Students walking

Costa Rica

Public Health and Development

Program Overview

About Costa Rica

About San José



Field Trips

Accommodation & Meals



General Summer Program Information

Program Eligibility and Application Procedures

Application Deadline



Temple University’s Public Health and Development in Costa Rica program offers a unique opportunity for students with a background in health, medicine, social work, political science, psychology, sociology, economics and international studies to see and experience a developing country’s health concerns first hand. The program is designed to provide students with an understanding of the country's health care system and to offer hands-on experiences in designing and implementing public health campaigns to address local health concerns. Students must be willing to live with host families in both rural and urban settings; be able to adapt to diverse environments including humid tropical settings, rainforests and urban congestion; and be prepared for living conditions in a developing country. If you are an adventurous student looking for an exciting, realistic experience in Central America, this is the program for you.



Costa Rica has historically placed great emphasis on education and public health care. It has one of the oldest and best primary health care systems, providing basic primary care to 90 percent of its citizens (although coverage for immigrant populations remains a problem). In place since the 1950's, the Costa Rican health care system represents one of the most integrated health care systems in Latin America. Costa Rica is considered the “Switzerland” of Central America due to its neutrality and highly developed educational, housing and social security systems. All of these factors have resulted in lower mortality and morbidity rates, and the highest immunization and prenatal care rates in Central America.

Costa Rica boasts of being the only country in Latin America without a military, yet it has had a long history of peace and prosperity both internally and with its neighbors, many of which have experienced extremely turbulent civil wars in the last fifty years. However, migrant workers from Nicaragua, Panama and El Salvador face poor working conditions in Costa Rica’s banana plantations and sugarcane fields. Also, many of Costa Rica’s rural areas still lack water treatment systems and adequate sanitation.

Costa Rica can arguably be called of one of the most technologically advanced countries in the region, with sophisticated transportation and communication infrastructures. It also remains one of the most bio-diverse countries in Latin America, renowned for its tropical rain and cloud forests, whose wildlife is protected by numerous national reserves. Tropical birds include exotic hummingbirds, toucans and endangered species such as the Quetzal. Students will see volcanoes and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but they can also expect to see monkeys, iguanas, geckos, butterflies and moths, as well as spiders, grasshoppers and other insects, including mosquitoes. Therefore, this program is not recommended for anyone who is insect-phobic.



San José is a cosmopolitan city in Central America. Its economy was built on the profits of coffee exports, and small coffee farms are still located around the city outskirts. From almost any point in the city one can look up and see volcanic mountains. The center of government, culture and education, San José is home to the Teatro Nacional, the Universidad de Costa Rica, and other national institutions. The city sits at 3,750 feet above sea level, enjoying spring-like temperatures year-round.




Both undergraduate and graduate students register for a total of six credits, although the expectations for graduate students are higher than for undergraduates in terms of research and participation effort. Undergraduate students register for six credits of Public Health 3208: International Health Study Abroad. Graduate students register for six credits of Public Health 5005: International Health Studies Abroad.

The first two weeks of the program take place in San José and consist of lectures, site visits and Spanish language instruction. Each morning during the first two weeks, lectures and discussions are conducted by Dr. Clara Haignere and experienced professionals from Costa Rica, including presenters from the University of Costa Rica’s School of Public Health. The group also visits hospitals, clinics and health-related organizations in the San José area.

While previous Spanish language proficiency is not required for program participation, some Spanish language ability is strongly preferred for students to gain the maximum understanding during the program. Students with minimal Spanish language background should consider taking a course prior to departure to refresh and build upon their language skills. To assure further language capacity of program participants, the first two weeks of the program include intensive Spanish language training in Costa Rica at the Institute for Central American Development Studies (ICADS), a non-profit foundation that is a center for language studies, research and analysis of Central American social and environmental issues. ICADS provides language studies every afternoon for three and a half hours. ICADS is located in a middle-class residential suburb of San José close to the University of Costa Rica.

After the first two weeks in San José, students in 2014 will live and work for approximately three weeks in a rural community in the Alajuela region where they will work with local community groups to develop and help to facilitate health education workshops and information on topics of the community's choice. Possible topics include health concerns among the Nicaraguan immigrant community such as domestic violence, family communications, teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, dengue fever, and perhaps type-II diabetes. Topics will be finalized after further communication with the host community.

Following the three weeks in the rural area, students will return to San José to give presentations on their activities in the rural community and finish writing their final paper. This work will hopefully serve as the basis for student presentations at conferences. In the past, students have presented their findings at the American Public Health Association Annual Conference, Pennsylvania Public Health Association’s annual conference, the Society for Public Health Education’s annual conference, and the Global Temple Conference.

Temple undergraduate students who successfully complete this program automatically satisfy the World Society (GG) requirement of GenEd.




