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High School Summer Abroad in Costa Rica

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  • Overview

    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. 

    This program is perfect for you if:  

    • You want to have a host sibling your age – we guarantee you will!  
    • You love sustainability and green tourism and want to experience it firsthand from the experts  
    • You’re looking to learn Spanish in a non-intimidating environment  
    • You want to spend your weekends embracing the tico lifestyle – bring on the family dinners! 
  • Costs & Inclusions

    2022 Prices:

    • 1-month program: $5,440
    • 2-month program: $6,670

    Packaged into the Price:

    • On-site orientation upon arrival
    • Airport pickup upon arrival
    • Host family accommodation and 3 meals per day
    • Comprehensive medical/accident insurance
    • 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 & other Greenheart swag

    Our Support and Services: 

    • Extensive pre-departure advice and support from 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 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

    Additional Expenses to Budget For:

    • Flights to/from Costa Rica
    • Any school supplies, notebooks, pens, calculator etc.
    • Local transportation
    • Pocket money
    • Personal hygiene articles (deodorant, tampons, perfume, shampoo)
    • Specialty food items
      • If there is something you want or enjoy that your host family does not typically buy. Students with intolerances have to buy (for example): gluten-free items, lactose intolerance milk, vegan options etc. if this is not part of their host family’s diet.

    Payment Details

    • $1,500 Application Deposit due by the program deadline to formally apply 
    • $5,000 Commitment Deposit due after acceptance 
    • Remaining Balance due within 2 weeks of acceptance 

    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

    2022 Program Dates

    Students can begin on almost any day except major holidays! We recommend students start in the beginning of June or mid-July as most schools are on holiday at the end of June into early July. If you have further questions, please schedule a call.

    Summer 2022 Applications are CLOSED. Thank you to everyone who applied! Applicants will get a response 2-3 weeks from date of submission.

    Final Deadline to Apply: April 15th, 2022

    Arrival and Departure 

    All students are required to book flights on their own. An airport transfer upon arrival is included in the cost of the program. We will provide your exact arrival and departure dates after acceptance, as well as the exact timeframes you should arrive/depart, so that you can start to search for possible flights. We require prior approval of a proposed itinerary before you purchase any flights.

    Nervous about flying on your own? We recommend students and parents sitting down together to review the following resources:

    For many Greenheart Travel students their first time flying is across the world to start their exchange program! You can read our alumni experiences on our blog, such as Emily’s or Madison’s blogs on their experiences flying to Japan or Rachel’s tips on what you actually need to know about flying.

  • Academic Info

    You will be shadowing a host sibling in a public high school in Costa Rica. Classes typically run 7:00am-4:00pm, and the main subjects are Math, Science, Geography and Spanish, but your schedule will depend on the school you’re placed in.  

    Interested in learning more? Access your High School Curriculum Guidelines for Costa Rica here! 

  • Eligibility

    • Be between 15 and 18 at the time of travel (recent graduates welcome!) 
    • U.S. or Canadian citizen  
    • High school cumulative GPA of at least 2.75/4.0  
    • Great mental and physical health* 
    • Have a genuine interest in becoming part of your host family and community  
    • Previous Spanish a plus, not required  
    • Fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before departure

    *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, specifically 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 and ultimately it is Greenheart Travel’s in-country partner who holds the right to accept or decline a student based on their individual policy.

    These include, but are not limited to:

    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
    • Eating disorders
    • Chronic debilitating migraines
    • Bipolar Disorder

    All students who currently experience one or more of these conditions will be required to submit an addendum to the terms and conditions as well as a letter of support from their current mental health specialist. If the student’s mental health issue has been managed (post-medication) for over 2 years, we will still require a note from his/her relevant practitioner (psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist, etc) as part of the application process.  We encourage you to discuss your specific situation with us directly, before securing these documents.

    Please note that students who have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD will not be guaranteed any academic accommodations plans by the host school abroad.

  • 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.

    As a summer student you are guaranteed a host family with a host sibling who attends the same high school.

    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.

  • Placements

    Students are placed 1-2 hours outside of San Jose in small to medium-sized towns in the following areas: San Ramon, Palmares, or Zarcero 

  • FAQs

    I am a parent with questions, where do I go?

    Please head to our Parent Handbook page. You’re also welcome to set up a time to chat with us about your child’s program abroad here. We’re happy to talk with you about this big decision!

    I identify as LGBTQ+. How will I be supported?

    Greenheart Travel welcomes travelers identifying as LGTBQ+, and is committed to helping you find the best program for you. We can provide information on the cultural norms of our destination countries and are prepared to advise you on the best programs based on your needs and interests. 

    Please read more here.

    Do I need to be fluent in Spanish?

    No. Unlike our other Spanish speaking destinations, Costa Rica does not require any previous Spanish experience. It certainly helps if you know some, but you can study before you leave.

    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 you to be fluent when you first arrive and will help you improve your language skills. As long as you try your best, you’ll pick up the language sooner than you might think!

    Can I choose where I will be placed with my host family?

