Costa Rica Week 1 — Arrival and Monteverde

It has been an incredible first week! The group is doing a great job integrating themselves into the culture by trying all the food, using Spanish all the time, and having an open mind to everything!
Saturday and Sunday – Arrival and Day 1!
After arriving to Liberia and spending the first day in the town to get acclimated, we headed up to Monteverde.  It was a beautiful ride and we were able to stop at a lookout point before all the clouds rolled in.  After lunch at a local Costa Rican restaurant, we headed to the school for orientation and a placement test.  We ended the day when our host families picked us up and brought us home to get a good night’s rest before the first day of school.
Monday – Scavenger Hunt and 1st Day of Class
We immersed ourselves in local culture and did a fun scavenger hunt to get to know where we are staying.  The students had fun chatting with locals to learn more about the town Santa Elena.  We worked up quite an appetite and had a cooking class at school where we learned how to prepare arroz con pollo, a local dish.  The students had a full day of classes and lots of conversation, they love learning local lingo.
Tuesday –  Volunteer Project
Tuesday was our first day on our volunteer project! We headed to a sustainable farm called Life Monteverde where we were able to volunteer and learn at the same time.  The kids loved getting their hands dirty and learning how different parts of the farm function.  There we ate a home cooked meal and headed back to school for classes.
Wednesday – El Trapiche!
In the morning and early afternoon, we did a tour of El Trapiche.  It’s a local plantation where they grow and produce coffee, chocolate, and sugar.  The students loved our interactive guides and seeing each step of the process to eat and drink some of our favorite Costa Rican things.  Keep an eye out Mom and Dad for some Costa Rican coffee coming back home!
Thursday – Volunteer Project
We went to the recycling center in Montervede for our 2nd volunteer project. The students sorted through plastic to be sent back to be reused. It was a great experience for the kids to see how they can make a difference. We sorted through countless bags, got a little dirty, but had a lot of fun! The work we did in just three hours would have taken the man who works there more than a month! I’m so proud of the students and their hard work!
Friday – Hanging Bridge Tour
Today we really got into the Cloud Rainforest! The hanging bridge tour helped us learn a little more about the forest where we are living (and introduced us to some really cool insects!). We got extensive great views of the entire area — it was a great day!
Saturday — Isla Tortuga
Favorite day of the program so far! We woke up very early to bus down to Puntarenas and took a boat to Isla Tortuga. We had another beautiful day with great weather. The students had a blast dancing on the boat to the live music! When we got to the island, students went snorkeling, played beach volleyball, swam in the water, and rode on the banana tubes. We ate a delicious lunch prepared on the island and enjoyed a perfect day in paradise.
Sunday — Santa Elena Reserve
We did a guided hike of the Santa Elena Reserve. We saw many more insects and even saw a venomous green snake! Our knowledgeable guides spotted birds circling the snake.  Don’t worry parents, we saw it from a great distance through a telescope! We ate lunch in Santa Elena and then the students had the afternoon free to enjoy time together or with their homestays families.
I am so proud of this group and excited for another great week in the cloud forest of Monteverde!

A Life-changing Experience!

Get ready to experience and SPI Abroad program yourself. Learn more about our programs or request more information today.

Request Your Catalog Today.

Fill out the form below and we will send you a catalog and get in touch. Please note all fields are required.

Please Share This:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

Leave a Reply

Request Your Catalog Today.

Fill out the form below and we will send you a catalog and get in touch. Please note all fields are required.

A Life-changing Experience!

Get ready to experience and SPI Abroad program yourself. Learn more about our programs or request more information today.

Request Your Catalog Today.

Fill out the form below and we will send you a catalog and get in touch. Please note all fields are required.

On-Site Supervision Team Abroad

We hire bilingual high school teachers, university professors, and caring local staff who, as a team, serve as international “moms and dads” throughout the program. Directors actively participate in all aspects of the immersion experience: helping with housing adjustments, checking in on classes, and making sure students are taking advantage of the wonderful excursion and activity opportunities. All SPI staff go through extensive reference checks.

Training & Experience

Directors are selected based on their experience working with teenagers in an international setting, their ability to communicate fluently in the language of study, and their academic & professional background. All on-site staff go through an intensive training process.

Daily Supervision

Students are expected to be respectful of their directors’ guidelines and abide by the SPI standards of conduct at all times. SPI directors and program staff are available 24 hours a day. Directors check in with students on a daily basis in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings; they also frequently monitor all aspects of each student’s progress. Homestays and residence directors are contacted to learn how students are adjusting, and to handle any concerns. Daily curfews are enforced.

