Office of International Programs

Travel Costa Rica

Costa Rica: Social Work Perspectives on Culture, Community and Language

May 11-24, 2014

SWO 399 (3 undergraduate credits)
SWO 599 (3 graduate credits)


If you're thinking about a career in social work or language interpreting, this travel course is for you! We will spend two weeks in Costa Rica, where you'll be immersed in Spanish and Costa Rican culture by taking Spanish classes specially designed for social work majors and participating in cultural activities like Costa Rican dance and cooking. 

Spanish-speaking people are the largest “minority” group (soon to be a majority) in our country and the ability to speak Spanish and understand some of Latin American culture will enable you to interact with Latinos more comfortably in business, agencies, schools, organizations, and neighborhoods.  In many states, social workers cannot get jobs without some fluency in Spanish.

Through this course, you'll be introduced to colonial heritage, indigenous cultures, and the contemporary socio-political, ecological, and economic issues facing developing countries of Central America in general and Costa Rica specifically.  Two all-day Saturday classes will be held at USM prior to our time in Costa Rica.

The language school where we will have our base, ACCE (Central American Spanish Academy), is located in Grecia, 28 miles from the capital, San Jose, and is widely used by other social work programs in the US such as Adelphi, Portland State University, University of Wisconsin, Fordham, and Pacific University in Oregon: You will have four hours a day of language learning in groups of four at one of three levels (beginning, intermediate, and advanced Spanish) for a total of 40 hours. The rest of the day will be spent in lectures, and visiting agencies, organizations, and cultural sites.

This course is specially designed for social work majors but is open to and suitable for students of all majors.


Barbara Rich, Associate Professor, USM School of Social Work. Barbara has over twenty-five years of teaching experience and holds a Masters degree in social work (MSW) from Columbia University in New York. She attended the social work doctoral program at Boston College and is currently Chair of the Practice Sequence in USM's School of Social Work. Barbara has led groups to Belize on a service-learning program since 2007. This will be her first time bringing a group to Costa Rica. 

Stacia Fitch, LCSW, Co-Coordinator of Field Work in the Social Work Department.


The application deadline is March 17, 2014. The deadline for the first $100 deposit (applied to the program cost) is February 14, 2014.

A complete application includes all of the following items:

  • Signed, completed application form*
  • Second $100 non-refundable deposit (applied to the program cost)
  • Typed 200-word essay
  • A letter of recommendation from a faculty member or academic advisor (recommendation cannot come from the faculty member(s) leading the program)
  • Official copies of all academic transcripts

Incomplete applications will not be accepted. You will be notified by e-mail of your application status. If your application is not accepted, the nonrefundable deposit will be returned. If the program is canceled for any reason by the USM, all deposits will be returned.

*If you are having trouble downloading the application, please contact us at (207) 780-4959 or and we will send you one. You may also want to try upgrading to the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader.


The estimated program fee is $2950. The cost of three credits of tuition and fees at the in-state rate are in addition to the program fee. The program fee includes accommodation, roundtrip airfare, ground transportation, site visits, field trips, breakfast and some dinners, departure tax from Costa Rica, and emergency medical and evacuation insurance through iNext.

Not included in the program fee is the cost of tuition, fees, food, books, academic supplies, some meals, or other personal expenses. Three credits of undergraduate tuition and regular university fees is $917, and three credits of graduate tuition and regular university fees is $1460. All participants on USM travel programs receive the in-state tuition rate regardless of residency.

All participants will be automatically registered for a payment plan. The two $100 deposits will go towards the cost of the program and the remaining balance will be due as follows:

50% of the balance due April 5, 2014

Remaining balance due May 5, 2014

Financial Aid & Scholarships

Federal financial aid and loans are available to matriculated students who participate in travel courses. In order to receive the benefit of financial aid, students must be enrolled for a minimum of 6 credits during the summer for a summer travel course. If financial aid does not cover the full cost of the program, students are responsible for paying the remaining balance according to the payment plan schedule.

Include the costs of this course in your FAFSA application. If you have questions about financial aid or completing your FAFSA, please contact the financial aid office at (207) 780-4166. If you are not a matriculated student at USM, please check with the financial aid office at your institution.

USM's Office of International Programs offers small scholarships for students enrolled in summer travel courses. Scholarships are competitive and awards are up to $500. The application deadline is March 17, 2014. Students applying for the International Summer Scholarship must apply to a travel course before or at the same time as submitting a scholarship application.

Students applying to this course can also consider the Dorothy Padula Memorial Scholarship to Latin America. To be eligible for this scholarship, you must have at least a 2.5 GPA. Preference is given to students who have taken or are currently enrolled in a college-level Spanish course. Applications for this scholarship are reviewed twice in the spring: March 7th and April 10th.