Duke in Costa Rica



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This one-course program is based in Turrialba, Costa Rica, a scenic town located just 40 miles from the capital city, San José. Turrialba provides an ideal setting for gaining an understanding of key community health issues in Costa Rica while developing advanced Spanish language skills. On this program you’ll earn one Duke credit through an immersive signature course built around classroom and community interactions.

Program Fast Facts

Location: Turrialba, Costa Rica

Term: Summer I

Dates: May 21 to June 23, 2024 

Application Deadline: February 1st

Academic Theme(s): Spanish Language, Global Health

Credit Type: Duke Credit 

Eligibility: Open to all majors. Must have completed Spanish 204 or the equivalent (4 semesters of college-level Spanish). Non-Duke students are welcome to apply.

Duke Affiliation: Duke Department of Romance Studies

Housing: Homestay Families

Primary Contact: Bethzaida Fernandez

  • In Turrialba Central Park

  • Enjoying coffee tasting

  • Picking coffee, Aquiares, Turrialba

  • Visit to the National Shrine, Basilica de los Angeles, Cartago

  • Afternoon stroll in Turrialba Central Park

  • At the Aquiares coffee processing plant

  • Picking coffee experience, Aquiares, Turrialba


You’ll enroll in one course for one Duke course credit, focusing on Spanish language, Latin American culture, and the Costa Rican health system. The course may be used to count toward Spanish major or minor requirements. No pass/fail option or auditing is permitted.

Language, Culture, and Health in Costa Rica 

CCI, FL 1.0 Credit
Instructor: Prof. Bethzaida Fernandez

Prerequisite: Spanish 204 or equivalent (4th semester Spanish/Advanced Intermediate)

This course will develop advanced Spanish language skills and introduce you to key issues surrounding community health in Costa Rica. This immersion experience is built around classroom and community interactions. You will participate in class discussions, presentations, community interactions, and visits to local sites related to health, as well as talks by guest speakers. Additional cultural activities and field trips will deepen your knowledge of the community and cultural understanding. Assessment is based on language and content of written and oral projects.


In addition to visits to local clinics and hospitals, you will have an opportunity to participate in excursions and explorations.  Past activities have included trips to: 

  • Irazú Volcano 
  • La Paz waterfalls 
  • local indigenous communities 
  • immigrant communities 
  • national monuments and museums 
  • coffee farms 


You will stay with carefully selected local homestay families, which will help enrich your linguistic and cultural experience. Families will provide two meals per day (breakfast and dinner) and laundry options. The program site visits will include lunch on most occasions. Students should budget for approximately 11 lunches and 2 dinners on their own.


These costs are estimated based on previous years’ programs and the current exchange rate. All costs are subject to change.

Summer 2024

  Duke Students Non-Duke Students
Tuition $2,840 $2,840
Program Fee $5,800 $5,800
Transcript Fee N/A $120
Other Costs Other Costs Other Costs
TOTAL (Estimated) $10,815 $10,935

Explanation of Costs

Financial Aid

Duke students receiving institutional need-based grant aid are eligible for aid for this program; work-study funds are converted to grants. Students are individually responsible for making the necessary arrangements with the Karsh Office of Undergraduate Financial Support and the Duke Bursar’s Office.

Non-Duke students are not eligible to receive financial aid at Duke and should contact their home institutions for financial aid information.


This program offers the following scholarship opportunities:


Attendance is required at all classes, excursions, and group events. Given the intense nature of this program, late arrival and/or early departure is not permitted.

  • Arrival: May 21, 2024
  • Departure: June 23, 2024

Housing Before/After

You will need to make your own housing arrangements if you will be arriving before the program start date or leaving later than the program end date.



No visa is required of U.S. citizens to participate in this program. However, you must have proof of a return ticket in order to enter Costa Rica. Non U.S. citizens should check visa requirements for their specific citizenship by contacting the Costa Rican embassy to find out if any visa requirements or restrictions are in effect.


All participants must have a valid passport. Make sure your passport has at least six months of validity beyond the program end date to avoid unintended disruptions. For instructions on obtaining or renewing your U.S. passport, visit passports.state.gov.


The Duke in Costa Rica program director can assist with questions related to program academics, admissions, on-site needs, etc. For all other inquiries, please contact the Global Education Office.

Bethzaida Fernandez

Senior Lecturer in the Department of Romance Studies

Melissa Jurist

GEO Program Coordinator / Advisor


Deadline: February 1st

This program has rolling admission. Applications will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis until the program fills; after that, qualified students are added to a waitlist and notified of openings. Applications must be received by the deadline to be considered. Application opens November 1.

Eligibility: Open to all majors. Must have completed Spanish 204 or the equivalent (4 semesters of college-level Spanish).

Physical Demands: The program includes several field trips and activities that will involve walking and hiking. None are exceptionally strenuous, but if you have concerns or questions about such activities, feel free to contact the program director.

Priority: Priority is given to applicants who apply early and meet the language prerequisite.

Minimum GPA: There is no minimum GPA.

Non-Duke students: This program is open to all majors and applicants from accredited colleges and universities. You must be a degree-seeking student in good standing at an accredited college or university. Consult your university’s registrar and/or study away advisor for assistance with transfer credit. Students who are not matriculated at a college or university are not eligible to participate in Duke’s study away programs.


Please start your application early to ensure that it is complete by the deadline! Incomplete applications will not be forwarded to the program directors for consideration.

To apply to this program, please submit the following items using MyExperientialEd

  1. Online application
  2. Transcript(s) from all colleges and universities attended. First-year students should wait for fall semester grades to be posted before submitting their transcript.
  3. GEO Language Questionnaire
  4. Personal statement (preferably in Spanish), one-two pages double spaced, including the following:
    • Describe your experience learning Spanish to date, and if you're currently taking Spanish at Duke. If you have not taken a Spanish class at Duke, detail how many years you have studied Spanish, where, and the type of work you did during those studies (for example, types of reading and writing assignments).
    • Describe your experiences traveling abroad, your interest in health related topics, and your interest in Latin American culture and society. Explain why you are interested in Costa Rica specifically, how this experience can enhance your academic and career goals, and how it can benefit you on the whole.
  5. One language recommendation, preferably from a Duke Spanish language instructor.*

Choose one of the following options to learn more about the program:

  • Attend an Info Session. More details forthcoming. 
  • Email Program Director Prof. Bethzaida Fernandez to schedule a brief conversation with her, to take place before February 1.

*If you have not taken a Spanish course at Duke, please request a letter of recommendation from a non-language professor, then email the Program Director to set up an interview to assess your language level. Recommendation letters from high school teachers will not be accepted.


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