Heredia is a quaint, colonial city nestled in the foothills above San José‚ the capital of Costa Rica. The city is surrounded by coffee plantations and ranches and is one of the gateways to the majestic Poás Volcano. The climate is temperate, with average year-round temperatures of 70°-80°F. Rainfall is spread throughout the year, but the rainiest period is May to October. Only 12 kilometers from the international airport and 25 minutes by bus from downtown San José and its one million inhabitants, Heredia offers the peace and rural beauty of a smaller city, while providing easy access to the activities of the capital. There is always something to do in Heredia, and it allows the benefit of a college city while offering a short, affordable bus ride to beautiful places such as INBIO Parque (a small local zoo), Monte de la Cruz (a hike to a beautiful lookout), and La Paz waterfall gardens. Heredia is central enough that it is an easy bus ride to all corners and coasts of the country. Heredia was founded in 1705 and is known as the Ciudad de las Flores (City of Flowers). Beautiful mountain scenery, lush vegetation, and gardens are abundant, as are a variety of Farmer’s Markets bustling with local Ticos and full of fresh vegetable and fruit. Heredia Central is where shops, restaurants, and cafes are located; Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica, where USAC courses are held, is situated only a few blocks from downtown Heredia. It’s surrounded by different neighborhoods, each with their own festivals, schools, and rhythms. Parque Central is the main historic square, surrounded by superb colonial architecture, and full of the downtown activity of cafes, restaurants, ice cream shops, and stores. It is common for the locals to sit in the park and enjoy the nice weather that Costa Rica offers. Most students in homestays will live in a neighborhood surrounding Heredia Central. Landmarks including Heredia’s historic La Immaculada Conception church, a music temple, and El Fortin—a wonderful colonial tower of the old Spanish fort. The Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica (USAC’s host university), as well as two other universities, create the feel of a college town in which you are typically surrounded by Costa Rican college students. The UNA campus is only a few blocks away from downtown Heredia. This campus allows USAC students to interact with locals and experience the culture. Here USAC students are invited to participate in classes with locals, take dance classes, play exciting games of soccer, and even have the opportunity to volunteer at local sites around Heredia.
The Florianópolis program offers students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the incredibly diverse and dynamic culture of Brazil while living on a beautiful sub-tropical island and studying at one South America's most prestigious universities. The program is ideal for students who want to learn about the world's fifth-largest country, one of the fastest-growing economies, and its diverse mix of European, African, and indigenous cultures. Learn an old European language with a unique modern twist while soaking up the beautiful weather and sandy white beaches of the southeastern Brazilian coast. Influences from centuries of immigration collide and are reborn on this island which has retained and developed a culture that is different from the mainland and unique to Brazil. Locals mingle with visitors from Europe and the Americas who choose the island's charms and almost perpetually warm climate. Near the thriving old colonial center, you will study Portuguese and a range of optional courses at Brazil's third largest university. All of these factors create a fascinating learning and social atmosphere for USAC students. This program focuses on academic areas in which Brazil is a world leader: Cultural Studies, Global Economy, and Natural Resource Management. You will have the opportunity to study the complexities of contemporary Brazilian society through a wide selection of courses in English, as well as through your own interactions with the host culture. In addition, an intensive Portuguese language course is offered to all students to create an essential base with which to better understand the country. The intensive approach will allow you to complete up to two years of university foreign language coursework in only one semester or one year of language coursework in one summer. You may stay for one semester or a full year. The summer Florianópolis program offers one 3-week session (Session I) and one 5-week session (Session II) which can be taken individually or combined for an 8-week session. The academic courses are only one part of the intended value of your study abroad experience. Participation in formal and informal activities, such as field trips and visits to cultural events and local festivals, constitute an integral and enriching part of your stay. During each semester you will also have the opportunity to join an optional tour to the stunning destinations of Iguaçu Falls and Buenos Aires (Fall) and Minas Gerais (Spring or Summer).
Puntarenas offers the peace and rural beauty of a small beach town while at the same time affording easy access to the activities of the capital. During the nineteenth century it was Costa Rica’s major seaport, but Puerto Limón and Caldera (11 miles to the southeast) have assumed that role. Now primarily a tourist destination and transportation hub, it is a bustling town, particularly during the dry season months (November–April). During the wet months (May–October) it is hot with refreshing afternoon showers. The geography of the city is unique since it is located at the end of a sandy peninsula almost five miles long, but only 120 to 700 yards wide. Consequently, one is always close to the ocean, and there are many beaches from which to choose. Puntarenas offers access to the Nicoya Peninsula on two ferries. Nicoya is best known for its pristine beaches and resorts, as well as for its native folklore. From Puntarenas, you can travel up and down the coast to world-class surfing beaches, nature reserves, and plantations. This central Pacific region offers something for every outdoor enthusiast. Students find buying a used bike upon arrival is the easiest form of transportation for getting around Puntarenas.