Internships and Service Learning
At the Costa Rica Center, students carry out a weeklong group service learning project in the fall semester. Students are given several options (subject to change each semester) of partner organizations they can work with, and they are placed in one related to their academic interests. The main objective of service learning is for students to work with their peers in a project that fulfills a need of the host organization. Through field work experience, students are able to implement the knowledge gained through their seminars while learning through action, observation and cross-cultural communication how local organizations and individuals work to achieve specific set goals.
During the spring semester, students carry out a two-week independent field work project in Costa Rica (or approved alternative) which could be an internship, service learning project or research with one of our partner organizations, and artistic or action project. Students work with their advisor to identify and set-up an appropriate and exciting experience related to individual learning goals and academic interests, as part of the Field Work and Methods course where they design, prepare for, and document the project. The goal of this two-week experience is to put field work methods in practice, to examine theory in practice, to explore areas of academic interests and identify new ones. All projects must be approved by a faculty advisor to ensure that the proposal meets required academic and safety criteria.
In the past students have carried out their field study in local indigenous and non-indigenous communities, non-governmental and governmental organizations, universities, and schools, and with field advisors with expertise on the specific academic area of research. Students have chosen topics such as: sustainable agriculture, holistic health and well-being, education, human rights, women’s rights, HIV/AIDS, sex work, animal conservation, international human rights, global economic systems, alternative energy, LGBTQ, and more.
Below we include a list of partner organizations our students have worked with.
Boruca Indigenous Community
• Boruca is an indigenous community of the Brunca ethnic group. During colonial times the Bruncas were enslaved by the Spaniards and their culture became seriously endangered. Over the last 20 years the Brunca people have done a conscious and consistent effort to regain their culture and traditions. Today they are known for their beautiful masks and naturally dyed and traditionally woven bags.
• Students who collaborate in this project have worked in the community’s Museo de Cultura (Museum of Culture) and in the construction of more classrooms at the local high school.
Fundación Humanitaria Costarricense
• The Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation (CRHF) was is a non-profit organization committed to developing creative and economical solutions to a wide range of social problems in Costa Rica. The CRHF provides opportunities to exchange friendship, goods, services, and financial resources for critical needs among different cultures, socio-economic classes, and language groups. The vision of CRHF is to create a better quality of life for all those who they work with, supporting at-risk and special needs populations so they may have more choices for their future and fostering greater sensitivity in populations providing services.
• Many of our students have worked with their projects in La Carpio, a community located in the northeast part of San José. It is home to some 23,000 people, about half of them impoverished Nicaraguan immigrants. Costa Rica’s Mixed Social Aid Institute has estimated the monthly income of the majority of La Carpio’s families at between 60,000 and 75,000 colones (US$130-165), not enough to cover the cost of basic provisions. CRHF has many different social projects in La Carpio which allows for students that are interested in working with children, youth, women and other social groups to help with existing projects as well as implement new ideas and initiatives.
• Past student experiences in La Carpio have included: working with children at the after-school Day Care Center, working with women’s groups at the community center, helping to improve the infrastructure of the community, fundraising and building a community park, among other community generated initiatives.
Guarumo Organic Farm
• Proyecto Orgánico Guarumo is an independent project that aims to use land in a sustainable way and to promote a healthy lifestyle. It is an organic farm that produces a wide array of roots and vegetables as well as organic coffee for exportation.
• At Guarumo Organic Farm, students learn organic farming techniques for coffee plantations, vegetable gardens, and composts.
• Hogar Cristiano is an orphanage located in El Roble, Puntarenas run by la Congregación de las Hermanas Misioneras de la Asunción, the organization of nuns that owns the Costa Rica Center’s building. The orphanage is overseen by the state Child Protection Agency, and has been in existence since 1918. There are currently 73 children (almost exclusively female, thus only female students permitted) residing there, ranging from 4 months to 16 years old.
• At Hogar Cristiano, students provide recreational and educational support to the children through tutoring sessions and recreational activities.
New Dawn Center
• The New Dawn Center is an herb farm and educational center founded in 1987 and located in the foothills of the Talamanca mountains near San Isidro del General. Ed Bernhardt and Jessica Benavides run the center (which is also their home) where they grow their own vegetables and fruits using permaculture practices and offer courses on different topics related to sustainable and healthy living. Ed is the author of different books on organic gardening and natural health care practices.
• Students who have visited the New Dawn Center in the past have worked on a variety of projects, including building a bio-sand filter to purify water for rural areas, planting native tree species to give away to local land owners, working as volunteers at the local recycling center, and making a video on gardening as a teaching aid for food security programs.