Study Abroad in San José, Costa Rica

Study Abroad in San José: Courses

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Spanish Language Courses (Required)

All students take Spanish language. Recommended credits are shown in parentheses. Students on the 16-week program take two Spanish courses and after being tested at the end of their first Spanish course may move up to the next level for their second Spanish course. Please note some specialized courses are not available every month. Please see the individual course descriptions for details and also check with your Admissions Officer.

Spanish Language Courses (Required)

Spanish 101 (5)/Spanish 102 (5) | Elementary Spanish I/Elementary Spanish II

Students with no previous Spanish study or with only one semester in college usually place at these levels. Focus is on functional uses of the language as well as grammar, lexicon and cultural themes. Included are introductions, giving and receiving information, writing letters, indicative, past perfect and preterit tenses, expressing like and dislikes and imperative forms of “tú” and “usted”.

Spanish 201 (5)/Spanish 202 (5) | Intermediate Spanish I/Intermediate Spanish II

Students who have studied Spanish throughout high school and continued with one semester in college, or students who have two to four semesters of college Spanish, usually place into these levels. Focus is on overall communicative skills: perfect tenses, preterit versus imperfect, telling stories, the future and the conditional, the imperative uses of the subjunctive mood, and transmission of messages (verb tenses).

Spanish 301 (5)/Spanish 302 (5) | Advanced Spanish I/Advanced Spanish II

Students with at least six semesters of college Spanish, experience living in a Spanish-speaking country or Spanish study on a regular basis since elementary school usually place at these levels. Grammar work refines and develops communicative skills: the impersonal “se”, adjectives, nouns and verbs, indicative and subjunctive tenses, spelling and accents, arguments/debates, expressing degrees of possibilities, cause, consequence and mode of action, formal and informal letters.

Spanish 310 Advanced Spanish Conversation (5) | Prerequisite SPN 301

This course is based on acquiring the skill of self-correction. Students will acquire higher levels of diction and fluency through the exposure to oral contexts, idiomatic language and the varieties of Spanish spoken in different Spanish-speaking nations. This course develops skills in reading, discussion, analysis, self-correction and research. Emphasis is given to pragmatic production and students must be prepared to spend a minimum of 2 extra hours per day for assignments

Spanish 340 Oral Expression Techniques (5) | Prerequisite SPN 301

This course focuses on advanced communication and presentation skills. Students will work on communication techniques and efficient oral expression in formal contexts.

Spanish 304 Spanish for Business (5) | Prerequisite SPN 301

This course is for students with an Advanced level of Spanish who wish to learn general information about the development and processes of some of Costa Rica’s main entrepreneurial settings. By the end of the course, students will have a general knowledge of business vocabulary and usual business practices in Costa Rica. The course contents are complemented with a couple of field visits to some of Costa Rica’s developing businesses.

Spanish 320 Cultural Heritage in Latin America (5) | Prerequisite SPN 301

This course introduces relevant topics and issues in the development of Latin America’s cultural heritage. Students will develop an understanding of intellectual, artistic, social and historical perspectives in Latin America with emphasis on Costa Rica.

Spanish 410 Advanced Composition (5) | Prerequisite SPN 302

This course is for high Advanced level students who want to further develop their written skills through different composition practices and techniques. The course studies complex and difficult syntax topics. Special attention is given to stylistics and composition structure.

Specialized Spanish for Health Professionals

A Spanish for health professionals course from Basic to Advanced levels is available for students wishing to specialize in this area. Students who wish to take other courses in addition to a specialized Spanish course for health professionals must choose History 323, Physical Therapy 102 or Psychology 220 which are health-related courses and do not usually conflict with the language courses listed below.

Specialized Spanish for Health Professionals

Spanish 141 (5) | Español Básico para Profesionales de Salud (Basic Spanish for Health Professionals)

This course is designed for the purpose of giving health personnel, who do not have any previous Spanish experience, the tools necessary for interacting with and interviewing Spanish speaking patients. Students will acquire the linguistic knowledge and skills that will permit them to communicate at a basic level with Spanish speaking patients.

