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  • Locations: Alajuela, Costa Rica; San Jose, Costa Rica
  • Program Terms: Early Fall
  • Budget Sheets: Early Fall
Dates / Deadlines:

There are currently no active application cycles for this program.
Fact Sheet:
Fact Sheet:
Affiliated Department: Forest Resources Foreign Language Required: None
Primary Language(s) of Instruction: English UW Credits: 5
Estimated Program Fee: 5450 UW Program Director: John Marzluff, Patrick Tobin, Robert Tournay
UW Study Abroad Program Manager: Katherine R Kroeger UW Program Staff Email:,,
Program Information:

Location Alajuela, Costa Rica
Academic Term Early Fall
08/27/2019 - 09/19/2019
Estimated Program Fee $5,900
Credits 5
Prerequisites No prerequisites. Good sense of humor and the innate ability to adapt to sometimes challenging and unexpected situations. Spanish language is not required, and students will receive basic Spanish lessons.
Program Directors John Marzluff |
Robert Tournay
Program Manager Katherine Kroeger |
Priority Application Deadline February 15, 2019
Extended Deadline March 3, 2019
Information Sessions Seattle Campus - Winkenweder Room 103
Wednesday, January 30th, 3:30 - 4:30pm
Friday, February 1st, 1:30 - 2:30pm
Monday, February 4th, 4 - 5pm

Tacoma Campus - Learning and Resource Center
Thursday, January 31st, 10:30 - 12pm, SNO 153
Tuesday, February 5th, 10:30 - 12:30pm, SNO 153
Thursday, February 7th, 3 - 4pm, SNO 152
General Explore the wildlife and culture of Costa Rica with scientific experts and local guides. Visit eight tropical ecosystems along the Pacific coast, ranging from tropical lowland to cloud forests, engage in service learning and conservation activities, and discuss the implications of ecotourism on conservation and social justice.

Program Description

Come experience the breath-taking natural beauty and rich cultural history of Costa Rica. You will explore a range of tropical ecosystems: from the beaches of the Pacific Ocean, to the lush humid rainforests of the Osa Peninsula, and up into the mighty oak trees of the Savegre cloud forest at Cierra de la Muerte. Proud of their reputation for protecting and preserving their incredible biodiversity, our experienced Tico guides and naturalists will share their deep love for their country's natural heritage and show you places most visitors never get to venture. Feel what it's like to be a research scientist and conservationist working in the field. Go on night hikes to collect and protect endangered turtle eggs, screen videos of camera traps tracking the wild cats, search the forests for troops of monkeys, and help repair and restore damaged forests through restoration activities. Immerse yourself in the local culture in rural villages at Mastatal and the highland coffee region of Santa Elena. Staying with local families, you will gain first-hand knowledge of sustainable agriculture and coffee production, make (and taste) chocolate straight from the cacao trees, hike to waterfalls for an afternoon swim, and participate in service learning activities giving back to the communities. No Spanish? No hay un problema, beginning and advanced speakers alike can build their skills with daily interactions with locals. Explore the connection between modern society and the natural world through activities centered at the intersection of nature, commerce and tourism. Investigate the pros and cons of ecotourism as a tool in the conservation of nature, and the ways in which foreign visitors and corporations have influenced, for better or worse, the socioeconomic dynamics on the communities of Costa Rica. Deepen your own understanding of the effect of human activities in shaping nature through lessons in the identification and natural history of native flora and fauna, ecosystem structure and function, and sustaining the balance between the instrumental and intrinsic value of nature.




Alajuela, Costa Rica


This program is a highly mobile program and the accommodations vary by site. We will be staying at multiple locations for periods of 3-5 days. Generally it will be standard hotel accommodations (dbl, trple), with some dorm style accommodations. All students will have their own bed, but will be sharing rooms. 



Prerequisites and Language Requirements

No prerequisites. Good sense of humor and the innate ability to adapt to sometimes challenging and unexpected situations. Spanish language is not required, and students will receive basic Spanish lessons. Students participating in our trip should expect to participate in regular hiking excursions – although all hikes will be day hikes and do not involve overnight or camping in tents. During 3 or 4 days of the trip some of the hiking will be on primitive trails and of lengths that vary from 5-10km and involve walking along beaches and elevation gains of up to 1,000m. Program includes one long hike (~20 km) through the rainforest and along the beach. The hike is long but over relatively flat terrain, and we have a 100% completion rate by prior students.


5 UW Quarter Credits


ESRM489: Natural and Cultural History of Costa Rica (5 credits) Natural World Individuals and Societies

Through exploration, observation, and living with local Costa Ricans you will learn about the natural and cultural history of Costa Rica. Your instructors have expertise in the local setting, the flora and fauna, the language, and the human processes that have and continue to shape Costa Rica. You will learn to sketch, identify and study native birds, mammals, and plants. You will learn how to scientifically gauge occupational diversification with specific focus on the commerce and culture of recreation and tourism on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. You will build your ability to speak and understand Spanish. Your experiences will lead you to understand how human activities interact with the natural environment and how both can be sustained.

Learning goals include:
Our goals are to build 1) critical thought about the pros and cons of ecotourism, 2) writing competency through journaling and writing about natural experiences, 3) natural history by teaching students how to identify native flora and fauna, and 4) improved language capacity by instruction by a native speaker in conversational Spanish. These goals will be met my our objective of full immersion of students in how scientists assess the cultural and biological diversity of tropical forests. We will assess students by 1) daily discussions about the day's activities, speakers, readings, and observations, 2) onsite activities that include observing and mapping a waterbird colony, following a monkey social group, and observing locals – tourists- and broker interactions of markets, public places, and tourism destinations, 3) the completion of a written assignments summarizing course readings, and 4) the completion of a journal of personal reflections and experiences on the trip.









