SFS-Costa Rica: Environmental Justice From the Ground Up

Program Details

Program Location Atenas, Costa Rica
Sponsor School for Field Studies
Program Type Co-sponsored
Course # SA 35003
Duration Summer
Upcoming Program Dates
To Be Announced
Current Program Dates
Summer 2024 07/08/24 to 08/06/24
Past Dates
Page Links
Click here to apply for this program!
Please Note: Programs may be altered or adapted with little notice


Costa Rica is known worldwide for its conservation efforts, which have attracted millions of tourists to the country, its parks, and its reserves. However, the ongoing transition from an agriculture-based to a service-based economy, from climate change, and from accelerated infrastructural development threaten Costa Rica's biodiversity and society. As rural areas give way to urban developments, already scarce resources, including fresh water and energy sources, are stretched to their limit. A reorganization of resource use and waste management practices is urgently needed to maintain healthy and functioning ecosystems in Costa Rica.

Tackle the challenging topic of environmental justice from a community perspective. In studying this crucial subject, we find that many solutions originate with the very communities being denied access to the natural resources that sustain them. Dive deep into the themes of food sovereignty, water access and management, tourism’s impact on biodiversity, and the development of sustainable resource alternatives. Explore diverse perspectives on controversial environmental management issues, learn to conduct community-based data collection, and support community members reaching their own solutions to natural resource management and protection.

For more program information, please visit the program website. This program is sponsored by:School for Field Studies.


The program is open to Purdue students in good standing who have completed at least two semesters of university study by the start of the program. Successful candidates will demonstrate academic success, maturity, and a desire to experience another culture.

GPA Requirement: 2.6 on a 4.0 scale
Language Requirement: none

Purdue Credit

Direct Credit available from the following: [College of Agriculture] [College of Liberal Arts] [College of Science]
Specifically from: BIOL (SCI) and Liberal Arts majors fulfilling their science requirement

Students interested in completing courses while abroad from Purdue colleges or departments that are not listed above should discuss this with their study abroad advisor before applying to the program.

Academic Program

This academically rigorous program follows a five-day/week schedule. Most weekends are open to explore Costa Rica or relax at the Center. The interdisciplinary curriculum is designed to help students actively discover and understand the complexities of environmental, social, and economic issues in Costa Rica. Major academic themes include:

  • Climate change and tropical ecosystems
  • Agroforestry
  • Sustainable ecotourism
  • Food security, seed sovereignty, and women´s entrepreneurship in agriculture
  • Water access rights; water management and protection
  • Biodiversity analysis
On the Environmental Justice from the Ground Up program, you will take one 4-credit course. This course is participatory in nature and is designed to foster inquiry and active learning combining lectures, field exercises, assignments, and tests. This course is taught in English. Course description and syllabus can be found on the SFS webpage.


  • Visit the cloud forests of Monteverde to learn about the transition from pastures to forests to reserves, including different perspectives on ecological and environmental justice from tourists, local communities, conservationists, and farmers. 
  • Analyze water management practices and social movements in defense of water by visiting ASADAS, a local water management committee.
  • Explore local community efforts to enhance food production and seed-saving by visiting agroecological farms and learning about sustainable farming practices.


The Center overlooks the vibrant Central Valley, where green is the predominant color as far as the eye can see. The dorms and classrooms are nestled among orchards and gardens, while Center dog Hera keeps watch over it all. The friendly town of Atenas is a 10-minute cab ride away, offering restaurants, shops, parks, and cultural events.

  • Dorm living with four-person bunkrooms
  • Classroom, library, computer lab, and laundry room
  • Open-air porch with hammocks and chairs
  • Dining hall with scenic valley views, and on-site cooking staff
  • Swimming pool, soccer field, basketball court, and pizza oven
  • Outdoor classroom, greenhouses, nursery, and a vegetable garden

Estimated Program Costs

Students pursuing program participation accept financial responsibility. Purdue will take measures to mitigate financial risks, although will not be liable for loss.
Students should carefully note what costs need to be paid to Purdue University or to a co-sponsor or agency, and what costs need to be paid at the overseas study location.  This will vary by program.

The program and housing fees cover: room and board for one four-week session, program-related ground transportation and park entrance fees, field equipment, supplies, orientation and pre- and post-program advisory services. Total Program Cost does not include transportation to and from the program location.

The fees below are for the one 4-week summer session with SFS. Please speak to your study abroad advisor for the program costs for participation in two summer sessions with SFS.

Costs for this program are estimated and subject to change. The cost figures listed below are for: Summer 2024

Costs per term to be billed by Purdue and Co-sponsor
Program Fee $4,850.00
Study Abroad Fee $609.40
Housing $1,650.00
Purdue International Insurance (per month) $32.00

Approximate additional costs per term
To be paid by the student.
Round-trip Airfare $700.00
Miscellaneous Personal Expenses $0.00 - $1,100.00
Travel Documents (passport, photos) $175.00

Financial Aid

In order to qualify for financial aid (incl. loans), students need to register for at least six credits during the summer. Participating in this program in Costa Rica will only result in four credits, therefore students planning to use summer aid will need to enroll in at least two more credits during the summer at Purdue or combine this program with another 4-week session at a different SFS location.

SFS offers many scholarships and/or 0% interest loans (no FAFSA form required). Please see the SFS website for more details.

Purdue University financial aid may be applied to the costs of studying abroad. Students interested in receiving financial aid should

NOTE:  Recipients of certain tuition remission and scholarship programs should pay careful attention to the regulations for using those benefits for study abroad.  Ask your financial aid advisor about any limitations.

Click here for a list of scholarships and grants available to assist with the costs of studying overseas.

Application Deadlines

For full consideration, students must submit all supporting documents (typically an essay, transcripts, 1-2 recommendations, and copy of passport) before or by the application deadline.  Popular programs fill quickly, often before the deadline. To ensure a place in a program, apply early.

As soon as a student submits an online application, a My Study Abroad account is created. Applicants should consult this page often to check on the status of the application.

Program Application Deadline
Most Summer Programs Mar 1

Returnees Information

Click below to search for Purdue students who have participated in this program and are willing to be contacted.  If you get no results, you can use the search form to find people who studied in the country you are interested in.


The websites listed below contain information about this program. The accuracy of information at external sites cannot be guaranteed.

For more information on this program, please contact the Study Abroad Office by phone (765) 494-2383 or email studyabroad@purdue.edu.