Community Engagement in La Fortuna
Costa Rica is known for being ecologically diverse and committed to sustainable ecotourism. Nearly one quarter of the country's land area is protected – the largest percentage of any country in the world. Over four days, you will work alongside the bilingual staff members of Proyecto Asis, an organization dedicated to wildlife protection, environmental conservation, and fostering positive cultural exchanges through education and service. Proyecto Asis is an eight acre ecological reserve on the edge of the rainforest, home to monkeys, caimans, wild pigs, parrots, sloths, and more! Your service may include helping take care of the animals by feeding them, cleaning their cages, and assisting in repairing or building new cages. You will also spend two days volunteering at a local elementary school. There, you will provide support for maintenance projects (e.g. painting classrooms) and may help with classroom projects and/or instruction. When not volunteering, you will engage in a variety of cultural activities to better acclimate yourself to Costa Rican life and the area surrounding the Arenal Volcano. A home stay with a Costa Rican family will give you the opportunity to practice your Spanish, while a visit to a local farm will enlighten you about “Tico” traditions, agricultural exports, and cooking practices.
*Program is subject to minimum enrollment.
You will participate in approximately thirty-two hours of community service in Costa Rica and complete additional written assignments during and after the program. The overarching purpose of the course is for you to foster a lifelong commitment to service and civic engagement both home and abroad.
Upon completion of this course you will be able to:
- Understand the impact of your service on meeting community needs abroad
- Gain a broader global perspective
This program counts as a 1-credit course and is equivalent to EEPL 450 at UAlbany.
General Education Information for UAlbany Students
Credits earned on this program will automatically satisfy the International Perspectives requirement. No additional approval is required for you to earn these general elective credits.
Major/Minor Information for UAlbany Students
Courses may also satisfy major and minor requirements, upon approval by the department.
All courses taken abroad count towards UAlbany General Elective credits. Credits and grades will appear on your UAlbany transcript. You may file a request to have additional courses approved for equivalency as necessary.
This course is taught by UAlbany’s Dr. Martha Asselin. Dr. Asselin is the Director of the Center for Leadership and Service and she is a Visiting Professor for the Educational Administration and Leadership program at the University at Albany, SUNY. With more than 30 years of professional experience in higher education, Dr. Asselin has enjoyed a diverse career serving in a variety of positions at SUNY Cobleskill, Schenectady County Community College and now, the University at Albany.
Housing is arranged by Proyecto Asis. You will live with up to three other students with families in La Fortuna who are associated with Proyecto Asis and have been carefully screened. The homestay experience will provide you with a unique opportunity to learn about Tico culture firsthand from Costa Rican families, while also improving your Spanish.
Internet access is available at Proyecto Asis and in some locations in the town of La Fortuna.
Breakfast is eaten with families every day. Lunches are eaten at the volunteer project sites or with the families. Dinners are eaten with host families or in the town of La Fortuna, depending on the day’s itinerary. All meals are included in the program charge except for the final dinner in San José and food which you may purchase on travel days.
Estimate of Costs
Please review the Spring Break Costa Rica 2020.
Click for more information on Program Costs and Financial Aid.
Remember to speak with the Office of Financial Aid at your home campus to determine how your aid package could apply towards your program abroad.
While some knowledge of Spanish is helpful, proficiency in Spanish is not required. You must be in good academic and judicial standing to apply. Applications are welcome from students in all majors with a second-semester freshman standing or above. A willingness to engage in physical labor is a must.
Experiential learning plays a critical role in your program experience. The program includes several cultural excursions** to important and influential sites, so you will have the opportunity to experience the culture of Costa Rica to its fullest.
Past Excursions and Activities
- Zipline experience
- Hiking the lava flow of Arenal Volcano
- Experiencing the La Fortuna hot springs
- Costa Rican cooking class and cultural activities
**Schedule is tentative and subject to change
External scholarships, listed on our website, are a good way to partially fund your study abroad experience. In addition, the Center for International Education and Global Strategy offers two scholarship programs for UAlbany students studying abroad on UAlbany or 4-year SUNY programs.
More information on applying to these scholarships is located on the Scholarships web page.
“A very important area of conservation is education, and these folks at Proyecto Asis were warm and welcoming, dedicated to their work and incredibly knowledgeable.”
Amanda K., Biology
“Traveling to Costa Rica was full of ‘firsts’ for me: my first plane ride, first experience abroad, and first visit to a volcano. It gave me the opportunity to form incredible friendships through experiences of cultural immersion, learning, and service.”
Christina H.A., Social Welfare
About the City
La Fortuna is a rural city located just four miles from the Arenal Volcano and 75 miles from Costa Rica’s capital, San José. La Fortuna is both a rural city and a popular tourist destination on the edge of the rainforest.
A valid passport is required to participate in this program. If you are a permanent resident or international student, a visa may be required. More information regarding the visa application process is available upon acceptance to the program.
Applications become available online one semester before the program start date, based on the following timeline:
- Spring Break programs: July
Spring Break 2020
03/14/2020 to 03/21/2020
Due to the short nature of the program, you are strongly encouraged to participate in an optional flight departing from JFK Airport. More information regarding flights is available upon acceptance.
Proyecto Asis, an eight-acre ecological reserve on the edge of the rainforest in the Province of Alajuela, is home to monkeys, caimans, macaws, and more. Its mission is to create intercultural connections and promote the building of a new environmental consciousness through volunteer programs. The organization is officially recognized by and works in close coordination with the Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment and Energy (MINAE) and the Monteverde Conservation League, a non-profit organization that administers the world-renowned Children´s Eternal Rainforest, a private reserve of 54,000 acres. Proyecto Asis additionally won a 2013 Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor and is a member of the Student and Youth Travel Association (SYTA).
Upon acceptance to the program, you will be required to attend a mandatory pre-departure orientation. During this time, you will have the opportunity to meet other program participants, discuss in-depth the details of your program, and prepare of the overall education abroad experience.
The Spring Break pre-departure orientation is typically conducted on a week night in February. Upon arrival in Costa Rica, you will receive additional important information from the staff at Proyecto Asis.
Your Faculty Leader is responsible for guiding all aspects of the program and will be available throughout the on-site portion of the course to manage any concerns or questions you may have while abroad. The faculty accompany you on all program activities and outings.
UAlbany’s Office of Education Abroad staff assists you during the application process, in your preparation to travel abroad, and on-site if necessary.