Home » Fall Costa Rica Program Offers Students New Elective Courses and Longer Rural Practicum Experience

Fall Costa Rica Program Offers Students New Elective Courses and Longer Rural Practicum Experience

Fall Costa Rica Program Offers Students New Elective Courses and Longer Rural Practicum Experience April 6, 2013
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Students on ACM’s Costa Rica: Language, Society, & the Environment program this fall will have new options in choosing elective courses, including one taught by a prominent Costa Rican writer, as well as an expanded practicum experience in which they immerse themselves in the daily life of a rural community outside the capital city of San José, where the program is centered.

Fall 2012 ACM Costa Rica programFall 2012 ACM Costa Rica program students, faculty, and staff at the ACM Center in San José.

Two of the new courses, one focused on health care and the other on education, will join Neotropical Biodiversity and Conservation, taught by Program Director Chris Vaughan, to give students a choice among three semester-length electives. Spanish is the language of instruction, as it is throughout the program’s curriculum.

“Public education, public health, and world-famous conservation are three topics that students are very interested in when they come to Costa Rica,’ Vaughan noted. The changes in the curriculum will provide a range of opportunities for students to explore those subjects, both in the classroom and during the rural practicum.

The two new courses offered in the fall are:

  • Comparative Health Care in Costa Rica:  The Socialized System, Traditional Medicine, and Alternative Medical Practices

Students will focus on the current practice and future possibilities of three main types of medical practice in Costa Rica – universal health care as part of the country’s system of social security, the traditional or natural medicine practiced in rural communities, and alternatives to Western medicine, particularly acupuncture and homeopathy.

  • Politics and Policies of Public Education in Costa Rica

The course will explore the context and development over time of Costa Rica’s education system, the present education policy of the Ministry of Public Education, and educational challenges the nation faces in the years ahead.

Those three electives will be linked to the program’s popular rural practicum experience, when students fan out across Costa Rica to live with host families in small towns and engage in volunteer projects.

“The students love the rural stay,” said Vaughan. “They live with a family, speak Spanish, and get the cultural experience of being a member of a small Costa Rican community on their own, without their classmates.”

Rural staySt. Olaf College student Adam Johnson during his rural stay in the small coastal town of Tárcoles.

Beginning with the 2013 program, the rural stay will be expanded from three to four weeks to enrich its experiential and academic components. Along with their volunteer projects, students will work on assignments and write a report or essay related to the topic of their elective course in the environment, health care, or education.

For example, students taking the education elective might be placed in elementary or secondary schools to teach English as a second language, independently interview local residents to learn about the education system in the local community, and write a report about their findings to present to the rest of the students when they all return to San José.

The other new course this fall, addressing connections between environmental issues and literature, will be one of the three Spanish language electives offered to students during the latter part of the semester.

  • Approaching Latin American Environmental Issues through Literature

Led by renowned Costa Rican writer and activist Ana Cristina Rossi, students will read a variety of literary forms – a short novel, essays, and short stories – and grapple with environmental issues and solutions through presentations, discussions, and writing.

The other language electives are Latin American Rock in Spanish: Voices of Social Criticism, taught by ACM’s Spanish Language Coordinator Mario Morera, and Advanced Grammar & Composition in Spanish.

The program’s curriculum also includes Morera’s Introduction to Costa Rica course, which covers aspects of the nation’s culture and history and incorporates the rural practicum to give students a comparison to the urban experience of San José.

During the first five weeks of the semester, students take the intensive Spanish Grammar, Conversation, & Culture course, and throughout the program go on a variety of field trips, traveling through the country’s varied climatic zones and to both its Pacific and Caribbean coasts.

A direct enrollment option, taking courses alongside Costa Rican undergraduates at the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR), is open to students with advanced levels of Spanish language proficiency.


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