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*Spanish Language and Costa Rican Culture

San José, Costa Rica

IntroductionAcademicsLocation Faculty Program Director CostsDatesApplication



The MU International Center sponsors this winter break, faculty-led study abroad program in collaboration with the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. MU instructor Jacquelyn Kay will lead this three-credit program in San José, Costa Rica.

There is no better way to improve conversational Spanish skills than to be immersed in another culture. On this program, you will earn MU credit for Spanish 3150 (Advanced Spanish Conversation) or Spanish 3170 (Conversational Spanish Practice) through your coursework at the Costa Rican Language Academy, which is owned and run by Costa Ricans. You will enjoy small class sizes, taught by native Spanish speakers. The academy also offers free Latin dance courses, Costa Rican cooking classes and additional, optional afternoon conversation practice.

While in San José, you will live with Costa Rican families in residential neighborhoods. Host families provide a sense of belonging, deeper understanding of Costa Rican culture and lots of conversational Spanish practice.



You will be enrolled in one MU course for a total of three credit hours. Choose one:

SPAN 3150: Advanced Spanish Conversation (3) puts into practice the linguistic skills learned at intermediate levels. It develops and increases the capacity for comprehension and oral expression in the language. Focus is on practice of certain syntactic structures and idiomatic expressions, and on acquisition of new vocabulary. Prerequisite: SPAN 2160 or equivalent.

SPAN 3170: Conversational Spanish Practice (3) is a study abroad conversational Spanish course for students who have already taken 3150, but want more practice. Does not count for majors/minors. Prerequisite: SPAN 3150 and instructor's consent.

The language and culture courses will be taught by CRLA faculty members.

Academic credit

You will be enrolled in actual MU courses. You are guaranteed to receive MU credit for successfully completed courses; however, you must work with your academic adviser(s) to obtain pre-approval as to how courses might fulfill degree requirements.

MU students: Grades will calculate into your MU GPA and appear on your MU transcript when grades are recorded by the faculty program director. You must work with your academic adviser(s) to obtain pre-approval as to how the courses might fulfill degree requirements.

Non-MU/visiting students: Transcripts will be issued from MU and can be mailed to your home university. You must work with your home university to determine how credit from the program will transfer. The MU International Center will issue one transcript per student to one domestic address, as indicated on your Non-MU Student Application for Study Abroad. Additional MU transcripts for study abroad must be requested and purchased from the MU Registrar.


Host program

The Costa Rican Language Academy has a long history of helping students from all over the world study Spanish and Costa Rican culture. The academy is owned by Costa Ricans and all of the teachers are native Spanish speakers. CRLA provides not only Spanish courses, but lessons in dance and cooking and opportunities for service-learning in the community. CRLA will arrange all accommodations and most land travel for the duration of the program.

Accommodations and meals

You will live with a host family (one student per family), which will offer the unique opportunity to strengthen language skills and learn about everyday life in Costa Rica. The families will provide breakfast and dinner for the duration of the program. Each homestay has been carefully selected by CRLA's resident staff in order to accommodate your specific needs and to ensure a comfortable living situation.

Host city and surrounding areas

San José, Costa Rica's capital city, is located in the center of the country at approximately 3,700 feet above sea level, with 1.3 million inhabitants.

Costa Rica is a country famous for its eco-diversity. More than 25 percent of the country has been preserved as national parks and nature preserves. Along with mountainous cloud forests and lowland pineapple and banana plantations Costa Rica has numerous beaches on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. Costa Rica is a pacifist country with no army and enjoys a great deal of stability in comparison to other Central American countries.

You will have the opportunity to greatly improve your language skills through immersion in Spanish and Costa Rican culture. The Costa Rican Language Academy is owned and run by Costa Ricans and provides with small class sizes and a variety of extracurricular activities. You will also be able to apply your Spanish in practical situations during your homestay and through your everyday interactions with Costa Ricans.


You will travel with the group, but will have opportunities to explore some sites independently during your time abroad. You can choose to participate in activities like zip-lining, rafting and visiting local hot springs.

Travel might include visits to:

  • Tropical rain forest
  • Playa Panama
  • Arenal Volcano
  • Isla Tortuga

Tentative itinerary

  • Jan. 2: Arrive in San José
  • Jan. 3: La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park, Poás volcano
  • Jan. 4–6: Tortuguero National Park
  • Jan. 7–11: San José: language classes
  • Jan. 12: Free day
  • Jan. 13: Isla Tortuga
  • Jan. 14–17: San José: language classes
  • Jan. 18: End of program

Faculty program director

University of Missouri faculty member Jacquelyn Kay, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, will accompany the students to Costa Rica.

Faculty-led programs enrich the study abroad experience as well as the MU campus by providing students opportunities to study other cultures and disciplines in depth while gaining new perspectives on our own society. Faculty leaders serve as mentors, role-models and resources as students explore their host institution and country.

Jacquelyn Kay

Jacquelyn Kay has experience leading winter break and summer programs to Costa Rica and summer programs to Peru, and will be a great asset to the program.

I was an exchange student in Bolivia in high school and the experience changed my life. So it gives me great pleasure to help students have an experience living abroad, however short it might be. Even though the winter break Costa Rica program is just two to three weeks long, students get to experience living with a Costa Rican family, negotiating the city of San José, attending an intensive language program, participating in ecotourism activities and interacting with members of the community.


Program Budget

Additional Expenses

In addition to the program costs paid to MU, you will have expenses associated with international travel and living abroad. The amounts listed are estimated costs based on current exchange rates and on the information provided to us by your host institution and past participants. Depending on your personal spending habits, you may spend more or less than the figures provided.

Please note that these expenses do not include vacation travel or sightseeing.

Financial Aid Information

If you are awarded financial aid for study abroad, it will be applied to your MU account according to the regular financial aid disbursement schedule. Reminder: You must be enrolled in study abroad and have completed the required financial aid forms for study abroad in order to be considered for aid.

Because non-resident tuition charges apply, MU students should be eligible to use non-resident scholarship towards the program costs.

Dates and Deadlines

Term Application Deadline Program Start Program End
Winter Break 2017/18 09/20/2017 12/28/2017 01/12/2018
Winter Break 2018/19 09/20/2018 01/02/2019 01/18/2019


We are delighted that you are applying to study abroad. This is the first step of your journey, and while there is a lot to do, it should not be overwhelming. Once you apply for the program, you will have an electronic checklist to help you through the process. In addition, our study abroad staff are available to answer your questions.

  1. Meet with the MU International Center study abroad adviser listed in the program snapshot if you have any questions.
  2. Start an application in using the button below if you are an MU student.
    • Non-MU students should visit our page for Non-MU participants for more information about the application process.
    • Once you have started an application, you can return to it later by logging in to myStudyAbroad (see the button at the top of the page).
  3. Complete your application. There will be several documents that need to be completed for the application. While specific requirements vary by program, a typical application consists of the following:
    • Material submissions - Printable forms which require the physical submission of materials.
    • Signature Documents - Items you may digitally sign (if you are over 18 years of age) to indicate your agreement and understanding.
    • Recommendations - Recommendations may be submitted electronically by MU faculty and staff.
    • Application Questionnaires - Items that you complete and submit electronically.

Note: If you do not have an MU PawPrint, please review our instructions for Non-MU (visiting) students.

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