High School in Costa Rica

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  • Overview

    Studying abroad in Costa Rica gives you the chance to immerse yourself in a culture where “pura vida” is not just a saying, it is an appreciation of the natural beauty and friendliness of its people. This is your chance to have the adventure of a lifetime while learning Spanish and about the Costa Rican way of life.

    Program at a Glance:

    • Host family accommodation provides full language & culture immersion
    • Guaranteed host sibling your age
    • 1-2 months or Trimester length
    • A straightforward online application process
    • Available in the spring, summer or fall
    • No previous language experience required — beginners welcome!

    Our alumna Leah Miller shares her reflections on her Costa Rica program:

    “My exchange made me more sure about what I want to do in life because of the cultural and historical influences I experienced. No matter how much I love my high school, now I will always want to get on a plane and travel to explore other cultures. Thanks to this experience, I also know that I can do it! And it made me prepared to work hard for the things that I really want. I may not be the most normal person, but this experience taught me that travel is where I belong. It made me confident that that’s what I need to be doing with my life.” – Leah Miller, 2017 Greenheart Travel high school abroad alum

     

  • Costs and Inclusions

    Summer Program: $5,730 (1 Month) and $6,980 (2 months)

    Academic Trimester: $8,330

    Packaged into the Price:

    • Roundtrip international airfare from Miami to San Jose, Costa Rica
    • Airport pickup upon arrival
    • Host family accommodation and 3 meals per day
    • Comprehensive medical/accident insurance
    • Arrival Orientation in San Jose
    • Certificate of Completion upon successful completion of the program for use on college applications.
    • Access to Greenheart Travel Facebook groups to connect with alumni and others on your start date ahead of your program.
    • Greenheart Atlas Program 
    • Greenheart Travel T-shirt & Reusable “No Plastic Please” Canvas Tote Bag

    Our Support and Services: 

    • Visa Assistance in applying for the visa ahead of arrival, including visa paperwork and extensive directions and support.
    • Extensive pre-departure advice and support from Allison and Jess, your US-based program coordinators! They will be with you from your first inquiry, all the way through preparing to leave and your arrival in Costa Rica.
    • Support and counseling services from in-country staff upon arrival to Costa Rica.
    • Online pre-departure cultural and logistical orientation before you leave
    • 24-hour in-country and emergency support for the duration of the program, including 24-hour emergency phone numbers to reach a program manager at any time.
    • Opportunity to apply for a Greenheart Grant to give back to your community at home or abroad

    Payment Details

    • $1,000 Application Deposit due by the program deadline to formally apply
    • $5,000 Commitment Deposit due after acceptance
    • Remaining balance is due on June 1st for fall departures and November 1st for spring departures.

    Worried about the program fee?

    Our goal is to help make travel accessible to everyone and we are here to help when you are deciding if this experience is financially do-able. Each year we offer scholarships for high school study abroad students! We also have a guide to fundraising your program fee, and many high school students fundraise in their hometown ahead of their program.

    We also offer discounts for applying early (plus there are many other benefits to applying early!) for each start date and for US families that have hosted an exchange student with Greenheart Exchange.

    Please inquire here if you have questions about the program fee, scholarships, or fundraising for your program.

  • Program Dates

    Dates subject to change. Can’t go for a full trimester? Check out our 2-4 week summer language camp options in Costa Rica or Spain! 

    Spring 2020

    Final Deadline to Apply: September 15, 2019

    Trimester: February 2020 – April 2020

    Summer 2020 (1-2 months)

    1-month program: June 1-July 1, or July 20-August 20
    2-month program: June 1-August 1* or July 20-September 20

    * Note: this program includes a 2-week school break in July

    Fall 2020

    Final Deadline to Apply: March 15, 2020

    $300 Early Application Discount for Fall 2020 Programs: Apply by December 6, 2019

    • Trimester:  July 2020 – November 2020
  • Academic Info

    The government of Costa Rica invests much of its funding toward their education system. To fully embrace your local Costa Rican community you will attend a public school and all of your classes will be taught in Spanish. Mandatory school uniforms minimize economic differences among classmates and will make your packing process much easier! Typical classes include; Math, Spanish, English, Science, Geography and Agriculture.

