Universidad de Costa Rica

Image of Universidad de Costa Rica

  • Join the Grupo de Kansas for a semester or academic year
  • Take classes from a wide variety of subjects in Spanish
  • Live with a host family to be immersed in Costa Rican culture
  • Option to participate in an intensive Spanish course during Orientation
  • G. Wayne Burge Scholarship ($1,500), and Semester scholarship ($3,000) available. See Further Reading below for more information.

The University of Kansas Grupo de Kansas program in San José, Costa Rica offers students the opportunity to directly enroll in classes at the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR), which is one of the top research institutions in Central America. Students will prepare themselves for the semester at UCR by participating in the on-site orientation that provides a well-structured introduction to the country and its culture and history. An Intensive Spanish language course during the on-site orientation will help students improve language skills. Students will be able to experience Costa Rican culture and history firsthand by living with host families and participating in cultural activities and excursions. 

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 (UCR)

The Universidad de Costa Rica was established in 1843 under the name Universidad de Santo Tomás. In 1940, it was restructured and re-named the Universidad de Costa Rica. It 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 was initiated in 1958 and is the oldest inter-university exchange of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

The program starts with an on-site orientation for all Grupo de Kansas students. During orientation students can also take an intensive Spanish course. After orientation, students will directly enroll in courses at UCR. The orientation and UCR courses and grades will be posted to a KU transcript.

On-site Orientation

The On-site orientation is a one-month course designed to prepare Grupo de Kansas students for the challenges of academic work and life in a foreign language and culture. The course provides a cultural and historical introduction to Costa Rica through lectures, readings, and excursions, with an emphasis on upper-level academic writing skills. During orientation, students will also receive support with enrolling in classes. Students will receive 3 hours of credit of SPAN 370 Hispanic Language, Culture, and Civilization.

Intensive Spanish Language Course

Students who have completed four semesters (or the equivalent) of college-level Spanish will take the Intensive Spanish Language course during the on-site orientation. It will be optional for students who have five or more semesters of college-level Spanish.

The course will last for the duration of the orientation and give students the opportunity to improve their Spanish language abilities prior to the start of their semester at UCR. This non-credit bearing course will focus on grammar and conversation.

Courses at UCR

Students will enroll in courses at UCR with local students, taught by UCR faculty. Students are eligible to take most courses in a variety of departments at UCR if they meet the required pre-requisites. A normal course load is 12-18 hours, which is four to six classes. Course offerings vary from semester to semester, and it is not possible to guarantee that a course will be offered during a particular semester. Program participants should have eight to ten courses in a wide variety of departments approved by their home institution prior to arrival in San José. Students studying Spanish language should plan on taking one or two Spanish language courses and the rest from other departments. Enrollment in graduate courses at UCR is limited to graduate students and requires the permission of the professor.

Students can get an idea of the courses offered at UCR during fall and spring semesters by looking at the course schedules below. Additionally, the enrollment information gives more details about looking for classes and the UCR-KU course equivalency log shows how UCR courses have transferred back to KU.

Fall schedule of classes (.pdf)

Spring Schedule of Classes (.pdf)

Important Enrollment Information (.docx.)

UCR-KU Course Equivalency Log (.xlsx.)

Academic Dates

Approximate dates for each semester are below. When exact dates are available from UCR, they will be available by clicking the blue button "Dates & Deadlines".

Academic year: early July to mid-July of the following year

Fall semester: early July to mid-December

Spring semester: early February to late July

Costa Rica follows the Southern Hemisphere academic calendar which means winter break is two weeks in July and summer break is from mid-December to the end of February. Students who want to study in Costa Rica for an academic year may want to consider studying a consecutive spring and fall term because that is the academic year in Costa Rica. Students may also study there for a fall and spring, but note that housing isn't provided in January because it's summer break. Students could use this time to return to the United States, travel, or volunteer at a national park.

Students live with host families during their time in Costa Rica. The Grupo de Kansas on-site staff members arrange individual host family placements after reviewing each student's host family preferences. Some of the host families have been receiving Grupo de Kansas students for many years, so they are used to helping U.S. students adjust to the Costa Rican culture and are warm and welcoming. Housing includes three meals a day and host families can accommodate most dietary restrictions. When possible, several Grupo de Kansas students are placed in the same neighborhood. Students take the very reliable, inexpensive city bus system to travel from their home to the university.

