central America. One year of college level Spanish is a prerequisite for the program.

This is a very structured, intensive program for students willing to work hard; the rewards will be great and commensurate with your efforts, however! You earn two course credits in only six weeks, but more importantly, you will experience a very special opportunity to live with families, work in Costa Rican institutions, travel in a beautiful country, and meet people you’ll never forget.

Host Institution

Our host institute is the Institute for Central American Development Studies (ICADS), a center for study abroad, language training, and the study and analysis of Central American social and environmental issues. ICADS will help to plan the curriculum, facilitate your host family stays, provide the meeting place for your lectures, arrange the internships and field trips, provide language instruction in classes that never have more than four students, and work closely with you in all aspects of the program.

The Core Course

Costa Rica

Sociology of Health and Health Care in Costa Rica
The course provides an overview of health and health care in Costa Rica along with the depth of understanding that comes from an internship in a health care setting. The course begins with approximately eight class meetings in Claremont during the spring semester that provide an introduction to Costa Rican life and culture and key concepts that are crucial to the study of health and healthcare in Costa Rica. During the summer, lectures by program faculty and specialists from governmental and non-governmental organizations, site visits, and reading and writing assignments allow you to explore the epidemiology of Costa Rica and Central America, the structure and financing of the health care system in Costa Rica, women’s health issues, and environmental health, with a case study of the banana industry. The course includes an overview of Costa Rica’s social and economic history that is essential for understanding the context of health and health care in Costa Rica. An extended family stay for the duration of the program is an important part of the course, providing a human face to the ideas presented in readings and lectures. Two field trips allow you to deepen your understanding of topics covered in the course: A weekend field trip to a cloud forest complements our study of environmental health. A study trip to Nicaragua will allow you to compare the two countries’ health problems and health services.



The intensive internship of 14-16 hours per week for three weeks provides you with a focused exposure to the roles that particular agencies play in addressing health care issues in Costa Rica. You will gain first-hand experience with the models and assumptions on which an agency operates, the particular problem solving strategies it utilizes, and the financial, intellectual and technological resources it brings to bear on these problems. A final reflective paper on your internship experience is a required part of the course. Past students have assisted health outreach workers on home visits, worked in a nutrition program for malnourished pre-school children, conducted field work with Costa Rica’s national institute for health research, and worked in hospitals, local clinics, community health posts, a home for severely disabled children, a school for disabled children, and a residential facility for AIDS patients.

Intensive Spanish Language

Intensive language instruction is offered to intermediate and advanced students in groups of no more than four. If you are already fluent in Spanish, you will be enrolled in an independent study.

Host Family

Home Stays

ICADS will arrange your family stay in a home within thirty minutes walking distance of ICADS. Pitzer and ICADS have a policy for only one student in a home so that you can maximize your language learning and participate fully in family life. You and at least one other student in the program will generally be assigned homes close together so you will have someone with whom to share walks to ICADS, and taxi rides at night.

Study Trips


To deepen your understanding of topics covered in the core course, you will be offered several site visits in or near San Jose and two more major fieldtrips. Study trips can vary each summer but past trips have included trips to national parks, banana or pineapple plantations, an urban precario, hospitals and health clinics.

During the fifth week of the course we hope to have a study trip to Nicaragua, where there will be lectures on the country’s epidemiology and health care system, site visits of health care facilities, and a service project. The group will travel by public bus from San Jose to the colonial town of Granada where various recreational opportunities, including outings to the lake and the market in the nearby small town of Masaya, are available. Students will be housed in a simple hostel or hotel typical of Granada.

The trip may be challenging for some because of greater physical discomforts (e.g., bumpy roads, and a hotter climate than in San Jose), fewer public health services (e.g., less dependable public water sources), and higher levels of poverty than you will experience in Costa Rica. You will be well prepared for a safe and satisfying experience, however, and you are likely to find this trip one of the highlights of the program.