    Before You Go Abroad

    You should meet with your US high school before you leave and share the general curriculum guidelines of your host country with your guidance counselor and/or teachers. Please consult with them about the credits they will potentially grant you for the classes you take while abroad.

    Because the curriculum will vary by country, it is important that you arrange required classes required for your graduation, such as U.S. History, before or after your time abroad. There are no guarantees that you can take certain classes at your host school.

    Greenheart Travel will be able to provide information about the general curriculum for your age level in your host country; however, in most cases you will not be able to sign up for specific courses until AFTER you have arrived in your host country.

    Access your High School Curriculum Guidelines for Costa Rica here!

    Once You’re Abroad

    Please keep in mind that the grading system in other countries is different than the US. Most host schools will not grant grades or transcripts as it is too difficult to evaluate your work due to the language barrier. If your host school is able to award you grades, they won’t be an exact match to what you would get in the US.

    Throughout your time abroad you can also participate in organized activities, excursions, and short trips for a chance to see life beyond your host community. Sample some delicious BBQ while meeting new friends, take a hiking tour in the rain forest, or experience the thrill of seeing the Arenal volcano up close during your time in Costa Rica! These are just a few of the possible adventures you could enjoy during your high school abroad program.

    What do our alumni say about their experience studying abroad?

    Not only has my High School Year Abroad with Greenheart Travel helped me learn Spanish as a second language, but it has also exposed me to different lifestyles and customs. Through living with a host family, attending school in a small, coffee-farming town & developing friendships with local students, I have gained entirely new perspectives and experiences. Studying abroad has given me the opportunity to change the way I see myself and everything around me, and that it a gift that I will cherish and benefit from for the rest of my life.” — Rachel Maloney, high school abroad alumni 2016

  • Eligibility

    In researching a study abroad program, you have already shown you are a leader and open-minded in your academic pursuits. These are just a few of the traits that our exchange students possess. You’re motivated to immerse yourself in another culture and flexible enough to live outside your comfort zone. You should also:

    • Be between 14 and 18 years of age (at the time of travel)
    • Be from the United States or Canada
    • Possess a high school cumulative GPA of at least 2.75/4.0
    • Be in great mental* and physical health
    • Have a genuine interest in becoming a part of your host family and community
    • Be willing to study and learn Spanish. If your command of Spanish is not sufficient to follow lessons in school, you will be expected to take additional language lessons at your own cost

    Check out our summer language camp program in Costa Rica to get a head start on your Spanish skills.

    *What does it mean to be in good mental health?

    Moving to a new culture and staying in unfamiliar surroundings without your normal support structure can be very stressful, even to a well-adjusted student. Sending a student with pre-existing conditions on a long-term exchange program could exacerbate whatever challenges the student was previously facing. In order to ensure the safety of our participants, we must be rigorous in our pre-screening of all high school abroad applicants.

    Therefore, we may not be able to accept students who have struggled with any kind of mental illness within the last 2 years and/or are reliant on medication to address their existing mental health condition. Each student will be addressed on a case by case basis.

    These include, but are not limited to:

    • Depression
    • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
    • Debilitating anxiety
    • Eating disorders

    If the student’s mental health issue has been managed (post-medication) for over 2 years, we will ask for a note from his/her relevant practitioner (psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist, etc) as part of the application process.

  • Summer Study Abroad

    Can’t miss part of your semester or a full academic year? No te preocupes! (Psst – that means “don’t worry”)

    During North American summers, Costa Rican schools are still in session! You can still attend a local high school and live with a local host family and get the full exchange experience without missing your school year.

