Some experts claim that Costa Rica is a best-case example for sustainable economic development. Others see the efforts to integrate conservation with economic growth as being well-intentioned but detrimental to communities and ecosystems. Join CIEE in Monteverde, a small, international community nestled along the edge of a cloud forest, to learn about tropical conservation, rural development, and sustainability. Nearly half of your time will be spent on staff-led outings to get real-life, insider perspectives. A homestay, cultural activities, and more, will immerse you in Costa Rica’s rich culture.
Study abroad in Costa Rica and you’ll:
- Explore tropical biodiversity in a world-famous cloud forest
- Live in a rural town with a Costa Rican family
- Investigate sustainable economic development in the class and in the field
- Learn from locals about their experiences protecting biological and cultural diversity
Scholarships & Grants
Scholarships & Grants
We want as many students as possible to benefit from studying abroad. That’s why CIEE awards more than $5 million every year – more than any other international educational organization – to make study abroad affordable.
The CIEE Difference
The CIEE Difference
During your time in Costa Rica, you’ll explore the vibrant biodiversity of Monteverde cloud forests by day and by night. You will learn directly from local conservationists about initiatives to protect natural habitats while providing livelihoods in eco-tourism, agriculture, and energy production. Visits to farms, businesses, and forest reserves will allow you to critically assess whether the initiatives are successful or not. Conversations with resident farmers, businessmen, and community leaders will give you insight into their concerns and hopes for the future. They will likely inspire you to appreciate and protect biological and cultural diversity.
Live with a carefully selected local family on the edge of the stunning cloud forests of Monteverde. Adapt to life in simple rural home. Although lacking a lot of material goods, these homes are full of Latin warmth. You’ll surely broaden your language skills, cultural literacy, and comfort zone.
CIEE Study Center
See what it feels like to live sustainably when you study at the CIEE Study Center, where low-impact practices are a way of life and learning. Compost your organic trash to help cultivate native plants that support local wildlife on the Center grounds. Grow and eat organic crops from the CIEE Heritage Garden. Even bask in the natural light of the sun or flick a switch for solar powered energy.
Get inside access to local decision-makers, business owners, leaders, and activists for interviews, conversations, panel discussions, and hands-on training in sustainability practices.
Dates, Deadlines & Fees
Dates, Deadlines & Fees
We want to make sure you get the most out of your experience when you study abroad with CIEE, which is why we offer the most inclusions in our fees.
- Tuition and housing
- Pre-departure advising and optional on-site airport meet and greet
- Full-time program leadership and support
- Field trips and cultural activities
- CIEE iNext travel card which provides insurance and other travel benefits
Please note, program dates are subject to change. Please contact your CIEE Study Abroad Advisor before purchasing airfare. Click the
button to view more detailed information about dates and fees as well as estimated additional costs. Please talk with your University Study Abroad Advisor about additional fees that may be charged by your home institution when participating in a program abroad.
January 2017 (3 wks)
Program Date Notes
In addition to the items outlined below, the CIEE program fee includes an optional on-site airport meet and greet, full-time leadership and support, orientation, cultural activities, local excursions, field trips, pre-departure advising, and a CIEE iNext travel card which provides insurance and other travel benefits.
Participation Confirmation *
Educational Costs **
This breakdown has been prepared from the program budget for the purpose of calculating eligibility for financial aid. During the course of program operations, actual figures may vary. It should not, therefore, be used as a basis for calculation of refunds. CIEE reserves the right to adjust fees at any time.
Students required to study on CIEE programs through a School of Record will be charged a $500 administrative fee in addition to the Program Fees listed.
** direct cost of education charged uniformly to all students
*** includes all meals
Estimated Additional Costs
International Airfare *
The estimated additional costs indicated are intended to assist students and parents in budgeting for those additional living and discretionary expenses not included in the program fee. Actual expenses will vary according to student interests and spending habits.
* round-trip based on U.S. East Coast departure
- Overall GPA 2.5
- 2 college-level courses in the natural sciences, environmental studies, sustainability, or agriculture
Total credit is 3 semester/4.5 quarter hours and 45 contact hours
Students enroll in one course, Sustainable Development for the Tropics.