Spanish 241 (5) | Español Intermedio para Profesionales de Salud (Intermediate Spanish for Health Professionals)

This course is designed for health personnel that have taken a minimum of 100 elective hours of Spanish as a second language. The goal of this course is to deepen the knowledge of medical related Spanish and increase the competency of communications in specific situations with Spanish speaking patients.

Spanish 341 (5) | Español Avanzado para Profesionales de Salud (Advanced Spanish for Health Professionals)

This course is designed for health personnel that have an advanced background in Spanish and who need to improve their linguistic competency in order to interact with their Spanish speaking patients and their families. The goal at the end of this course is to be able to communicate in an effective and fluent form with Spanish speaking patients and families.


A Spanish for law enforcement professionals course from basic to intermediate levels is available for students wishing to specialize in this area.


Spanish 151 (5) | Basic Spanish for Law Enforcement Professionals

This course is designed for the purpose of giving general law enforcement professionals, who do not have any previous Spanish experience; the tools necessary for interacting with and interviewing simulated native Spanish speakers. During the four weeks of the course the students will acquire the linguistic knowledge and skills that will permit them to communicate at a basic level in simulated situations with Spanish native speakers.

Spanish 251 (5) | Intermediate Spanish for Law Enforcement Professionals

This course is designed for law enforcement professionals that have taken a minimum of 100 elective hours of Spanish as a second language. The goal of this course is to deepen the knowledge of law related Spanish and increase the competency of communication in specifically simulated situations with native Spanish speakers. Students from law enforcement areas can also enroll in afternoon electives.


Students on this program can choose up to two 3-credit electives plus one 4-credit elective. Students may also substitute one 4-credit humanities elective for an environmental sciences elective. Students wishing to take electives taught in Spanish must pass a placement test for the high Intermediate or Advanced level. U.S. course numbers are listed first followed by the Veritas course numbers. Credits are listed in parentheses.

Courses Taught in English

Architecture 311/ARCH 3112 (3) | History of Latin American Architecture and Art

A chronological overview of main inventions and influences that contributed to the making of past and present architecture in Latin America analyzing the artistic manifestations.

Art 130/ART 1301 (3) | Basic Principles of Drawing

This studio art course introduces basic principles of drawing. The course includes model drawings, landscape drawings and experimental (abstract) drawings. The focus of this course is on the development of expression and observational drawing from still life, a model and landscapes

Art 210/ART 2100 (3) | Art Fundamentals: Theory and Practice

This course is designed for beginners. You will find personal meaning in works of art and develop a better understanding of the nature and validity of art (line, shape, volume, light, space, time, motion, color, and texture). Students learn about the essentials of art through experience and experimentation. Emphasis is on the diversity of form and content in artwork. Upon completion, students should understand the basics of art materials used and have a basic overview of the history of art and how art represents its society, especially, Latin American culture.

Art 213/ART 2130 (4) | Mural Painting and Public Art

This studio art course introduces theoretical and practical aspects of large-scale painting, murals and public art. The course includes an actual practicum in large-scale media and experimentation of early and contemporary techniques including drawing, fresco, painting, aerosol and various industrial materials. The objective of this course is for students to develop understanding about some of the social roles of art and the impact of murals in communities, based upon its historical and contemporary applications.

Business 312/GEB 3120 (3) | Innovation and Entrepreneurship

This course seeks to understand the impact of innovation and entrepreneurship on global and local economies as well as patterns of innovation and their impact on cultures and business environments. The content will also include discussions and investigations about important elements of entrepreneurship such as stages of a business, sources of funding, exit strategies and key skills for entrepreneurs.

Business 335/GEB 3350 (3) | Introduction to International Business

An overview of the cultural environment of international business, and institutions which affect business today. The Latin American perspective with regard to the U.S., Asia and Europe is examined: NAFTA, Mercosur, the EC and other common market areas and agreements.

Business 350/GEB 3500 (4) | Ecotourism: The Costa Rica Case

The course addresses the economic importance of ecotourism for the Costa Rican national economy, the stimulation of grassroots, community ecotourism projects, and the role of ecotourism in securing environmental protection. The advances and limitations of ecotourism will also be explored.

