• Home
  • International Social Services: A Costa Rican Perspective

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: How do cultural, economic, and political differences shape social construction of and response to social problems, including through influencing service delivery? What influences do global economies and politics have on social work practice at multiple levels and across different client systems? How can a grounding in human rights and social justice inform social work practice with diverse clients in different national contexts?


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 (location and format TBA). During that time, students will develop 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, as well as some assignments that support students' integration of the study abroad experience into their professional development.

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 justice system, women's issues, immigration, and other areas of concern. Planned site visits include the UCR School of Social Welfare practicum site, a women's correctional facility, and the Interamerican Court of International Rights.


Students are housed in double or triple occupancy rooms with breakfast included. Several group lunches and dinners are also provided.

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 hot springs and the Irazu volcano.

The group will travel to the Pacific Coast. There, students can go to the beach, visit the butterfly garden, or go on a nature walk during the day or at night to view the local flora and fauna. In the area there are more than 330 species of birds as well as several species of monkeys. Next, the group will travel to La Fortuna where students will hike to the Arenal waterfall, go on a chocolate and spice tour, and visit a 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 at the hotel. 

Identity Abroad: 

Identity Abroad

SAGE is dedicated to creating international engagement opportunities that meet the needs of all our students and providing resources to support you through the process of studying abroad. Study abroad is achievable for students of all identities including our BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ students, students with disabilities, and students with religious/non-religious viewpoints. Before selecting a program, consider how your identities may impact your experience abroad in unique ways and talk with your Program Coordinator about any program-specific concerns. Students with documented disabilities should discuss any accommodation needs with their Program Coordinator early in the planning process.

Additional Resources

Check our Identity Abroad page and resources listed below for information specific to you and other students who may be on your program.


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: 

Melinda Lewis, Associate Professor of Practice in the School of Social Welfare, will lead the program. Professor Lewis’ social work career has focused on macro strategies for policy and social change, including advocacy and community organizing. Her years of work with Latinx immigrant communities in the U.S. make her particularly excited about the opportunity to reexperience Costa Rica through this course with KU students.

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: 


Summer 2022 programs now accepting applications !

Study Abroad Information & Advising
Our office is available to help you with your study abroad questions.  Book a virtual appointment. 

Study Abroad Financial E-Advising
Personalized financial aid & scholarship advising Monday - Friday, 9 AM - 5 PM,
Book a virtual appointment.


Follow KU Study Abroad


Jayhawks Abroad Blog

Study Abroad Events
IIE Generation Study Abroad Partner

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
Study Abroad & Global Engagement 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
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times