About the City
About The City
Monteverde is a small, international community, nestled along the edge of the cloud forest in the Tilarán Mountains, perhaps best known for the famed Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve. This portal to a lush haven of biodiversity attracts some 200,000+ visitors to the region each year. Drawn to the area’s spectacular beauty and opportunities to see Quetzals and monkeys, tourists now contribute the principal revenues to the zone, although coffee plantations and dairy farms still dot the landscape. The region, comprising numerous small towns, is home to about 5,000 people of diverse backgrounds. Recent opportunities for economic development, possibly at the expense of nature and peacefulness, have ignited heated debates among a highly engaged, informed, and active community.
Meet The Staff
Meet The Staff
Hector Castaneda has a degree in Tropical Forestry from the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica. He earned an MS in Tropical Conservation and Development as well as his PhD in Interdisciplinary Ecology from the University of Florida. His experience includes ethnoecology, remote sensing for forest cover monitoring, GIS analysis of land cover change, environmental entrepeneurship and forest restoration. Hector has worked as Adjunct Faculty for Duke University, Technical adviser for the REDD-CCAD/GIZ program for Central America, and as Environmental GIS consultant for IUCN and other international organizations. He is an instructor for the Sustainability and Environment Program.
Juliana is from San Jose, Costa Rica. She has lived in Monteverde for over 15 years. Juliana has a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Costa Rica and currently is finishing a graduate degree in Business Management. Besides being a native Spanish speaker, she also speaks English and Portuguese. She started working with the administrative team at CIEE-Monteverde in 2014.
Hazel Guindon was born and raised in Monteverde. She has a B.A. in Art and Visual Communication from the National University of Costa Rica (UNA) and also has studied elementary school education in The National Distance University (UNED). She started working with CIEE-Monteverde in 2015 as an Administrative Assistant.
Karen Masters has a B.S. from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University. She has been directing and teaching for the Sustainability and Environment Program since its inception in 2009. Her research is on the effects of climate change for cloud forest ecology. More recently, she has been involved with climate-smart conservation and agriculture.
Priscilla Palavicini is from Costa Rica’s capital city, San José. She earned a B.S. in Biology from the University of Costa Rica and a M.S. in Environmental Leadership & Management from the UNESCO Costa Rican University for International Cooperation. She has worked with CIEE-Monteverde in different capacities since 2010, but is currently the High School Coordinator and Instructor.
Adam C. Stein earned his PhD from Syracuse University. Hi is a tropical conservation biologist whose research interests focus on bird behavior and ecology in avian communities found in rain forests of Costa Rica and Panama. He is an instructor for the Sustainability and Environment Semester Program as well as for the Tropical Ecology and Conservation Summer Program. In his role as instructor, Adam teaches Tropical Conservation Biology and Policy, Tropical Diversity, and he advises independent research and internships.
Where You'll Study
Where You'll Study
The CIEE Study Center in Cerro Plano de Monteverde is located within easy walking distance of the center of Monteverde and Santa Elena, where students reside with host families and can shop and dine out. The CIEE Study Center provides classrooms, computer and library facilities, and indoor and outdoor common areas. The Center is solar powered and sustainable, featuring composting, native landscaping, an organic Heritage Garden, and up-cycled treasures from our recycling center.
Housing & Meals
Housing & Meals
Housing, all meals, and transportation are included in the program fees. During Orientation and Departure, students and staff stay in simple hotels. While at our base in Monteverde, students live with Costa Rican families. Host families have been carefully selected, are experienced with CIEE students, and are generally located in Santa Elena or Cerro Plano. Families are of variable composition: sometimes the family is extended, while others are nuclear families. There are usually children present, but the number and ages vary. Students are provided with breakfast, a sack lunch, and dinner. You will have a private room, access to a shared (family) bathroom, a key for the house, and laundry service. Host families can generally accommodate diet requirements and restrictions, such as vegetarianism. More specialized or restricted diets might be possible as well.
