Costa Rica

International Service Learning (ISL) in Costa Rica

Program: International Office Faculty-Led Programs
University: La Universidad Nacional (La UNA)
Term: Summer 2015
Country: Costa Rica

Costa Rica Summer Program

Program Snapshot:

Dr. Tasha Willis and Carla Bykowski from the Cal State LA School of Social Work are offering an exciting opportunity this summer to social work majors and other undergraduate students to participate in a two-week service learning program in Heredia, Costa Rica this summer. While Costa Rica has enjoyed a rich history of democracy and political stability as well as incredible popularity as a travel destination, the country shares many social, economic, and environmental problems with its Central American neighbors. Domestic violence against women and children, human trafficking, prison overcrowding, poverty, and discrimination against indigenous populations are current social issues.

Dates:  July 17-31
Academic Focus:  Social Work 
Language of Instruction:  English
  • GPA of 2.75 or higher
  • Have at least some basic knowledge of Spanish or an interest in studying Spanish.  
  • Applicants will also need to be able obtain two letters of recommendation: one from a current or recent professor or field instructor and the second from a personal reference who can describe the student’s ability to be successful in an international service learning program.   
Units:  4 units 
Housing:  Homestay Families
Program Cost:  $2050 (includes Cal State LA tuition for 4 units, health insurance, housing and 3 meals per day). *Airfare and personal expenditures are NOT included in the program cost. 

Program Itinerary

Click here to download a printable version of the itinerary. 

Day 1


Departure Flight LAX > SJO

Breakfast with Homestay Families

12:45 am - 7:35 am

Day 1 & 2 

Weekend with Homestay Families

  • Get acquainted w/ family

Obtain cell phone & contact Dr. Willis  w/personal contact info


Day 3


Orientation #1:

La UNA & Heredia

  • La Universidad Nacional (La Una) for Onsite Orientation & Project Overviews, Lunch w/ Project Staff
  • Exploring Heredia
    • Parque de las Flores, Parque Central, El Mercado, El A’s Pollo Bus Stop, Banco Nacional

Debrief day at La Universidad Nacional (La Una)


9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Day 4


Orientation #2:

Citywide Scavenger Hunt

  • Team-based Citywide Scavenger Hunt

Meet for coffee & debriefing at Café Britt


9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Day 5


Orientation #3:

Museo de Cultura Popular & Project Planning

  • Historic Costa Rican Lunch  & Project Meeting w/ Staff

Afternoon for paired or group independent exploration of additional recommended sites or downtime


9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Day 6


Orientation #4:

Exploring San Jose

  • Exploring San Jose
    • National Museum
    • Women's Education and History Museum or El Mercado (To Be Confirmed)
    • Debrief at La Una



9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Day 7


Orientation #5:

Site Visit Day

  • Visit selected Extension Projects
  • Visit Our International Service Learning Site(s)
  • Debrief & review plans for Saturday excursion at our ISL site
  • Friday night farmers market (optional, good place for snacks & other locally grown goods)



9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Day 8


Volcan Poas

  • Departure from San Joaquín de las Flores
  • Departure from Alajuela
  • Departure from Volcán Poas

Home in time for dinner w/ Homestay family


6:45 am

9:00 am

           3:00 pm

Day 9


Waterfall Gardens

  • Departure from Iglesia Barva
  • Arrival to Waterfall Gardens
  • Walk through Bird, Butterfly, Animal exposition & Hike to Waterfalls
  • Buffet lunch at resort
  • Bus Departure

Home in time for dinner w/ Homestay family


7:00 am/7:30 am

9:00 am

9:30 am – 11:30 am

11:30 am – 12:45 pm

    1:00 pm/1:30 pm

Day 10 – 14

Monday - Friday

Service Learning Project Week

Optional Spanish Language Immersion

  • Morning only

Service Learning Project

  • All day or pm only if taking Spanish Immersion

FRIDAY NIGHT: Farewell Dinner (with host project and/or homestay families)


Day 15 & 16

Saturday & Sunday

Volcan Arenal

  • Bus to San Jose
  • Bus to La Fortuna
  • Hike to Volcan Arenal
  • Zip lining
  • Horseback Riding

Arrive homestay family for last night before departure

Course Officially Ends

4:45 am

6:00 am

Day 24


Departure from SJO > LAX or Independent Travel



How to Apply

Submit your application packet Friday, May 15, 2015. Priority deadline is Friday, April 17, 2015. 

Please include the following with your application packet:

  • 1-2 page (double spaced, 12 point font) essay on what global citizenship means to you, how this relates to your interest in Costa Rica International Service Learning (CRISL) program and what strength you will bring to our CRISL team. 
  • Completed and signed Academic Letter of Recommendation Form
  • Completed and signed Character Letter of Recommendation Form
  • Unofficial transcript with GPA
  • Financial Aid Award document
  • Copy of current passport or copy of receipt of passport application (
  • Resume 
  • Click here to download application

Submit completed application packets to Amy Wang at

Faculty Bios


Dr. Tasha WillisTasha Y. Willis is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at CSU, Los Angeles and the Vice President of Social Work Abroad Program, a 501c3 organization providing international service learning opportunities to US-based social work students, faculty and partner communities. She has worked in public education on equity issues, communities and workplaces on human relations concerns, and in social work field education assisting students integrating theory and practice. Her research agenda includes international social work education, cultural humility, and educational equity, including access to study abroad for underrepresented students. She obtained her B.A. in International Studies from Kenyon College; her M.S.W. from the University of Chicago, and her Ed.D. in Higher Education Leadership from CSU, Long Beach. Tasha’s personal agenda includes raising herself and her son to be global citizens in pursuit of well-being, justice, and peace for all, with good measures of joy, laughter and music, as well.
Carla BykowskiCarla Bykowski, MSW has over 20 years of experience in leading multidisciplinary collaborates and programs that serve children, families, and schools in diverse communities of Los Angeles County. Currently, Carla is a CalSWEC Faculty Liaison and Field Faculty Member at California State University, LA in the School of Social Work. In addition to teaching, she coordinates internship and stipend programs. At this time her focus is on child welfare and the aging population. Carla received a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Southern California, with a concentration in Community Organizing and Policy Administration in 1997 and an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Loyola Marymount University in 1988. She has traveled internationally on cross-cultural, multidisciplinary exchange delegations and educational programs to China, Cuba, Africa and Thailand. Carla is the President and a co-founder of a non-profit organization called Social Work Abroad Program (SWAP). SWAP provides intercultural internships for Cal State LA and CSULB MSW students and seeks to enhance US social work faculty knowledge of international social work issues in order to foster global citizenship. She enjoys hiking, traveling and world music. 

Contact Info

If you have questions about the program, please contact:

Prof. Carla Bykowski, or Prof. Tasha Willis,