Communications 307/COMM 3070 (4) | Creative Conflict Resolution

A multicultural, gender sensitive course is designed for students who wish to learn strategies and techniques in thought and behavior transformations for conflict resolution. The course focuses on techniques to bring about positive focused changes through continuous experiences in community building and self-improvement. The course is based on the Alternatives to Violence Project; a program started in NY State in the seventies. Fundacion CEPPA, Center for Peace Studies, has implemented this program in Costa Rica, Switzerland and other Latin American countries since 1990. Using a participatory and interactive methodology, emphasis is made on the following themes: self-esteem and self-care, communication skills, cooperation, community building and conflict resolution, including mediation, bias awareness and cultural diversity. Mandatory fieldwork sessions will be conducted at a school, a communal group or a penal institution.

Economics 340/ECON 3403 (3) | International Economics in Latin America

Examines Latin American policies affecting the international economy, with attention to trade barriers, economic nationalism and regionalism, international political economy, exchange market intervention and international transmission of economic perturbations.

Health 105/HHD 1050 (4) | Alternative Health Approaches

This course will introduce basic concepts of alternative medicine and will also explore and evaluate alternative approaches and philosophies to personal health and wellness. Some of the topics included are: Homeopathy, TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) Acupuncture, Herbal and Nutritional Therapies, Massage, Chiropractic Therapy, Electromagnetic Therapy, Breathing Exercise and others.

History 230/HIS 2302 (3) | Contemporary Latin American History

This course is a survey of the main events in Latin American History after its independence. Topics include the historical causes and effects of the independence, some of the main issues on social, economic and political problems and the main historical leaders in modern Latin America.

History 323/HIS 3293 (4) | Costa Rican Health Care System and Tropical Medicine

The unique health care system in Costa Rica has achieved excellent health indicators. This course focuses on the history and development of the public health care system within the context of the Costa Rican sociopolitical and economic situation. Strong emphasis on the mechanics of the system, its strengths and weaknesses. A third objective, of fundamental importance in order to understand this system, is the study of Costa Rica as a tropical country. Students will learn about the prevention and transmission of relevant tropical diseases.

History 329/HIS 3290 (3) | Costa Rican Economic Development

This course introduces the outstanding socio-economic and political features that have shaped and defined the history and developmental path of Costa Rica.

Management 303/MGMT 3030 (3) | Creative Leadership Skills

Provides the opportunity to learn about and practice the skills required for managerial excellence. These skills include leadership, negotiation, conducting performance appraisals, delegation, effective communication, interviewing and making hiring decisions and effective human resource management.

Marketing 301/MKTG 3010 (3) | International Marketing Management

This course is designed to give the student an understanding of international marketing in terms of both challenges and opportunities. The course assumes that students are familiar with basic marketing terms and have a basic to mid understanding of marketing concepts. The course will examine the concepts related to international marketing, while students analyze case studies and propose ideas through assignments to attain the objectives of the course.

Photography 213/PHOT 2130 (3) | Cultural Photography

The course offers the acquisition of basic photographic skills as a means of cultural exploration. Through practice exercises and field trips aiming to apply the information provided through lectures, students will consciously explore Costa Rican culture through the creation of photographic images and essays. Students will be able to consciously create photographs that document aspects of Costa Rican culture through portraiture and landscapes.

May require a course supplement of approximately $130.

Photography 260/PHOT 2600 (3) | Digital Photography

The course offers the acquisition of technical knowledge and skills in the capture and manipulation of digital photographic images. Students will apply the information provided in the lectures consciously through the creation and manipulation of digital photographic images. Students must have a digital print and shoot or SLR camera and a basic knowledge of Mac and Windows Operating Systems.

May require a course supplement of approximately $130.

Physical Therapy 102/HHD 1020 (4) | Physical Therapy

Introduction of the basic concepts of human anatomy, an overview of the most common injuries and illnesses that require physical therapy, and different tools and methods used in treatment. The course consists of lectures on theoretical concepts, and also laboratory practice, offering students a hands-on experience of the different techniques given during lectures. At the end of the course, students will have general knowledge of various areas of expertise, and of techniques such as massage therapy, electrotherapy, and therapeutic exercises.