You'll begin your study abroad experience in Monteverde even before leaving home by participating in a CIEE Online Pre-Departure Orientation. Resident Director Karen Masters will meet with you online and share information about the program and site, highlighting issues that alumni feel are important, and giving you time for questions. The online orientation allows you to connect with others in the group, reflect on what you want to get out of the program, and learn others’ goals. CIEE’s aim for the pre-departure orientation is simple: to help you understand more about the program and identify your goals.
A two-day, mandatory orientation session, conducted in the Central Valley at the beginning of the session and including structured activities, introduces you to the country, culture, and academic program. It provides critical practical information about living in Costa Rica (particularly Monteverde), and provides guidelines about living with Costa Rican homestay families. You'll learn about the program, the trips planned, the calendar, and expectations. You'll also receive a course reader and other materials at this time.
Upon arrival in Monteverde, you'll take an orientation walking tour with teaching staff to see the town. You’ll also get an in-depth orientation to the CIEE Study Center.
In preparation for the end of the session and students' departure, students and staff have an open discussion in which they anticipate upcoming change and possible reverse culture shock. They consider how their lives have changed and how these changes make them better suited for handling the transition.
At the CIEE Study Center there is wireless internet available for students to use on their own laptops or mobile devices. The Internet service at the CIEE Study Center is relatively high speed (3 Mbps bandwidth) but there are frequent outages and/or delays. Generally, host families do not have wireless Internet in their homes. There are cafés and bars in Santa Elena and Cerro Plano that offer Wi-Fi for free or a nominal purchase (like a cup of coffee).
You will interact with a broad spectrum of Costa Rican society, including residents and business people of rural towns and the capital city. You'll get to know local subsistence farmers trying to protect forest patches, business people striving for sustainable socioeconomic development, and impassioned conservationists laboring for the protection of biodiversity and ecosystem welfare. No two individuals or situations or habitats will be alike, but in the diversity you will begin to understand Costa Rica and the complexity of economic sustainability and conservation.
Cultural diversity is highlighted throughout. The program includes homestay-family events, including some held at the Study Center, designed to expose students to the culture of Costa Rica. You will visit important cultural sites during orientation, cook a meal of Costa Rican food, and attend community functions.
The January Sustainability and Environment program is an intensive introduction to pressing environmental sustainability issues facing many tropical, developing nations today. The schedule is very structured and full. You are held to high standards of academic and personal conduct. There is no time for weekend travel and you will be strongly encouraged to spend evenings and Sundays with host families and in community activities, practicing the language and learning about the local culture.
Nature of Classes
Classes are typically scheduled for Monday through Saturday. You should expect to have daily homework assignments or quizzes. Courses are taught through the use of lectures, readings, field visits, interviews, surveys, group discussions, and debates.
Grades are based on quizzes, exams, essays, oral presentations, deliverables, plus attendance and participation in classes, including outings.
Language of Instruction
Sustainable Development for the Tropics is taught in English
Note: This course listing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a contract between CIEE and any applicant, student, institution, or other party. The courses, as described, may be subject to change as a result of ongoing curricular revisions, assignment of lecturers and teaching staff, and program development. Courses may be canceled due to insufficient enrollment.
CIEE Study Center Syllabi
To view the most recent syllabi for courses taught by CIEE at our Study Centers, visit our syllabi site.
DEVE 3001 MTVE
Sustainable Development for the Tropics
This course critically assesses the “triple bottom line”, i.e., the balance of the environment, economy and society, in theory and practice, through its exploration of contemporary development issues for tropical developing nations in general, and Costa Rica in particular. The focus is on sectors of economic development where there is a strong interface between the environment, society and economic activities. The principal systems explored are agriculture, energy, and international tourism, all critically important to the nation’s economy, as well as to its natural capital, which is ostensibly protected by progressive environmental practice and policy. Under pressures to grow the economy and globalize, the triple bottom line hangs in the balance. Students travel to innovative locations to hear from experts and insiders as they gain firsthand insight into tensions and trade-offs as well as possible directions toward a sustainable future (45 contact hours / 3 credits).