The program places students with host families because of the great strides students have in their language learning ability and it allows them to become more integrated in Costa Rican society and culture. Students consistently report that host families are one of the highlights of their experience in Costa Rica.

The Grupo de Kansas office is located on campus close to many UCR facilities with two Costa Rican staff members, Zaida Ugalde, On-site Program Coordinator & Isa Alcázar, On-site Assistant Program Coordinator. 

Zaida Ugalde is a native Costa Rican who joined Study Abroad & Global Engagement in 1994. She has traveled extensively throughout Central America, loves gardening, TED lectures, hiking, and coffee, which she is trying to grow herself.      

María Isabel Alcázar (Isa) was born in Chile but her family decided to make Costa Rica their new home. Isa also joined Study Abroad & Global Engagement in 1994. She teaches at UCR and one of her main goals has been to increase volunteer opportunities and community service for students. She is very knowledgeable about activities at UCR as well as off-campus.

Zaida and Isa’s duties include advising students on matters related to academics, enrollment, student visas, volunteer opportunities, housing, and medical and non-medical emergencies. They organize the on-site orientation, advise students during the enrollment period, and match students to their host families. They also serve as liaisons between UCR and Study Abroad & Global Engagement and coordinate all the logistics for KU short term study abroad programs in Costa Rica.

Student Life 

Students usually complement their studies by planning weekend excursions or joining University-sponsored activities, such as sports teams, volunteer activities, or cultural events. University Week, held each year in the spring, provides an opportunity for the academic departments to compete in sports, put on shows, and sponsor on-campus dances and festivities.

Volunteer Opportunities

The Grupo de Kansas staff can help find volunteer opportunities for interested students. Past student volunteers have worked in an orphanage or tutored UCR students in English. Students can also opt for a two week volunteer program (before or after the UCR semester) at one of the Costa Rican National Parks through ASVO. This is a great opportunity for biology, ecology, or tropical studies students. Students are responsible for their own room and board costs during their volunteer experience.

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.

The program is open to students from any accredited U.S. college or university, sophomore through graduate levels. Applicants must have at least 4 semesters of college-level Spanish (or the equivalent) and should have at least a 3.0 GPA. Exceptions for students below a 3.0 GPA will be considered. Students with 4 semesters of Spanish are required to enroll in the Intensive Spanish course; it is optional for students with 5 or more semesters of Spanish. KU Spanish majors and minors must have completed SPAN 340 successfully prior to participating in the program in order to earn 400+ credit.

Appointments for Students From Other Institutions

If you are a non-KU student interested in the Costa Rica program, please schedule a virtual appointment with the Program Coordinator. 

Passport and Entry Requirements

All U.S. citizens must have a passport to enter Costa Rica and will take additional documents with them to Costa Rica to process a student visa. It’s recommended that the passport is valid for six months beyond the return date. Students who do not have a passport should view the processing times and apply for one right away. KU Study Abroad & Global Engagement has a Passport Center where local students can apply for a U.S. passport.

Non-U.S. citizens should contact the Program Coordinator to research entry requirements.

Useful Websites

Universidad de Costa Rica

Duncan McHenry's Travel Journal

Andy Larkin’s Blog

Jackie Langdon's Blog

Scholarship Opportunities for KU Students

University of Costa Rica semester study abroad scholarship

Funding provided with the generous support of Richard Paegelow, KU alumnus and former participant of this program. The scholarship is $3,000. Interested students should complete the Study Abroad & Global Engagement Merit and Financial Need General Scholarship application application to be considered.

G. Wayne Burge scholarship

Funding provided with the generous support of G. Wayne Burge, KU alumnus and former participant of the San Jose, Costa Rica program.  Awards up to $1,500 designed to assist students on the semester Costa Rica program or more generally in a Central or South American country. Interested students should complete the Study Abroad & Global Engagement Merit and Financial Need General Scholarship application to be considered for this scholarship.