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Orotina, San Jose, Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

Program Description

Students will further develop understandings of place-based education and cross-cultural interactions at the community, school, and family levels. Learning experiences on this trip include engaging with teachers and children in a public school, living with host families, and participating in various excursions. Outside of school, students will live with host families, providing rich, mutually beneficial cultural experiences as they live together and share meals. The community itself will serve as a living classroom as students undertake critical place-based education projects supporting student learning and academic growth. All of these experiences will strengthen students’ skill-sets in engaging with children and families from other cultures, working with English Language Learners, and harnessing the power of place in any educational context.

Location Description

The primary location for this trip is the small town of Orotina, Costa Rica. Orotina is a Spanish-speaking community where students will have abundant opportunities to engage with the local family traditions and celebrations. It is located 16 miles northeast of the Pacific Ocean and 41 miles from the capital city of San Jose.

While living with local host families, students will work at the Primo Vargas Valverde elementary school. While not teaching, students will have opportunities to raft through the jungle, experience life in Playa Santa Teresa (a global beach community), and explore San Jose.


Aaron Bodle | | Early, Elementary, and Reading Education

Holly McCartney | | Early, Elementary, and Reading Education


Small groups of students (from two to four in a home) will live with host families in traditional Costa Rican homes. The host family will provide meals and offer access to laundry and other facilities. Most host homes have access to the internet. The homes are located throughout the community of Orotina, Costa Rica. All of homes where students will live are located within walking distance to the director's home, public transportation, the town center, school, and the homes of other host families.

Students will be given breakfast and dinner in their host family accommodations. During the weeks students are working in the school, the school will provide lunch. Prior to excursions students will be given a meal stipend to provide three meals a day. Stipends will be appropriate to the context and the length of time spent in each location. Students should plan to spend their own money on food purchases other than traditional meals.

Additional Items to Consider

Though knowledge of Spanish is not required, it is suggested that students work on conversational basics prior to the trip.

Students should have completed their undergraduate degree prior to the departure date.

Applicant Criteria

Applicants must have a GPA minimum of 2.0

Some Spanish is helpful, but not required.

Students must be planning to matriculate into the Elementary Education Master of Arts in Teaching program in the College of Education. Some exceptions will be considered.

Application Process

This list serves as an application preview. To apply, students will need to complete the following:

  • Study Abroad Online Application ($25 fee)
  • Short essay
  • Resume
  • Interview with Director may be required 
  • Official transcript required for non-JMU and first semester transfer students.

Further details and instructions about these application requirements will be available upon log-in. 

WAITLIST applications only.

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


ELED 632: Inquiry in Elementary Education (3 credits)

ELED 501: Classroom and Community Connections in a Global Society (3 credits)

Courses listed here are to be used as a general guideline for program curriculum. *All courses are considered pending until approved by the Academic Department, Program, and/or College.


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