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Program Description


SFS - Costa Rica Walk
Photo courtesy of SFS

   Quick Facts

  • Participate in one or two summer sessions and gain invaluable hands-on experience in natural and social science projects
  • Examine the effects of globalization on development issues in Costa Rica
  • Get involved with the community by engaging in long-term community projects, participating in festivals, short homestay visits, and more
  • Prerequisites: 18 years of age; recommended at least 1 college-level biology, ecology, or environmental studies/science course


SFS - Costa Rica Poas

SFS - Costa Rica Fieldtrip
Photos courtesy of SFS

Location Details

Costa Rica is known worldwide for its conservation efforts, which have attracted millions of tourists to the country’s parks and reserves. However, the ongoing transition from an agriculture-based to a service economy, climate change, and accelerated infrastructural development threaten Costa Rica’s biodiversity and society. As rural areas give way to urban development, already scarce resources, including fresh water and energy sources, are stretched to their limit. The program examines different development and resource management models that Costa Rica uses to protect the biodiversity of its ecosystems while promoting socioeconomic benefits for its people.

In 1991, The SFS Center for Sustainable Development Studies became the fifth permanent SFS center, first stationed in Las Cruces, and, since 1993 located within the fertile Central Valley region in the town of Atenas. The Center sits on a hillside with spectacular views overlooking the Rio Grande River in the fertile Central Valley.

Visa Information

U.S. citizens will not need a visa for stay of 90 days or less in Costa Rica.* Limited information about the visa application process may be provided by the ASU Study Abroad Office and/or your host institution, but it is your sole responsibility to research, apply, and secure a visa. Failure to obtain a visa may result in your inability to participate and, ultimately, your withdrawal from the program, subject to the terms of the Study Abroad Withdrawal Policy

Consult this page for additional information regarding visas.  If you need assistance securing a U.S. Passport, visit the ASU U.S. Passport Acceptance Office in Tempe.

PLEASE NOTE: Visa requirements for non U.S. citizens may differ from those for U.S. citizens; students who are not U.S. citizens are advised to contact their International Coordinator and begin independently researching the visa requirements for their nationality as soon as possible.

*At the time of writing. This information is subject to change without notice; students should independently confirm this requirement with the relevant consulate/embassy.


Academic Program & Courses

The Sustainable Development Studies program provides the opportunity for students to examine the effects of globalization on classic development issues such as agriculture, biodiversity protection, economic development, urban sprawl, population growth, waste management, and water resources. Join SFS in Costa Rica, known worldwide for its conservation efforts which have attracted millions of tourists to the country’s parks and reserves. It is home to beautiful cloud forests, dry forests, volcanoes, lowland rainforests, and plantations and supports more than five percent of the world’s biodiversity. However, the ongoing transition from an agriculture-based to a service economy, climate change, and accelerated infrastructural development threaten Costa Rica’s biodiversity and society. As rural areas give way to urban development, already scarce resources, including fresh water and energy sources, are stretched to their limit.

Students learn field research techniques as they:

  • Examine resource management schemes
  • Identify the benefits of protected areas
  • Determine which systems offer the best option for economic development, the maintenance of cultural norms, and the preservation of biodiversity

Summer courses:

  • Session I - Coffee, Chocolate & Sustainable Development
  • Session II - Applied Research Techniques and Strategies Toward Sustainability

Course Levels, Credit & Grades
SFS programs follow U.S. grading and credit standards. Attendance requirements are strict and missed classes may impact grades.

  SFS Study Center ASU
Course Levels SFS 1000 & 2000 level courses Lower division
SFS 3000 & 4000 level courses Upper division
Credit 3 credits* 3 credits*
*Courses offered may vary in credit amount. SFS classes will convert to ASU credit on a 1:1 basis.
   SFS - Costa Rica Classroom
Photo courtesy of SFS


SFS - Costa Rica Dorms
Photo courtesy of ASU Study Abroad Office

Program Housing

The Center sits on a hillside with spectacular views overlooking the Rio Grande River in the fertile Central Valley. The field station includes a large house, an outdoor classroom, a patio and pool. There is a classroom, small laboratory and a computer room with Internet access. The field station also is home to a farm which became a Rainforest Alliance Certified™ sustainable farm in the fall of 2011. The farm includes a moderately sized organic garden as well as banana, mango, and orange groves, a chicken coop, and untouched forest areas with trails. Students live in a dormitory (up to 4 to a room) with bathrooms. The field station is part of the small neighborhood of La Presa/Los Angeles. The friendly town of Atenas is a short walk from the field station while Costa Rica's tropical forests, beaches, mountains and volcanoes are within a day's travel.

Special Considerations

Below you will find information that may help you in planning for your study abroad experience. Early discussions and planning can help to support you in having a positive experience abroad. We invite you to meet with the International Coordinator for this program to discuss any questions or concerns you may have.

