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  • Locations: San José, Costa Rica
  • Program Terms: Fall, Winter
  • Restrictions: UM applicants only
  • This program is currently not accepting applications, please see Dates & Deadlines or contact the sponsoring office for more information.
Program Description:

University of Michigan Center for Global and Intercultural Study

Environment and Sustainable
Development in
San José, Costa Rica


Local wildlife in San Jose

Watch this VIDEO for a great introduction! Founded 25 years ago, the Institute for Central American Development Studies (ICADS) is a center for study, research, and analysis of Central American social and environmental issues. ICADS focuses on economic development, politics, environmental studies, sustainable development, public health, women’s issues, education, human rights, and conservation.

In the ICADS' semester-long Field Program, students gain research experience in both the natural sciences (forest ecology, agro-ecology, soil sciences) and social sciences (anthropology, history, economics) while learning to address environmental issues from a multidisciplinary perspective. Students are provided with the analytical tools and research expertise to make meaningful contributions to ongoing work in the area of “sustainable development,” with the recognition that workable solutions to environmental conflicts can only come from an understanding of the intersection between community needs, ecosystem dynamics, and political-economic systems.

The Field Program is divided into 3 blocks:

Block I: 5 weeks - Spanish course and Latin American Perspectives on Justice and Sustainable Development Course
Block II: 4 weeks - Field Projects: Ecology of Managed and Natural Ecosystems
Block III: 5 weeks - Independent Projects (IPs): Written work, oral presentations, final evaluations and reentry presentation/discussion


  • Sophomore, Junior, or Senior standing by program start date
  • Good academic standing
  • Minimum 2.5 GPA
  • Minimum two semesters college-level Spanish, fulfilled by:
    • SPANISH 100,
    • SPANISH 102,
    • RCLANG 194, or equivalent
  • Background in appropriate social and natural sciences
  • Open to University of Michigan-Ann Arbor students only


The field program provides students an opportunity to study environmental issues from multidisciplinary perspectives in a highly interactive, experiential setting. The program begins with coursework in San José and Central Valley, continues with fieldwork throughout Costa Rica and Nicaragua, and culminates in directed research on a topic of student's choice. Coursework includes both natural sciences (forest ecology, ecosystems, and soil sciences) and social sciences (economic development and social justice), as well as conversational Spanish.

Students will earn 15 credits for the following courses:

  • Spanish (3 credits) *Please note that the Spanish courses may not be used to fulfill the LSA college language requirement.
  • Ecology of Managed and Natural Ecosystems (3 credits)
  • Latin American Perspectives on Justice and Sustainable Development (3 credits)
  • Independent Fieldwork Research (6 credits)

Students may fulfill field experience requirements for the Program in the Environment (PITE) degrees. Students should contact PitE for more information. Instruction is in Spanish and English.  More advanced Spanish level students will be able to implement more of their field project in Spanish. 

LSA Students: All grades earned abroad will factor into the cumulative GPA.

Non-LSA Students should check with their home school or college to determine whether the grades will be calculated into their cumulative GPA, and what type of credit they will receive for the program (in-residence credit or transfer credit).


Winter 2020 Budget Sheet
Winter 2019 Budget Sheet

Winter 2018 Budget Sheet

Scholarships and Funding

LSA Study Abroad Scholarship: Students should apply for the LSA Study Abroad Scholarship at the same time they apply for the program. Scholarships are granted based on financial need.

Sources for Funding Global Study

Students paying for their university experience via a Michigan Educational Trust (MET) plan may use this plan towards a CGIS study abroad program.

Program costs vary greatly among all CGIS programs and the CGIS staff recommends that you carefully review the most recent budget sheet for any program you may be interested in to see what fees/costs are involved. Please note that the itemized budget sheets are per term estimates accurate at the time of publication and are subject to change. Please check back regularly to see the most recent term costs available. If you have any questions about the costs involved for a program or how to read the budget sheet or interpret the notes, please contact the appropriate CGIS Intercultural Programs Advisor for more details and information.

The Center for Global and Intercultural Study encourages all students to share this information with people in your life who help you make decisions (parents, guardians, family members, etc.).

Passport and Visa

Prior to departure, it is each student's responsibility to research and obtain entry/exit requirements. The consulate or embassy of your country of destination determines the visa requirements and application process for each type of visa. You can locate consular information and read about entry/exit requirements on the U.S. Department of State website.

When determining your exit/entry requirements, be sure to check each country in your travel itinerary, even if you will only be visiting for a short period. Requirements, visa types, and application fees can vary greatly based on your citizenship and individual travel plans. Please note that most consulates will require a passport to be submitted as part of the visa application. The amount of time required can also vary greatly. We recommend beginning your research early and being aware that independent travel plans may be affected by the process.

For more information on travel documents and pre-departure preparation, visit Students Abroad, a website created by the Department of State just for students, or contact your CGIS Intercultural Programs Advisor.

Application Procedures

Detailed application instructions for your program will be provided when you begin an application.

Application Requirements include:

  • Attendance at a session of First Step
  • Academic Recommendation Form (short questionnaire is sent via the online application to recommender's e-mail; recommender submits online)
  • Spanish Language Recommendation Form (short questionnaire is sent via the online application to recommender's e-mail; recommender submits online)
  • Passport Photocopy
  • Application Questionnaire (short essay questions)
  • Records Release
  • Disciplinary Disclosure
  • U-M Transcript
  • Official Non-U-M Transcripts (if you have attended courses at another institution)
  • ICADS Application (online)
Throughout the remainder of the semester and when you return, you will be required to submit additional documents and attend CGIS program events.


Refer to this link for more information.

Upon arrival, students are placed with Costa Rican families. As an integral part of the program, this home-stay experience facilitates language learning and active participation in the culture and society of Costa Rica. During the field research component, students will stay in small hotels, field stations, or hostels. The "home base" for students is the ICADS office where there is a small computer lab, classrooms, bottled water, and more.

Host families provide private rooms, breakfast, dinner, and laundry service. Family placements are supervised by a housing coordinator who makes every effort to match the needs of each student with the reality of the host family.

Need to Know

ICADS Field Program Website
Handbook/Program Supplement

CGIS provides resources and information on its website to help students understand policies, procedures, and how to navigate the experience from start to finish. Refer to the Students for information related to the topics listed below, and more:

  • Preparing to Travel (passports, visas, air travel, culture shock, financial planning)
  • Financial Aid and Scholarships (program affordability, university financial aid packages, scholarships)
  • Health and Safety (travel health insurance, vaccinations/medications, self-disclosure of health information, mental health, social identities, emergencies abroad)
  • Policies (grades and credit, registration, billing, withdrawals)
  • Diversity and Access Abroad (helpful resources, LGBTQ identities abroad, racial and ethnic identities abroad, disabilities and accommodations)
  • Information for families of students participating in CGIS programs

Contact Information

Center for Global and Intercultural Study
Suite 200
Weiser Hall
500 Church St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Note: The decision date listed is not necessarily reflective of when you will hear back about admission. After acceptance, students will have one week to commit to a program. Upon commitment, your participation will be considered financially and legally binding. Deadlines will not be extended for students waiting on decisions for multiple applications.

Dates / Deadlines:
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Fall 2020 02/01/2020
03/15/2020 TBA TBA

Indicates that deadline has passed

This program is currently not accepting applications, please see Dates & Deadlines or contact the sponsoring office for more information.