    No – but that’s what pura vida is all about, right? Flexibility and adaptability! For summer and trimester programs, you must be flexible about where you are placed within Costa Rica. 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 like San Jose?

    You will not be placed in a major city like San Jose. 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.

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

    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.

    What visa do I get and how do I apply?

    All students studying more than 90 days will be required to obtain a student visa to Costa Rica. It is the students’ responsibility to obtain this visa, but Greenheart will provide you guidance and the proper documentation you’ll need to apply.

    Are flights included?

    Round trip airfare to/from Costa Rica is NOT included in the cost of the program.

    Will someone pick me up at the airport?

    Yes! Our in-country partner staff and/or your host family will be eagerly waiting for you when you arrive!

    Can I travel on my own during the program?

    You are not permitted to travel on your own during the program.

    For semester and academic year programs there is one full weekend excursion and a half-day excursion included in the cost of the program. Both are chaperoned and with other exchange students.

    Some schools will offer optional field trips. You must be accompanied by an approved chaperone to travel.

    Will anyone at my school speak English?

    It’s possible that teachers and students at your school will speak English. However, remember that you’re there to learn Spanish!

    All classes will be taught in Spanish as this is a full immersion program.

    Will I have a host sibling my age?

    For summer and trimester programs, you are guaranteed a host sibling around your age. Your host family may also 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!

    Most students have their own rooms. However, houses are smaller and depending on your host family, you may be expected to share a room with a host sibling of the same gender.

    Do I need vaccines/shots?

    All students need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before arriving to their destination country.

    You are required to submit a record of immunizations during the application process.

    What is the insurance?

    Comprehensive medical and accident insurance will be included in the cost of your program. This will cover you for most medical expenses you might incur, like prescriptions, ER visits, doctor visits, dental accidents, and hospitalizations.

    What happens if I get sick or have an emergency?

    If you get sick, your host family or local coordinator will help you go to the doctor.

    If you have an emergency on program, we have a 24/7 emergency number you can call. Our in-country partner staff and your host family will be there to assist you. Greenheart will be in touch with your parents regarding your emergency.

    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 with the exception of semester and academic year students (all placed in Heredia). For summer and trimester programs you’re welcome to both go to Costa Rica at the same time but you would not be placed together. Don’t worry though; making friends in your new host town will happen quickly!

    Can my parents visit while I'm abroad?

    No. Visits are not allowed during the high school program. If your family wishes to visit, they should plan to meet you 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.

    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. If you have hosted a student for Greenheart Exchange, you are also eligible for a Greenheart Host Family discount.

    When should I apply?

    We recommend you apply a minimum of 6 months prior to your desired semester.

    The sooner you can apply the better, as acceptance, gathering documents, etc. can take a long time. Read more about why applying early is a good idea.

    Our final deadlines for summer & fall start dates are March 15, and September 15 for spring departures.

    I have already graduated, am I still eligible?

    We cannot take already graduated student’s on our High School Study Abroad in Costa Rica program. Please look into our Gap Year Programs for short term Spanish programs that can take Gap Year students who are 18 or over.

    On a case by case basis, we can accept already graduated students for High School programs in Argentina, Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, and England.

    Can I speak to current high school students or alumni?

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

    We also have a list of mentors (teens and parents) that are past participants open to chatting about their experience with potential new participants. Please inquire here if you want to be put in touch with a mentor.

  • 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.
    • 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 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 HereYou will be sent more information as well as the link to our application portal to begin your formal 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. Submit Basic Program Information: The first step in our application portal will be basic things like your chosen start date, etc.

    3. Submit your application fee: A $1,500 application fee is required in order to apply for the program. This is subtracted from your total program fee, it’s not additional. 

    4. Complete Application & Documents: Provide more detailed information about yourself in Part 2 of the application. In this section, you’ll tell us more information like your work history, motivations for joining the program, travel history, and emergency contacts. You will also submit your documents (below) within your portal account.

    5. Interview: After submitting your application fee, you will schedule an interview with us.  During this interview, we will ask you questions about living with a host family, adjusting to new situations and homesickness, among other things. You will also receive an overview of the next few months and what you can expect. This is done via Zoom, and at least one parent should also be in attendance.

    6. You’re Accepted! 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, and placement.

    7. Commitment Payment: Once you are accepted to the program, you will need to submit a $5,000 commitment payment within 14 days to confirm your spot on the program. We cannot start the host family matching process until we have this payment. Once you submit your commitment payment you will unlock the acceptance portion of your portal, which includes things like pre-departure videos, travel and arrival information, the Greenheart Travel Atlas, and more.

    7. Book your flights, and get ready for your adventure! 

    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 application fee.

    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 Spanish)
    • Medical Form (including immunizations)
    • Copy of your passport
    • 60-90 second self-introduction video sent via YouTube link
    • Secondary rules & expectations document signed by both parents and students

    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.
    • After receiving your host family and school placement, you will receive further instructions on applying for you student visa (if applicable for your program length)
    • 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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