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International Social Services: A Costa Rican Perspective

International Social Services: A Costa Rican Perspective
Students will gain a perspective on social services and broader social problems in Costa Rica.
San Jose, Costa Rica
Language of Instruction: 
Academic Disciplines: 
Social Work
Graduate Courses
Program Type: 
Fulfills KU Core 4.2
Open to non-KU Students
Faculty Led
  • Attend lectures and site visits to social service agencies to learn more about social services in Costa Rica
  • Travel to significant cultural and historical sites around San Jose
  • No language experience required
  • Earn 3 hours of academic credit
Program Summary: 

The program provides students a general perspective on social services and broader social problems through a combination of lectures and site visits to social service agencies. These institutions focus on the institutional as well as individual aspects of social problems through individual troubles. In addition to daily seminars and site visits, students will have the opportunity to travel to significant cultural and historical sites in and around San José.  

The following questions shape the context for these experiences: What are the differences in service delivery across cultures? How does culture influence the definitions and responses to social problems and answers? What influence does global economics have on community practice, child welfare, mental health, and schools?


Costa Rica 

Costa Rica is known for its natural beauty, extraordinary diversity of flora and fauna, social and political stability, high educational levels, and efficient infrastructure and services. The capital of San José is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city. It lies in the Central Valley on a plain surrounded by large forested mountain ranges, some of which include active volcanoes, green savannahs, and working coffee plantations.

Universidad de Costa Rica

The Universidad de Costa Rica is the oldest and largest university in Costa Rica, with a population of 35,000 students.

The University of Kansas-Universidad de Costa Rica exchange program, initiated in 1958, is the oldest inter-university exchange of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. Initiatives such as the collaborative short-term study abroad programs designed by the KU School of Social Welfare and UCR strengthen the bond between the two universities.

Academic Information: 

Three hours of academic credit are granted by the University of Kansas upon successful completion of the program. Students will enroll in 3 credit hours of SW 560, SW 855, or SW 955, dependent upon academic level.

One formal class session will take place in Lawrence prior to departure. During that time, students will develop a series of questions in their area of interest which they will answer during the course of the program. There will be one class session after the program to reflect on the experience.

While in Costa Rica, the group will visit the UCR School of Social Welfare, attend lectures about the current state of affairs in Costa Rica, the health system, the justice system, women's issues, immigration, and other areas of concern. Planned site visits include a local health center, the UCR School of Social Welfare practicum site, a women's correctional facility, and a technical/secondary school for adolescent boys. 


Students are housed in double or triple occupancy rooms at a hotel near UCR.

Life Abroad: 

While in San José, the group will tour the city to see some of the main attractions, including the National Museum and National Theater, and attend a cultural night to watch traditional dancing. Planned excursions in the area include a visit to a coffee farm and La Paz Waterfalls, which also has hiking trails, a butterfly conservatory, hummingbird garden, and other areas with wildlife.

The group will travel to Manuel Antonio National Park for the weekend, making a stop at a spice farm on the way. Manuel Antonio is a rainforest with tropical plants and wildlife located on the beach. Next, the group will travel to La Fortuna where students will visit the Arenal waterfall and nearby Maleku indigenous community to eat a traditional lunch and learn about medicinal plants. Students can also choose to walk the rainforest trails and enjoy the hot springs or a mud bath. 


Open to undergraduate and graduate students in the School of Social Welfare as well as junior and senior Sociology and Psychology majors. Minimum 2.5 GPA required. Exceptions considered after submission of a petition.

Community professionals may also take this course as part of the School’s Professional Community Education Program.

Program Faculty: 

Rick Spano, Associate Professor in the School of Social Welfare will once again lead the program. 

Add Course: 
Undergraduate students only.
Course Prefix: 
Language of Instruction: 
KU Course
KU Credit Hours: 
MSW Students only.
Course Prefix: 
Language of Instruction: 
KU Course
KU Credit Hours: 
Graduate students only.
Course Prefix: 
Language of Instruction: 
KU Course
KU Credit Hours: 


Deadlines Extended for Spring 2020 & Winter Break 2020 Programs !
List of Programs (PDF)

Study Abroad Information Center

Walk-in advising
Monday - Friday. 9AM - 5 PM
Lippincott Hall, Room 105
1410 Jayhawk Boulevard
Contact: studyabroad@ku.edu

Study Abroad Financial Advising
Financial Aid and Scholarship Info Session
Wednesday, 4:00 pm &
Thursday, 2:00 pm
105 Lippincott Hall


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9th among public universities in the country for high quality, low cost study abroad programs — U.S. News & World Report
Longest-running exchange program in Western Hemisphere (begun in 1958) between KU and University of Costa Rica
18th in the nation among public universities for undergraduate participation in study abroad — Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange
28.1% of KU undergraduate students study abroad prior to graduation.
KU students who study abroad graduate in four years at twice the rate of students who do not study abroad
More than 160 study abroad programs in 75 countries, with instruction in all disciplines and 20+ languages
Students can study abroad for an academic year, semester, summer, spring break, or winter break
Programs include international study, internships, service, and research opportunities
Students participating in semester, academic year, and select summer programs fulfill Goal 4.2 of the KU Core curriculum
Students can fulfill major, minor, certificate, elective, and KU Core curriculum requirements abroad
Programs are available for students in every major at KU
Financial aid is applicable to study abroad programs, and most KU scholarships and grants can be applied to study abroad
The Office of Study Abroad and many academic departments offer scholarships to qualified KU students
By studying abroad, students gain a global perspective on the world and strengthen their career opportunities
One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
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