Student Behavior Expectations

Since 1996, we have proudly attracted an academically-minded student body focused on improving their language skills and growing from cultural experiences. At SPI, we take our role as teachers seriously — we recognize that we are responsible for guiding students through one of their most life-changing experiences. We expect students not only to abide by our standards of conduct at all times, but also to serve as ambassadors of their local communities, schools, and cities.

No Alcohol Policy

SPI maintains a strict policy against the use of alcohol. Directors check in with students in the evenings; however, parents are expected to review our standards of conduct with their children and set clear family expectations prior to the start of the program with regards to their behavior abroad.

Afternoon Elective Activities

Our meaningful afternoon elective activities make local culture, art, architecture, museums, sports, and attractions come to life! Each program offers a variety of engaging activities designed to combine serious fun with truly inspiring “once in a lifetime” experiences. Electives are not included in the program price, and we suggest students budget $100 per week for participation in these incredible learning experiences.

Common Afternoon Electives

CULTURAL: Cooking, Dance, Art & Architecture, Museum & Theater Visits, Local Sporting & Cultural Events

SPORTS: Surfing, Volleyball, Soccer, Kayaking, Snorkeling, Hikes & Walks

ENRICHMENT: Photography, College Prep (Essay Writing, Admissions Prep), Photography, Guest Speakers

Sample Travel Excursions

SPAIN: Bilbao, Pamplona, Santander, San Sebastian, Guernika, Biarritz (France), Comillas, Picos de Europa

FRANCE: Bordeaux, Bayonne, Anglet, San Sebastian (Spain), St. Jean de Luz, Pyrenees Mountains

COSTA RICA: Liberia, Cloud Forest, Puntarenas, Rincon de la Vieja, Tamarindo Beach

ITALY: Florence, Orvieto, San Gimignano, San Vincezo, Castiglione della Pescaia

Our Screening & Selection Process

Students live with roommates in a local homestay or student residence that is experienced in hosting foreign students. SPI has worked with most participating homestays and student residences for a number of years, and they understand students are there to learn the language and experience the culture. SPI diligently screens each homestay and student residence facility with the following in mind: safety, location, cleanliness, and previous experience hosting students.


Most homestays have hosted students for many years and take their jobs and duties as cultural ambassadors very seriously. Our foreign schools also work with each family on a year-round basis to ensure a positive experience is had by each student. It is critical to understand that most homestays come from humble means and different dynamics.

Location of Housing

All housing options are located within a 10-30 minute commute from the school. Students will walk or take the local bus, which is a safe and normal way for students their age to get around in our host cities. The majority of our housing options are located in the same areas where students will be close to each other.

Evening Curfews

Student curfews are set based on what a culturally appropriate weekday and weekend curfew would be for teenagers in the country of study. This is normally between 10 PM – 11 PM on weekdays and a little later on the weekends depending on location and group dynamic. As an important safety measure, program staff diligently monitor student curfews. Specific curfews are listed on each program page for your reference. 

Typical Housing Dynamics

Students are well supported in all housing options and are provided with: meals, a living and study space, laundry service or facilities, linens and towels. It is fundamental that students have an open mind to trying new foods and living in an environment different than “home” to benefit from this transformative experience!

Although SPI homestays come in all shapes and sizes, the majority are older couples or single/widowed women in their 50s – 60s who have extra room in their home and are eager to host students. We have found this dynamic provides the best support, the most interaction, and the most culturally rich experience. Some homestays do have children, but students should keep in mind that homestays with children are busier and often offer less interaction — much like a busy American family.

Language Course Overview

The language courses focus on developing communication skills by simulating real-life situations through interactive class activities that include writing, oral expression, film, music, food, and literature.

> 2 Hours – Grammatical Concepts

> 1-2 Hours – Conversation, Culture, Literature, Film, etc.

> Small class sizes with levels 1 through AP/IB

College Credit Opportunity

SPI uses foreign universities and accredited language institutes for coursework abroad. These institutions provide high school students, upon successful completion of their courses, with an official transcript that they may use to petition college credit from their future university or college. Official transcripts are first sent to SPI in September, and then we will mail an official copy of the transcript in a sealed envelope to each participant. You will mail the official transcript packet directly to your U.S. university once you are enrolled.

Credit Hours vs. Credit Granted

Most SPI language immersion programs give 30-80 contact hours, or classroom hours, enabling for a potential of up to 1-6 semester college credit hours by your university. Contact hours are treated differently at every school. Some schools will grant specific class credit for the hours (e.g., Spanish), although most give a general foreign language or elective credit. Normally, 15 Contact/Class Hours = 1 College Credit Hour.

IMPORTANT:  Due to the nature of college credit granting by each individual U.S. university, it is impossible for SPI to guarantee credit for any student.