Politics 250/POL 2500 (3) | Human Rights in Latin America

A particular emphasis will be given to the case of Costa Rica, giving the students an opportunity to explore the development of human rights in the following areas: women’s rights, children’s rights, HIV/AIDS, the CAFTA agreement and labor rights, indigenous groups and human rights, disability and age issues, and the prison environment.

Politics 310/POL 3100 (3) | Costa Rican Tradition: Peace and Democracy

The general objective of this course is to discuss with students the social, economic and political issues of the process of construction of peace and democracy in Costa Rica and Central America (1948-2005).

Politics 322/POL 3220 (3) | Migration, Globalization and Social Change

The course introduces participants to theories and practices of international human migrations as a phenomena that has been present throughout history, but that has taken on special emphasis in today’s world, with human ramifications, and strong effects being produced on societies on both ends of the problem: nations from which peoples are leaving and those that are targeted by the migrants. The phenomena is reviewed on several of its most prominent manifestations: forced migrations, voluntary migrations or internal displacements of groupings of people, and the motivational underpinnings that provoke them to embark on such drastic actions as the uprooting of home and families in pursuit of perceived better life opportunities. Migration is perceived by peoples in despair as an alternative to social, political and/or economic conditions that weigh heavily on them, even when factoring in risks of security and adaptation to cultures unknown. Within these, will be analyzed issues of return migrations, effects of remittances, formation of diaspora communities and the myriad of problems brought about by cultural adaptations and assimilation. The course will cover the theoretical foundations for analysis and understanding of emerging issues brought about by intense migration movements across the globe, and the consequent effects that these have on the host societies, the incoming groups and societies left behind by migratory groups. Participants will take part in the analysis of new identities and cultural manifestations that emerge from these occurrences, and the some of the main problems of misunderstandings and adaptations that are necessary in order to reach accommodations that allow for the valuable and peaceful coexistence that eventually leads to an enrichment of the life experience of all groups of peoples involved.

Politics 345/POL 3450 (3) | International Relations in Latin America

Analysis of the aspects of the economic integration, globalization and conditions for a successful integration between economies and the effects of free trade in the region as well as the effects of protectionism. There will be a special treatment of foreign investments and joint ventures in Latin America.

Psychology 220/PSY 2200 (3)) | Health Psychology

The World Health Organization defines health as being “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Based on this definition, the concepts of health and illness have changed. Nowadays, health care professionals have to tackle the health from a bio-psychosocial concept. For this reason, it is extremely important for health care professionals (doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, to name but a few) to have general information about Health Psychology, which studies how biology, behavior, and social context influence health and illness. In this way, health care professionals can have an integral approach to the patients under their treatment. This course addresses some of the most common topics pertinent to practice in the health care professions. Prerequisite: students must have taken other health sciences courses.

Psychology 305/PSY 3050 (3) | Cultural Psychology

This course introduces students to the field of psychology that examines the influence of culture upon human behavior and cognitive processes. “Culture” is defined as the shared norms, values, and behaviors of groups and of the individuals in those groups. We will focus on such topics as cultural factors in self-concept, gender roles, motivation, cognition, emotions, relationships, and social values. Our exploration will be based on psychological theories, research, guest lecturers, and field experiences.

Social Science 307/HHD 3070 (4) | Conflict Resolution and Health Care

Health service delivery today encounters frequent conflicts, disputes, and other difficult situations, many of them derived from larger changes occurring in the health systems of the world. These conflicts include differences due to multiculturalism; the appropriateness and quality of care; gender issues; power disputes and providers and recipients over institutional and funding policies. Violence, its effects and costs will be part of this course, particularly under the WHO definition and perspectives. Costa Rican health care systems will be part of the course. This interactive, hands-on course offers a framework to integrate professional experience with functional communication and mediation skills. Students are encouraged to explore and develop their leadership into progress on matters of public health importance. Mandatory fieldwork sessions will be conducted at a medical facility, community or school.