    2019 1-Month Program: 

    Dates: June 1-July 1, or July 20-August 20
    Deadline to apply: May 1 for June start date, June 1 for July start date
    Cost: $4,959

    2019 2-Month Program:

    Dates: June 1-August 1* or July 20-September 20
    Deadline to apply: May 1 for June start date, June 1 for July start date
    Cost: $5,360

    *This start date includes a two week break in July

  • Host Families

    The best way to learn about a new culture and language is to be fully immersed in it which is why all Greenheart Travel high school abroad students live with local host families. All of our host families are volunteers and will treat you as a member of their family. By being a part of your family’s daily life, you will learn to live and speak like a local.

    Prospective host families undergo a rigorous screening process. Participants can rest assured that only suitable host families will be selected. In fact, many of our current host families have hosted students in the past, showing what an impactful experience it was.

    In order to qualify as a host family, the prospective hosts must:

    • Successfully pass a criminal background check
    • Undergo and pass an in-person interview with program staff
    • Agree to and pass a home inspection

    We will connect you with your host family prior to your arrival in your host country. By e-mailing and speaking with them before arriving, it will help break the ice when you finally meet in person. It will also show that you are as excited to live with them as they are to host you!

    Host families have many reasons why they want to welcome you! Our host families are volunteers, meaning they don’t receive compensation for housing and feeding students during their program. Many host families love the experience of cultural exchange – they learn just as much about your country as you do theirs. Many are also former exchange students and want to return the favor, or they have children who have gone or will go to study in the U.S. Having an exchange student exposes their children to new languages and cultures.

    A Greenheart Traveler and his Costa Rican host family!

    Placement FAQs

    Can I choose where I will be placed with my host family?
    No. You can choose your destination country, but you must be flexible about where you are placed within that country. We make it a priority to place students with host families that closely match your interests and personality. For this reason we work first to find a suitable family rather than a destination preference. We can never guarantee placements in any specific city or region, and we match based on compatibility with the host family. 

    I know a family in my program country that would like to host me. Is that possible?

    This is possible as long as we have a support network in the family’s host community and there is an available nearby host school.

    Will I be placed in a city?

    No. It is very unlikely you will be placed in a city. A majority of our families live in small to medium sized towns outside of major cities, and it is important you be open-minded to small town life.

    Will I have a host sibling my age?

    There is no guarantee that you will have a host sibling your age. Your host family may have young children, teenage children, or grown children who no longer live at home. Regardless of the age of your host siblings, they’ll be excited to welcome into the family!

    What if I don’t like my host family? Can I request a new one?

    No. We do not change host families based on preferences or location. However, if issues arise once you are on the program, we will handle them on a case-by-case basis and may make changes if necessary.

  • For Parents

    The decision to send your teenager abroad can be difficult and there are a lot of questions to consider. We understand your concerns and the Greenheart Travel staff is there for you every step of the way! For us, it is important that parents be involved in the decision from day one.

    We want to make the process of studying abroad as fun and painless as possible for you and your child, while also ensuring that it is a successful and life-changing adventure! 

    Below are some of the common questions we get from parents as they consider our study abroad program:

    What does it mean to be in good mental health?

    Moving to a new culture and staying in unfamiliar surroundings without your normal support structure can be very stressful, even to a well-adjusted student. Sending a student with pre-existing conditions on a long-term exchange program could exacerbate whatever challenges the student was previously facing. In order to ensure the safety of our participants, we must be rigorous in our pre-screening of all high school abroad applicants.

    Therefore, we cannot accept students who have struggled with any kind of mental illness within the last 2 years and/or are reliant on medication to address their existing mental health condition.

    These include, but are not limited to:

    • Depression
    • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
    • Debilitating anxiety
    • Eating disorders

    If the student’s mental health issue has been managed (post-medication) for over 2 years, we will ask for a note from his/her relevant practitioner (psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist, etc) as part of the application process.

    What kind of assistance will my child receive while abroad?

