Social Sciences

Costa Rica Study Abroad

Study tree growth in a restoration project. Boat with fishermen committed to sustainable fishing practices. Tour the Cloud Rainforest with local guides. Learn Spanish. Focus on sustainable community development, conservation, protected areas, and renewable energy.

  • Host: Monteverde Institute
  • Program Dates: May 9 - June 18, 2020 (Track A)
  • Application Deadline: March 2, 2020
  • Earn 6-12 credits, including 6 in HASS

This six-week, faculty-led, study abroad program offers students the chance to learn about global sustainability practices as they are situated in the practical context of a rural community in the mountains of Costa Rica. Students will be immersed in Costa Rican culture and language, spending approximately five weeks in a homestay program with trusted local families. Learning will be balanced between classroom experiences, homework, and interactive field work.


Students register for seven to nine summer session credits (Track A) through Michigan Technological University and pay the associated tuition costs. Students are required to take 1-3 credits of SS 3990 Costa Rica Cultural Immersion, and 3 credits of SS 3315 Population and Environment and/or 3 credits of SS 4700 Communities and Research. All courses are on HASS lists. 

SS 3315 Population and Environment

M-R 1.5 hours/day, plus field trips.

Understand key environmental challenges facing our world, how human population dynamics impact (and are impacted by) environmental conditions, and how social organization and human development influence socio-ecological wellbeing. Core focus areas will be on protected areas and relationships between population, conservation, development, and protected areas around the world and especially in Central America and Costa Rica. 

Course Description

SS 3315 - Population and Environment

This course investigates relationships between the world's population, population change, population distribution, resource consumption, and environmental and social consequences. Addresses local and global relationships and the population processes (mortality, fertility, and migration) involved.

  • Credits: 3.0
  • Lec-Rec-Lab: (3-0-0)
  • Semesters Offered: Fall, Summer - Offered alternate years beginning with the 2019-2020 academic year
  • Restrictions: May not be enrolled in one of the following Class(es): Freshman
  • Pre-Requisite(s): (MA 1030 and MA 1031) or MA 1032 and UN 1015 and (UN 1025 or Modern Language - 3000 level or higher)

SS 4700 Communities and Research

M-R 1.5 hours/day, plus field trips.

Delve into sustainable rural community development. Course covers community development concepts, with an extra focus climate and energy policy and practices in Costa Rica in relation to other countries. Students also participate in a local community-based research project related to energy sustainability in partnership with a Monteverde community organization. Students work in a collaborative team with community members to understand an issue raised by the local community. They present results publicly at the end of the term. 

Course Description

SS 4700 - Communities and Research

A rural sociology course analyzing the sustainability of rural communities (socially, environmentally, economically, and culturally). The course involves participatory research conducted together with a local community organization. Students practice research skills while making a difference in improving community life.

  • Credits: 3.0
  • Lec-Rec-Lab: (0-3-0)
  • Semesters Offered: Fall
  • Restrictions: May not be enrolled in one of the following Class(es): Freshman, Sophomore
  • Pre-Requisite(s): UN 1015 and (UN 1025 or Modern Language - 3000 level or higher)

SS 3990 Costa Rica Cultural Immersion

The Monteverde Institute will provide Spanish language instruction, facilities, and local program coordination.

Students must register for at least one credit and can register for up to three credits. Credits earned by participating in daily life with host family for five weeks, plus 17 hours of classroom instruction in Spanish language, and participation in Costa Rican cultural activities, including cooking and dance. All levels of Spanish speakers from complete beginners with no prior Spanish to advanced Spanish speakers are welcome. Placement tests at the start of the program will determine student's study level. Students who elect to take the placement test in Spanish language upon returning to Michigan Tech, can earn back credits for courses they test out of (a good way to earn extra credits for your buck!). Earning back credits requires enrolling in an additional Spanish course at Michigan Tech upon return and earning grade of B or better.

SS 3990 - Topics in the Social Sciences

Examines an important theme or topic in the social sciences, such as social theory, work and society, or the engineer in American society. May be repeated if topic differs.

  • Credits: variable to 3.0; Repeatable to a Max of 9
  • Semesters Offered: On Demand
  • Restrictions: May not be enrolled in one of the following Class(es): Freshman
  • Pre-Requisite(s): UN 1015 and (UN 1025 or Modern Language - 3000 level or higher)


Monday through Thursday will include courses with field trips and excursions on Friday or some weekends.

Monday - Thursday
Time Activity
9 a.m. - 12 p.m.* Spanish Class
12 p.m. - 1 p.m. Lunch
1 p.m. - 2 p.m. SS 3315 Population and Environment
2:30 p.m. - 3 p.m. Break
3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. SS4700 Communities and Research

 *One hour for each student but timing varies by level. Beginners meet 9-10; Intermediate 10-11; Advanced 11-12.


Students will register for credits with MTU as normal. In addition, there will be a lab fee associated with SS 3990. This fee (TBD) will cover room and board (all food and lodging), travel expenses within country, field trip costs, and program administration. Students are responsible for making their own flight arrangements and purchasing roundtrip airfare to Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaria (SJO) in San Jose, Costa Rica. The program will recommend a flight that students take, with round trip costs from Chicago ORD to SJO of approximately $500. Students will also be required to purchase travel insurance.

Study Abroad Information

Have questions about studying aboard? International Program and Services (IPS) can help you with your pre-departure. Here are some other resources that will help you with your visit:

Monteverde Institute Expectations

While visiting with our host institute please review the MVI Student Handbook and Student Code of Conduct (page 23 of the handbook) to know what to expect and what is expected of you during your visit.