Dr. Clara Haignere has extensive experience in regional, national and international public health and health education initiatives. She received her PhD in international studies from the University of Denver with a specialty in international public health, conducting her doctoral dissertation in Chile on how political and economic structures and policies affected health conditions and the health systems. She has an MPH from Columbia University, and in addition to Temple University, she has taught international health at the University of Colorado Medical School, Brooklyn College, Hunter College and New York University.

In the early 1980s, Dr. Haignere was a consultant and coordinator for the Oscar Romero Holistic Health Care Center, working with Central American refugees, combining health education curriculum with English as a second language curriculum in New York City. From 1983 to 1985, she was the administrative director of Aesculapius International Medicine, designing, implementing and evaluating a rural community health clinic in El Salvador during that country's civil war. In 1985, she co-led the third American Public Health Association U.S. Public Health Commission to El Salvador to assess how the civil war was affecting health conditions. In summer 2001, Dr. Haignere returned to El Salvador with a delegation to examine the health effects of the earthquakes that year. She is currently researching and writing on global comparisons of European health care systems with the changes in the health care system in the U.S.



Field trips may include visits to tropical rainforests to learn about environmental health concerns; rural health clinics; hospitals; and other organizations and institutions related to the group's service learning public health activities. Students will also have opportunities on weekends to visit volcano sites and other sightseeing locations.




For the first two weeks, students live with host families in San Pedro, a residential suburb of San José near the University of Costa Rica. Host families are arranged for each student through the Institute for Central American Development Studies (ICADS). These homestay experiences improve not only the student’s language training, but also their understanding of social and cultural nuances in Costa Rican society. During the next three weeks, students live in a rural community with carefully selected host families. While all the rooms are clean and well maintained, the accommodations are basic and not luxurious. During the course of travel around Costa Rica, students are expected to share a room in a small bed and breakfast with one or two, and sometimes three, other students. The program concludes in San José, where students stay in a modest hotel for several days.

During the first two weeks in San José, breakfast and dinner are included in the program costs. While students are in homestays in rural areas, three meals a day are provided. On the weekends, when students are not in homestays, they are responsible for all meals and snacks, with the exception of a group meal each week organized throughout the program. Outside of San José, bottled water is provided throughout the stay and is included in the costs of the program.





Undergraduate (6 credits)

Graduate (6 credits)


Budget Item

Pennsylvania Resident


Pennsylvania Resident


Billable Item










Costa Rica Fee**





Services Fee

  Required Health
$51 $51

Non-Billable Item










Personal Expenses





Round-Trip Airfare





   Airport Departure   







All estimated costs are subject to change. They should be used as a guideline only. Accepted students will receive updated, detailed cost information as soon as it is available after the application deadline.

*Per university policy, Temple students who are considered “upper division” are charged additional tuition ($21 per credit) in the summer. “Upper division” is defined as an undergraduate student with a minimum of 60 earned credits, regardless of how obtained. This policy does not affect non-Temple students.

**The Costa Rica Fee includes housing, two weeks of Spanish language instruction, local program-related transportation, and some meals (as outlined above). Please note that this fee is based on the previous program fee and will be updated.

***Costs for immunizations vary signficantly depending on each student's immunization history. Costs can also vary significantly depending on the location where immunizations are administered; Student Health Services offers competitive rates for Temple students. To learn more about recommended immunizations for travel to Costa Rica, visit the Centers for Disease Control website.

In addition to the items listed above, students should budget money for books and supplies, personal travel, and any other personal expenses.

We recommend that students follow the exchange rate prior to and during their summer abroad, either through the newspaper or a currency exchange web site (such as



2014 CALENDAR (Summer I)

Dates are tentative and subject to change.


Departure May 18
Arrival in Costa Rica May 18
Program Ends June 28



Please see General Summer Information to read about pre-departure information and orientation; passports and visas; scholarships; costs and payment policies; accreditation; and transfer of credits.



Please see Eligibility and Application Procedures for program eligibility, application requirements, and application procedures that apply to all summer programs. In addition, for the Costa Rica program, the following is required: 

  • A typed statement (recommended length 750 words) describing your expectations, interests, and any previous experiences in connection to global health issues, particularly as they relate to the topics for this year's program. Applicants are asked to complete this statement within the application.

  • Interest in a health-related field of study.

  • Some Spanish language background is strongly preferred.

  • Students must also be comfortable in rural settings and living with families; open to engaging new cultures, settings, people and public health problems; able to work well in groups with different people; flexible as conditions change; capable of living without continuous cell phone/Internet access.

  • All candidates are interviewed; virtual interviews are conducted for those who cannot be interviewed in person.





For further information, please contact Dr. Clara Haignere; Department of Public Health; College of Health Professions; Temple University; 215-204-5109;


Education Abroad; Temple University; 200 Tuttleman Learning Center; Philadelphia, PA 19122; 215 204-0720;