Sociology 305/ SOCY3050 (3) | LGBTQ+ Latin America

This course will study the LGBTQ+ community and related social issues in the Latin American Context. Special attention will be given to the Costa Rican case study where sexuality, identity, expression, health, community, family, and other social, political and lifestyle issues will be discussed. This course offers students one of the only opportunities to study LGBTQ+ Latin American dynamics and issues. It is one of the first of its kind in the region and a pioneering offer for study abroad students in the Costa Rican setting. This is a young, but growing field of study in Latin America and defiantly one that deserves much attention, especially as the Latin American region is home to some of the most homophobic countries in the world and at the same time undergoing radical change in terms of its acceptance of the complete spectrum of sexuality and identity expression. This course has three main objectives: 1) students will be invited to explore LGBTQ+ Latin American community issues, 2) to appreciate how particular countries are advancing in relation to equality before the law while studying the social groups pushing for change, and 3) to critically assess present day contexts that are struggling with recently developed anti-discriminatory frameworks.

Courses taught in Spanish

Linguistics 102/SPN 1002 (3) | Comunicacion Oral Básica (Basic Oral Communication)

This course is designed for students of Spanish as a second language who have a basic understanding of the various linguistic aspects of the language. Throughout the course you will develop your oral communicative competence therefore enabling you to communicate effectively and efficiently in daily situations.

Literature 300/SPN 3000 (3) | Introduccion al Análisis Literario (Introduction to Literary Analysis)

This course introduces students to the study of literature in Spanish and presents the basic tools to create a commentary or literary analysis. Students will acquire the terminology and critical methods that will enable them to explain texts in an informative way.

Literature 302/SPN 3020 (3) | Lecturas Selectas de la Literatura Latinoamericana (Select Readings: Latin American Literature)

This survey course provides a panorama of outstanding classical and contemporary works, authors, genres or major literary currents in Latin America. Taught in Spanish.

Literature 411/SPN 4110 (3) | Escritoras Contemporaneas Costarricenses (Contemporary Costa Rican Female Writers)

This course focuses primarily on the work of female authors in Costa Rican literature. Themes of different texts and their relationship with national identity are analyzed. Taught in Spanish.

Literature 439/SPN 4390 (3) | El Cine y la Literatura Latinoamericana (Latin American Cinema and Literature)

This course is a study of some of the film productions based on the literary texts of well-known Latin American writers. The course is based on the analysis and discussion of the principal characteristics of the culture, values and themes of the Latin America presented in this particular literature and cinematography.


Students on this program may choose up to two 4-credit Environmental Sciences courses plus a 3-credit course from the Humanities Program electives. You can also substitute one environmental sciences course for a 4-credit course from the Humanities Program electives. All courses are taught in English. AIFS course codes are listed first followed by the institution course codes. Credits are listed in parentheses.


Environmental Sciences 304/ENV 3044 (4) | Tropical Ecology

Students learn about the interactions between earth and land and how these interactions or processes affect our life and the stability of the planet. Emphasis is given to the study of the most relevant tropical ecosystems such as: tropical rainforest, cloud forests, coral reefs and mangroves. Field trips to selected environments will provide on-site examples of some of the issues learned through class work and readings. All field trips are mandatory.

Environmental Sciences 305/ENV 3005 (4) | Environmental Impact and Social Development

The study of major environmental problems and issues confronting modern society. Students examine ecosystems, population patterns and dynamics; use and misuse of resources; population and environmental quality; environmental citizenship and economic incentives and Costa Rican initiatives in ecotourism.

Environmental Sciences 312/ENV 3120 (4) | Land Vertebrates of Costa Rica

This course is an introduction to the zoology of terrestrial vertebrates in Costa Rica. Students will gain insight about various biological characteristics of the groups of land chordates in the country. Costa Rica has an immensely rich animal biodiversity, with an influence of both North American and South American fauna and is a world-renowned hot spot for animal research and conservation. Emphasis will be given to the study of Costa Rican species, but others will be discussed as well.