John Marzluff
Professor, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences

Marzluff has been a professor at the UW for 20 years and specializes in the behavior, ecology and conservation of birds. He has led 9 prior exploration seminars to Costa Rica.

Robert Tournay
PhD Candidate, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences

I am a Ph.D. student in the School of Environmental Sciences (SEFS) where I study the role of the plant microbiome in host-plant tolerance to environmental stresses. I first traveled to Costa Rica as an undergraduate student at UW Tacoma, and for the past six years I have had the opportunity to work with several university study abroad programs in Costa Rica

Patrick Tobin
Associate Professor




Program Expenses

Estimated Program Fee: $5,900

Included in the program fee:

  • $450 Study Abroad Fee
  • Instruction
  • Housing
  • Program activities and program travel
Not included in the program fee:
  • Airfare (average price subject to when and where your buy your ticket - $650)
  • Food (All meals provided (B/L/D) with the exception of two lunches. Budget $8-$12 for lunches.)
  • UW Student Abroad Insurance ($1.64/day)
  • Other health expenses/immunizations
  • Personal spending money

Payment Due Date: October 11, 2019

Program fees will be posted to your MyUW student account and can be paid the same way that you pay tuition and other fees. Check your MyUW Account periodically for due dates.

Financial Aid

  • A large percentage of UW students utilize financial aid to study abroad. Most types of financial aid can be applied to study abroad fees.
  • You can submit a revision request to increase the amount of aid for the quarter you are studying abroad. These additional funds are usually awarded in the form of loans. To apply, fill out a revision request form, attach the budget sheet (available via the link at the top of this brochure) and submit these documents to the Office of Student Financial Aid.  For more information about this process, consult the Financial Aid section of our website.
  • Consult the Financial Aid section of our website for more information on applying for financial aid, special considerations for summer and early fall programs, and budgeting and fundraising tips.


  • There are many scholarships designed to fund students studying abroad. The UW Study Abroad administers a study abroad scholarship program and there are national awards available as well.
  • Scholarships vary widely in their parameters. Some are need-based, some are location-based, and some are merit-based.
  • To be considered for a UW Study Abroad Scholarship fill out a short questionnaire on your UW Study Abroad program application.  You must apply by the priority application deadline for the program in order to be considered for a scholarship.  Click the Overview tab to view application deadlines.
  • Consult our Scholarships page to learn about UW-based and national scholarships. The Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships, and Awards can help you learn about additional opportunities.

Budgeting Tools

We understand that figuring out your finances for study abroad can be complicated and we are here to help. Below are some ways to find additional support.

  • Click on the Budget Sheets link at the top of this brochure to view the estimated budget of all expenses for this program.
  • Contact the Global Opportunities Adviser at to learn more about how to pay for study abroad.
  • Attend a Financial Planning Workshop offered by UW Study Abroad – more information is on the Events page of our website.
  • Visit the Finances section of our website.



Application Process

The study abroad application includes a personal statement, three short answer questions, one recommendation from a professor or TA, and electronic signature documents related to UW policies and expectations for study abroad. Following the online application process, you may be contacted by the program director for an in-person interview. Once an admission decision has been made regarding your application, you will be notified by the study abroad system via email.


To be eligible to study abroad, you must complete the mandatory pre-departure online orientation provided by UW Study Abroad. You must also attend program-specific orientations offered by the program director.

You will be able to access the online orientation through your study abroad application once you have been accepted to a program. Orientation must be completed prior to the enrollment deadline for the quarter that you are studying abroad.


UW Study Abroad is not responsible for obtaining visas for study abroad program participants. The cost and requirements for obtaining visas vary. It is your responsibility to determine visa requirements for all countries you plan to visit while abroad including countries that you plan to visit before or after your study abroad program. This is an especially important consideration if you are planning to do more than one study abroad program. You can research visa requirements by calling the consular offices of those countries or checking the following website:

Note: If you are not a U.S. citizen, consult the embassy or consulate of the countries you will visit to learn their document requirements. You can check the following website to find contact information for the consulate of the country you will be visiting:

For non-U.S. citizens, the procedures that you will need to follow may be different than those for U.S. citizens. It is important to initiate this process as soon as possible in order to assemble documents and allow time for lengthy procedures.

Disability Accommodations

The University of Washington is committed to providing access and reasonable accommodation in its services, programs, activities, and education for individuals with disabilities. To request disability accommodation for this program, contact Disability Resources for Students at least 8 weeks in advance of your departure date. Contact info at


$350 of the total program fee and the $450 UW Study Abroad Fee are non-refundable once you have submitted a contract. Students withdrawing from a program are responsible for paying a percentage of the program fee depending on the date of withdrawal. More details about the withdrawal policy will be included in your payment contract. No part of the program fee is refundable once the program has begun. The date of withdrawal is considered the business day a withdrawal application is received by UW Study Abroad. Notice of withdrawal from the program must be made in writing by completing the following steps:

  1. Provide notice in writing to the program director that you will no longer be participating in the program.
  2. Submit a withdrawal application to UW Study Abroad.

Visit the Withdrawals section of our website for more information.

Additional Info