RCAH in Costa Rica

Program: Sustainability and Civic Engagement in Costa Rica:

A semester-long education abroad research program 



RCAH students CR with MSU flag

Costa Rica


Program: Every Spring Semester  
Application Due: TBD

Credits (Minimum 16 Credits)

  • RCAH 203, Transculturation Through the Ages: Culture, Sustainability and Everyday Life (4 credits). 
  • RCAH 325, Methods in Community Engagement: Community Engagement, Research and Change (4 credits).
  • Lower-level Spanish language students: take two Spanish courses (8 credits)
  • Upper-level Spanish language students: take three Spanish courses (9 credits)

 Check with your advisor:

  • RCAH 203, course may count as university-required, upper-level integrated arts and humanities credit.
  • RCAH 325, may meet any community engagement or field study requirements. 
  • Both RCAH 203 and RCAH 325, is an elective course for the new Design Justice minor.
  • Lower-level Spanish language students take two Spanish courses totaling eight credits.
  • Upper-level Spanish language students take three Spanish courses totaling nine credits.


Vincent Delgado
Residential College in the Arts and Humanities
Phone: 517-355-0210
Email: delgado1@msu.edu  


About the Program

This annual spring semester education abroad opportunity in Costa Rica is focused on the latest innovations in sustainability and community-engaged research, students will study Spanish, train in research methods, and collaborate with rural and indigenous communities – from the cloud forests of Monteverde to the coastal mountains of Talamanca on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast.

Students will spend the first six weeks of the program studying Spanish at the edge of the world’s largest private cloud forest reserve, learning from the founders of community resilience and sustainability movements in Latin America and visiting with indigenous and campesinx communities throughout the country. Then, having learned arts and humanities-based community-participatory research methods,students will branch out across the country in teams to use the arts, oral histories, dialogue, and other humanities-based strategies to investigate and respond to sustainability challenges faced by residents living among the Pacific mountains and along the country’s Caribbean coast. Following three months of study and experience, students depart with conversational fluency in Spanish and publishable research.

More Details

Visit the International Studies and Programs Office for Education Abroad program page:https://educationabroad.isp.msu.edu/  


Course Information

Spring 2025 Courses

RCAH 203: Transculturation Across the Ages (4 credits)

Section 750 (V. Delgado)
Culture, Sustainability and Everyday Life 

Whether working for sustainability, peace, or transformative change, the development of an understanding of yourself and the people and communities with whom you are working is critical to engaging with communities. This course challenges students to build an understanding of sustainability theory, alternatives to development, conflict resolution frameworks, and community-engaged methods. Students will also learn how to use the arts and humanities to build an integrated understanding of their relationship to Costa Rican indigenous and campesino communities. Finally, students will consider the development of Costa Rica’s commitment to and challenges with sustainability through its ideas, history, literature, poetry, and film.

RCAH 325: Methods in Community Engagement  (4 credits)

Section 750 (V. Delgado)
Community Engagement, Research, and Change 

This course prepares students to collaborate with communities on local challenges using a powerful research methodology for community change: Community participatory research. Students learn critical skills, theories, and models for civic engagement, peace building, and research as well as dynamic approaches in the arts, humanities, design, and social sciences that can lead to sustainable solutions and community resilience. Students, working in teams, take these methods into communities across Costa Rica to engage in research projects addressing critical local challenges. The result: Publishable, community-based research to be shared with community partners. Partners in Costa Rica include ADESSARU – a non-profit preserving forests to protect the water supply for nearly 50,000 people; Centro Cultural RioChante – a youth arts collective; Girls for Success – an afterschool program for young Campesina, Afro-Caribbean and Indigena women; the Monteverde Community Foundation; ADISL – a Campesinx community development organization; ADITIBRI – the Indigena Bribri Autonomous Territorial Government; and LIFE Monteverde – a permaculture coffee farm.


Program Specifics

Spring 2025 

In mid-January, after engaging in remote learning for a week before the in-country start of the program, you will travel to Costa Rica’s Juan Santamaria Airport (SJO). You will spend the first week visiting partners along Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast, an isolated indigenous village reached only by dugout canoe, partners in the mountains near the capital, and San Jose. 

Then you will head to Monteverde. For the next six weeks you will stay in homestays while studying Spanish, sustainability theory and community-participatory research methodology at the Monteverde Institute – a world-renowned research hub on the edge of one of the largest cloud forest reserves in the world. Most Fridays, you will tour potential community-engaged research partners in the Monteverde region. On weekends, you will learn the public bus system while evaluating a Costa Rican community of your choice and visit a community reserve project in theBay of Nicoya by boat. 

For the final six weeks in Costa Rica, you will be placed in teams in community sites to work with community partners on participatory research projects. You will identify your top two favorite options among the following community partners.

After about two weeks into the research portion of the program, students will gather for about a week in a beautiful beach town either on the Pacific or Caribbean coast to workshop the start of their research papers. Students will also gather for two days in San Jose to finalize their research before departing the in-country portion of the program. Final group and individual projects will be due digitally about three days later.

Program will meet daily online January 2-3, 2025; January 6-9, 2025.In-country program portion runs January 13, 2025, through April 8, 2025. Final program assignments due digitally to D2L April 11, 2025.