    There is a strong network of people working together to ensure your child’s time abroad is successful. This includes the Greenheart Travel program manager in the U.S., the natural parents, the local coordinator abroad in country, the host school, and the host family. Immediate assistance will be provided by the local coordinator and/or host family according to a robust chain of communication, explained prior to departure.

    Do you offer any scholarships, financial aid, or special discounts?

    Yes. Every year we offer various scholarships for select high school program destinations. There are two Early Bird Deadline discounts offered each year as well. See our Program Dates for more information. If you have hosted a student for Greenheart Exchange, you are also eligible for a Greenheart Host Family discount.

    My child’s school requires service learning in order to graduate. How will they do that abroad?

    Greenheart Travel is proud to offer the Greenheart Club for all of our students. The Greenheart Club challenges our participants to pursue a deeper level of immersion through volunteerism. As a member of the Greenheart Club, your child will receive guidance in strategizing creative ways to give back to their community, have access to tools for tracking their impact and receive incentives for their efforts as a global leader. This is a great chance for your child to get to know the local community outside of the classroom while they study abroad.

    Can friends study abroad together?

    Our programs are based on a full, cultural immersion experience so friends are not allowed to study abroad together in the same host town. Don’t worry though; making friends in the new host country will happen quickly!

    Can my child come home to visit or can we visit them while abroad?

    No. Visits are not allowed during the high school program. If your family wishes to visit, you should plan to meet your child after your program is completed. In this instance, Greenheart Travel’s National office and international partner office should be informed of your family’s plans.

    Does my child need to be fluent in another language?

    No. One of the main goals of studying abroad is to become fluent in another language while living overseas. The host family and school will not expect your child to be fluent when they first arrive and will help them improve their language skills. As long as your child tries their best, they’ll pick up the language sooner than you might think!

    Can my child take the SATs while abroad?

    You child will not be able to take the SAT’s while abroad.  We highly recommend taking the SAT’s prior to or after the program.

    My child has already graduated, are they still eligible?

    On a case by case basis, we can accept graduated students for Argentina, Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

    Can we speak to current high school students or alumni?

    Yes! Check out our blog or your child can join our exclusive teen  programs Facebook group to talk to current and past students.

  • Why Greenheart Travel?

    Greenheart Travel has been working with high schoolers for many years, and there are advantages of applying for this program through us:

    • 33 years of experience with cultural exchange programs
    • Friendly, responsive, and professional support from your program manager, Allison.
    • Connect with alumni and others on the program via our Greenheart Travel only Facebook forums, before you even leave!
    • We try and make our program fees as inclusive as we can. We include things like medical insurance and flights so you don’t run into any hidden fees down the line.
    • Greenheart Atlas Program. The Greenheart Travel Atlas is a cultural training interactive guidebook alongside five videos where you will find three main topics covered: Personal/Professional Development, Cultural Understanding, & Environmental Awareness.
    • Our alumni recommend us! GoOverseas.com Reviews // GoAbroad.com Reviews
    • Hands-on support and personal attention every step of the way
    • 24/7 emergency phone number to reach a staff member at any time
    • Pre-departure “Culture Shock and Adjustment” Webinar before you leave
    • Discounts for future Greenheart Travel programs
    • We are a non-profit, mission-based organization
    • Continued support throughout your time abroad

    We also have some unique offerings to our Greenheart Travel students and alumni!

    Greenheart Global Impact Grants (GIGs)

    Greenheart GIG Grants are funds awarded to Greenheart Travel participants to use for community development projects in their host or home country. A GIG is the opportunity to create, improve, or maintain an impactful, community-focused project abroad or at home. Grant funds could be applied to supporting women’s cooperatives, schools, community centers, or health clinics, for example. Grant winners will be featured on our website, social media, and blog. You can see our past winners on our blog here.