Physical Considerations

Study abroad participants may find themselves walking or taking public transit abroad more frequently than they are accustomed at their home campus.

This program requires a great deal of physical activity. Students should expect to hike on uneven trails frequently, contribute to the day-to-day life at the field station (which may include washing dishes, loading vehicles, caring for center animals, etc.), and more.

Disability Accommodations Abroad

Individuals with disabilities can and do study abroad, but may find accessibility and accommodation in one of more of this program’s locations very different from the United States. For example, in Costa Rica, building and transportation accessibility is limited. Many buildings remain inaccessible and while public buses may have wheelchair accessibility, functionality of these resources may be in disrepair.

In general, the Study Abroad Office cannot guarantee access to public transportation, buildings, or public sites on this program. Any student who anticipates needing any kind of special accommodation due to a disability should contact the ASU Study Abroad Office early in the planning process to investigate the availability of accommodations (including accessible facilities) on this specific program. Contact the Disability Resource Center and your Disability Access Consultant to include them in the discussion; be sure to give your Disability Access Consultant permission to speak with the Study Abroad Office on your behalf. You can find additional information and resources on our Students with Disabilities page.

LGBTQIA Students Abroad

Students of diverse sexual orientations or gender identities will find that the social climate, laws, and norms of other cultures will often differ from the U.S. If you identify as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or queer student - or if you are still exploring your identity - you may face unique challenges when traveling abroad. For example, in Costa Rica, LGBTQIA students may encounter discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as public attitudes are generally conservative.

We encourage students who identify as members of the LGBTQIA community to visit the U.S. Department of State website for helpful information about laws and attitudes in this program’s locations, including pre-travel tips and advice on staying safe while abroad. You can find additional information and resources on our LGBTQIA Students page.

Gender Identity Abroad

When traveling abroad, you may find different gender roles and norms than you’re used to. It’s possible that you may be treated differently or be expected to treat others differently based on your (or their) gender identity. For example, in Costa Rica, some women travelers may experience harassment in the form of cat calling and other forms of objectification by local men. Students are encouraged to travel in groups and in mixed company whenever possible.

You can find additional information and resources on our Gender Identity Abroad page.

Racial and Ethnic Minorities Abroad

Students of different ethnic and racial backgrounds may encounter unique challenges transitioning from life here in the United States to life as a student living abroad, including but not limited to access to personal care products and services.

You can prepare yourself for the situations you may experience by researching the ethnic composition of your host country and exploring its history of racial and ethnic relations. We encourage students to start that research on our Racial and Ethnic Minority Students page.


Cost Information

Partnership program participants will NOT pay ASU tuition for the courses completed abroad. Instead, participants will pay a Program Fee as a condition of participation. Partnership program participants are also responsible for paying a non-refundable $50 Application Fee, in addition to the published Program Fee. All other costs associated with participation in the program are the responsibility of the individual student.

Be sure to reference the Summer Cost Sheet for information on any additional estimated expenses.

The program may allow for time which can be spent in non-program activities. Participants may wish to travel, sightsee or participate in activities or events in which they have a personal interest. Please note that the participant is fully responsible for making arrangements and for all costs of transportation, lodging, food and additional expenses that may be associated with any non-Program activities.


Funding Your Study Abroad Program

Studying abroad is an investment in your future, which requires careful planning and management. However, the personal, academic, and professional rewards that you will gain from this experience will last a lifetime. You should carefully consider costs, budgets and financing when selecting and preparing for your experience abroad. If you have questions at any step of the process, we encourage you to reach out to your International Coordinator for guidance.

Steps to Financing Your Study Abroad Program

  1. Review the Considering Costs Table for a general overview and cost comparison of popular programs.
  2. Be sure to reference the Summer Cost Sheet to find a breakdown of program expenses.
  3. Attend a Financing Your Study Abroad Workshop.
  4. Consider your Financial Aid options.
  5. Search and Apply for Scholarships and Grants.
  6. Exhaust your options by exploring Additional Funding Resources including our Community-Based Funding Guide.
  7. View our  Financing Your Study Abroad Program Handbook for more information, including Payment Information.

Unique Funding Opportunities for This Program



Dates & Deadlines
Dates & Deadlines
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Summer 2020 03/01/2020 ** Rolling Admission 06/01/2020 08/05/2020
NOTE: Dates are subject to change. Do not purchase airfare until dates are confirmed by the Study Abroad Office and/or in any host institution acceptance materials.
There are two sessions offered:
Session 1: 6/1/20 - 7/1/20
Session 2: 7/6/20 - 8/5/20
Students may participate in either session or both sessions.

** Indicates rolling admission application process. Students will be immediately notified of acceptance into this program and be able to complete post-decision tasks prior to the term's application deadline.