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For a country not much larger than Vermont and New Hampshire combined, Costa Rica is impressive in its geographic diversity. It has coasts on the Caribbean and the Pacific, volcanoes, rain forests, mountains, and other micro-climates that are home to numerous species of birds, monkeys, turtles, reptiles, and amphibians.

Lafayette students can experience this beautiful country firsthand next fall, when the College offers a semester-long study abroad program in Costa Rica, led by Susan Basow, Charles A. Dana Professor of Psychology.

The semester in Costa Rica supports the goals in the College’s strategic plan to provide students with a broader, more global education, by enhancing faculty-led semester and interim (short-term) study abroad programs and expanding the geographical and cultural scope of its global offerings. The College also offers faculty-led semester programs in Bremen, Germany; London, England; and Madrid, Spain.

“Because of the intellectual and personal challenges that are an inevitable part of the study abroad experience, students will develop a greater appreciation and understanding of the diverse world in which we live and the many cultures contained therein,” says Basow.

Students participating in the new program will live with host families in San Jose and study at Universidad Veritas.

“This is a great new opportunity for students to study abroad relatively close to home and experience a new and unique culture,” Basow says. “For students interested in certain fields, such as environmental studies, Latin-American studies, international relations, international business, and film and media studies, the university’s course offerings will definitely enhance their Lafayette education.

Students will take four courses during the 16-week term. All students will take an immersion course in Spanish, matched to their level of competence.  Even native Spanish speakers will take a course focused on complex grammar.  They will also take Basow’s Cross-Cultural Psychology course, in which they will learn about how cultures affect individual personality, thoughts, values, behaviors, and social interactions.  Rounding out their schedule will be two other courses from a wide range of topics:  environmental sciences; art and humanities; business and economics; health and human development; and history, politics, and international relations.  Many of these courses have field trips and guest speakers, so students will be able to see the application of the content.  Because students will be living with a native host family, they will learn a great deal about the local culture.

The capital city of San Jose is rich in cultural activities, such as museums, theater, dance, and concerts. All Lafayette students will have several trips as part of their package.  Two weekend trips will show students different areas of the country, and will likely include one rainforest trip to the Pacific coast, and one cloud forest trip to the central highlands.  Two day trips will show students a volcano and waterfall not too far from the capital.  Another weekend trip will take students to neighboring Nicaragua to the north, while another will take them south to neighboring Panama. Students also will have opportunities to explore on their own: the university has an on-site travel agency to help with arrangements, and the capital is served by many inexpensive yet comfortable bus lines.

Study abroad experiences challenge students personally and intellectually, Basow says.

“Personally, students discover new aspects of themselves as they address new circumstances and environments.  Students typically increase their appreciation of difference and gain new insight into their own values and culture by encountering another.  Intellectually, students have opportunities for courses, professors, and experiences that are unavailable at Lafayette. Such activities will expand students’ knowledge and understanding of the wider world around them.”

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  1. This is a great way to truly internalize and digest what cross-cultural competence is all about. Hats off to the faculty and leadership at Lafayette for expanding outside of Europe.

  2. Louise Howard says:

    This will be an amazing adventure for your students. I loved Costa Rica and the Spanish spoken there is one of the easiest for students to adjust to!

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