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Costa Rica, meaning "rich coast" in Spanish, is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east. It is the only Latin American country in the list of the world's 22 oldest democracies and the first to have constitutionally abolished its army permanently. That was in 1949. Costa Rica has consistently been among the top Latin American countries in the Human Development Index (HDI), ranked 62nd in the world in 2012.
Costa Rica was cited by the United Nations United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 2010 as one of the countries that have attained much higher human development than other countries at the same income levels and in 2011 was highlighted by UNDP for being a good performer on environmental sustainability and having a better record on human development and inequality than the median of their region. It was also the only country to meet all five criteria established to measure environmental sustainability. The country is ranked fifth in the world, and first among the Americas, in terms of the 2012 Environmental Performance Index.
In 2007, the Costa Rican government announced plans for Costa Rica to become the first carbon-neutral country by 2021. The New Economics Foundation (NEF) ranked Costa Rica first in its 2009 Happy Planet Index, and once again in 2012. The NEF also ranked Costa Rica in 2009 as the greenest country in the world. In 2012 Costa Rica became the first country in the American continent to ban recreational hunting after the country’s legislature approved the popular measure by a wide margin.
Reading those lines, you understood that Costa Rica is a green peaceful happy stable little country!
Host Families are voluntary and from a middle class background. Costa Rica has a long tradition of hosting and openness to foreigners and families who decide to participate mostly host to learn about your culture and enrich their home with your presence. Costa Rican families put lots of effort into providing you with the best experience possible. Dinner time and family time during weekends are important and we encourage you to take part of activities. Host families will provide you with basic meals and it is important to measure what you consume at home. During the week, you will be able to buy lunch at school. If going out to dinner to a restaurant with your host family, it might be appropriate to offer to pay for your part unless your family has specified they will invite you. Each family is different so it is important for you to get a sense.
Avoid behaviors that might create a perception that you consider the home as a hotel, ie. spending long hours in your room, coming out only to eat and then going back to the room without interacting with the family, going out without asking permission or letting your family know your whereabouts, and other similar.
In general, Costa Rican families does not travel very much, they do it mostly on vacation periods, but some families take these vacation periods as a resting time. This is just a general information and does not means that families don´t travel at all, but it is important to have clear expectations. There will be opportunities to share family activities, visits to relatives and even recreational activities and travel, but don´t expect that your host family will take you everywhere nor every weekend.
Once you receive your placement information, we encourage you to contact your new family and start to get to know each other.
The Costa Rican school system is made up of many small – medium sized schools. Your host school will most probably be smaller than your high school in your home country. This means that interaction with your same grade classmates is important and integration is a key to making friends. Costa Rican students in general are friendly and interested in learning about you and your culture. It is important to take initiative and make an effort to make conversation during recess time.
All schools in Costa Rica require students to use uniforms. In general, uniforms are blue pants / skirts optional for females, polo shirt with school´s emblem, black shoes; nevertheless is common nowadays that schools have their own uniform, different from other schools. Schools also require uniform for Physical Education which in general is school´s t-shirt and school´s shorts. Some schools require to use their own sweater or a blue sweater. Average cost for uniforms for is approximately 150 dollars and you will be purchasing the school´s shirts and any emblem item at school. Blue school pants may be purchased in many stores or you can bring your own. Recommended to bring cotton or light cloth pants.
Some schools requires the students to buy a set of books for the different subjects. The cost of these books is not included, so you are responsible for buying them or making copies, according to the school policies toward this topic.
Your host family may drive you and your host siblings to school. In most cases students use school bus and you will need to budget that into your monthly allowance. School bus gets coordinate directly with school and payment is done monthly to the driver or as directed. In case your school is close to home you might still need to take the school bus depending on your location. Some schools as general policy do not allow students to use Public Transportation. Your Program Coordinator and host family will help you find the best way to travel to school.
One might think that adaptation in school should be very easy, nevertheless every year exchange students face several challenges in this department.
For instance, teaching style tends to be more directive here, which some exchange students are not used to. You are supposed to get involved in the academics, even if your Spanish is poor at the beginning. The most interest you show, the faster you learn the language and make friends at school.
Do not expect that people come to you in order to make friendships. You must be proactive in order to get the best out of your school time.
Even if the grades you get in Costa Rica does not work for you back in your country, you are expected to attend all your academic responsibilities as a regular student.
Two day orientation will take place in a hostel in San José. We will send you details prior to arrival on the place.
Local staff will be at the airport to greet you and transfer you to the place of orientation. Once orientation is done your host family will either pick you up or we will coordinate transfer into your new home.