Environmental Sciences 315/ENV 3150 (4) | Tropical Botany

This lecture/field course will provide students with a general overview of tropical plants. Students will gain insight about basic botanical concepts and be able to explore a variety of ecosystems, their plants and the multiple and complex ecological interactions that can be found in these areas. Costa Rica is a tropical country with an immensely rich biodiversity and for this reason a very representative area to these studies. Emphasis will be given to the most common plant families in Costa Rica, but others will be discussed as well.

Environmental Science 317/ ENV3170 (4) | Freshwater Ecology

Water is a vital resource for human beings. It is also a limited one, which has suffered degradation, while demand is ever growing. Freshwater ecology, otherwise known as limnology, helps us to understand the physical, chemical and biological properties of inland aquatic environments (wetlands, lakes, rivers, mangroves and reservoirs). This course emphasizes the problems and conservation efforts related to water resources. Through field trips and laboratory work, students will learn methods for monitoring aquatic environments.

Environmental Sciences 319/ENV 3190 (4) | Tropical Marine Biology

The course studies the balance between ecosystems and human stress and demands on the constantly changing marine environment. All field trips are mandatory.

Environmental Science 374/ENV3740 (4) | Climate Change Impacts and Adaptations


Environmental Sciences 403/ENV 4030 (4) | Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems

This course will examine agricultural and food systems from an ecological systems perspective. After establishing a foundation of basic ecological concepts (relationships and interactions between abiotic/non-living and biotic/living components of an ecosystem), different applications of these concepts to agricultural systems will be investigated. Consumption and production issues related to food system sustainability will be analyzed, and students will explore their own role in the food system. Field trips will provide opportunities for direct observation of (and interaction with) different approaches to food production and distribution in Costa Rica.

Environmental Sciences 404/ENV 4040 (4) | Environmental Awareness and Sustainable Development

An overview of the actual world problems in natural resources management and conservation, and its effects on sustainable development efforts in tropical countries. Current issues that condition the possibility for development such as poverty, global warming, deforestation and potable water will be analyzed.

Sustainable Development 310/SUSD3100 (4) | Gender and Sustainable Development

This course will study the intersection between gender, social-economic discrimination and the shift toward sustainable development. The following themes are among many that will be addressed throughout the course: Women and natural resources use, women and the forests, women’s role in conservation, women and land use and agriculture, rural women, women and the built environment, women and environmental policy, women in relation to poverty, risk, mitigation, adaption for climate change, female civil society and political actors pushing for change, women in the environment and sustainable innovations. The aforementioned issues will be explored in the context of the Latin America and Caribbean case study with special emphasis on the Costa Rican context where possible. Students will be encouraged to compare the region with their home land experiences and situation and be strongly encouraged to critically assess the advances, challenges, and propose solutions. The issue of gender will be throughly introduced, gender dynamics profiled, and gender policy contemplated. There will be a special emphasis on the situation of Latin American and Caribbean women, the environment and sustainable development, however this course aims to be inclusive, and recognizes that there are many gender identities and that gender issues touch everybody’s lives.

Internship and Spanish Program

Intern placements are for 30 - 40 hours per week and last for two or three months depending on the placement host and the number of credit hours you wish to earn. Each semester credit offered for the internship requires at least 45 hours of work within the placement. Students applying for the Internship Program must have a GPA of 2.6, at least 2 years of college level Spanish or equivalent (except for Molecular Biology and Conservation internships which require one semester of college level Spanish) and be 20 years of age by the start of the internship. You should also have at least 2 years of study in the area requested for placement. For further details about the Internship Program application process please speak to the AIFS Admissions Officer.

Veritas University Courses (taught in Spanish)

Students on the 16-week program can take a combination of elective courses listed in this catalog and (depending on their level of Spanish) regular Veritas University courses taught in Spanish alongside Costa Rican students for a fully-immersive experience. You must have a minimum of 2 years college-level Spanish and test into the high Intermediate or Advanced level of Spanish in order to take regular University courses.

Many courses are offered every semester by the following University departments:

  • Architecture
  • Digital Animation
  • Film and T.V.
  • Advertising Design
  • Interior Design
  • Product Design
  • Photography
  • Fashion Design

All courses are subject to change at the discretion of Veritas University.