    Greenheart Alumni Program

    We created the Greenheart Travel Alumni Program to provide resources and a community to support alumni in their advancement as global leaders, and a way to celebrate and reward our participants for being ambitious, inspiring catalysts of cultural exchange!

    Junior Greenheart Global Leaders Conference

    Each May Greenheart offers full-ride scholarships to around 10 teen alumni to attend our annual conference in Chicago. You can see more about what Jr. GGLC is and what you could do at the conference here.

  • Application Process

    Committing to studying abroad can feel daunting, but we are here every step of the way to make the application process as simple as possible! Below are the various steps you’ll need to take to be accepted on a high school abroad program.

    1. Start Your Application Here: Greenheart Travel Application. Once the initial form is complete, you will be connected to a High School Abroad program manager who will speak with you and a parent to go over the details of the program.

    2. Sign the Terms & Conditions (Approximately 10 Minutes): After you complete Part 1 of your application, you and one parent will be asked to read through and sign our Terms and Conditions which outline the requirements and policies of the program.

    3. Submit your deposit (Approximately 5 minutes): Next, you will submit your $1,000 non-refundable deposit which reserves your spot on the program and is subtracted from your total program fee.

    4. Skype Interview (Approximately 30-45 Minutes): After submitting your deposit, you will schedule an interview with Allison.  During this interview, Allison will ask you questions about living with a host family, adjusting to new situations and homesickness, among other things. She will also explain the overview of the next few months and what you can expect. This is done via Skype, and at least one parent should also be in attendance. If you do not have Skype, please download it before the interview.

    5. Secondary Application Form (Approximately 30 Minutes): This part of the application process will help us get to know you and assess the best match for your host family abroad. You will need to provide detailed information about yourself, why you want to study abroad, and what you hope to gain from your experience. You can do this prior to the Skype interview should you wish.

    5. Second Parent to Sign the Terms & Conditions (Approximately 5 minutes): Your other parent will be asked to read through and sign our Terms and Conditions which outline the requirements and policies of the program.

    6. Submitting Your Documents: You will also be required to submit documents (outlined below). You can be collecting the documents during the application process, but all documents will be due 14 days after you submit your deposit.

    Once you’ve completed all the steps, Greenheart Travel will thoroughly review your application and will contact you within 2-3 weeks about your acceptance. Then, you’ll get more information about preparation, visas, and placement.

    Required Documents

    In addition to completing an application, you will also be required to submit documents. You can be collecting the documents during the application process, but all documents will be due 14 days after you submit your deposit.

    The following documents will be required for all destinations:

    • Letter of Recommendation (from a teacher, coach or guidance counselor) – does not need to be sealed, should be scanned and uploaded to the document portal
    • Transcripts from the last 3 years (unofficial transcripts accepted)
    • Student Dear Family Letter
    • Parent Questionnaire & Letter
    • Photo Album (5-7 photos of you on a Word document with captions in English and host country’s language)
    • Medical Form (including immunizations)
    • Copy of your passport
    • 60-90 second self-introduction video sent via YouTube link

    Payments

    For payments, a $1,000 non-refundable deposit will be due with your submitted application. This is a deposit, not an application fee, and will be deducted from your overall program cost. If your application is submitted after the deadline, the deposit will be $2,000.

    Once you are accepted onto the program, a $5,000 commitment deposit will be due within 7 days of acceptance.  Remaining balance is due on June 1st for fall departures and November 1st for spring departures.

    You’ve Been Accepted, Now What?

    Start getting ready for your adventure! Your program manager will be in regular communication with you to make sure that you are on track in your preparations to go abroad.

    • Upon acceptance, you will receive a student handbook (parents – you get one, too!) and access to the Greenheart Travel Atlas, as well as the Greenheart Club.
    • You will receive your host family and school placement roughly 2-3 month after acceptance
    • We will also schedule an online pre-orientation with other Greenheart students a few weeks before your departure!
  • Schedule a Call

    Have questions or want to talk to one of the program coordinators? Set up a time to have a phone call below.


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