Monday Top 5: UGACR Maymester Programs

As we prepare to send off our Maymester programs in less than a week, we decided now would be a good time to introduce to you our top 5 Maymester programs, as indicated by final enrollment. If you are interested in one of these programs for 2015, you better apply early!

1) Art, Astronomy, & Journalism

What began as just an Art & Astronomy program earlier this year, quickly took on a new audience when Journalism was added into the mix. The student response to the diversity of this program has been positive. Students are taking advantage of pursuing credit for their major while also counting courses like Astronomy toward their Physical Science requirement at UGA. And from what we have seen, there has never been a more excited team of faculty interested in working together to create a holistic approach to study in Costa Rica than the academic quartet of Benjamin Britton (Art), Andy Kavoori (Journalism), Allison Smith (Astronomy), and Julie Spivey (Art).


2) Advanced Spanish, Creative Writing, & Photodocumentary 

We are now entering year four of one of our most popular programs – Advanced Spanish, Creative Writing, & Photodocumentary. Aurora Thorgerson takes the students on a historic journey of the Spanish language through film and more specifically, Latin American cinema. On the other hand, we have a creative writing and photodocumentary component where students creatively capture their experiences abroad. If the 2013 students were capable of work like this, then we can’t wait to see what Spenser Simrill‘s students come up with this year!

3) Tropical Ecology

Before UGA Costa Rica was truly a campus, it was a field research station. That means Tropical Ecology is one of our longest-running programs because ecology research was being done before the program actually existed!  Not only that, but instructor Scott Connelly spent years of his life living in Costa Rica specifically studying this environment. It’s no wonder students keep coming back for this program year after year.

4) Outdoor Recreation & Geology 

For the second year, Outdoor Recreation and Geology have paired up and it seems to be a good fit if enrollment numbers have anything to say about it. In the past, we have seen Outdoor Recreation and Astronomy paired up in Costa Rica which didn’t get quite as much interest as this current duo. It makes sense though, what better way to study the solid features of the area and the processes by which they change than to explore them through recreation? It makes sense to us! Marta Patino-Douce and Jennifer Stewart are up for the adventure of leading this group on an academic adventure through Costa Rica.


5) Nutrition Education in Costa Rica

This is the first year for the Nutrition Education program in Costa Rica and it is making quite a splash for a first-timer, taking the number 5 spot on our list. Students will have the opportunity to work closely with the University of Costa Rica and Calderón Guardia Hospital in San Jose while learning about food, healthcare, and hospitals in Costa Rica with Vanessa da Silva.

Check out our website for a full list of UGACR programs offered throughout the year.


Monday Top 5: Helpful Study Abroad Websites

So you’ve been accepted to Study Abroad with UGA Costa Rica…. Now what? We know that preparing to go abroad can be extremely stressful and full of things that you are unsure about. This week we decided to focus on helpful websites that can help you with all kinds of potential study abroad worries. With these sites in your browser, you’ll have nothing to stress about for your upcoming trip!

International Studies Abroad (ISA) Tips:

ISA is one of our top resources for study abroad help. Their excellent  “:60 on Study Abroad” is an in-house web series that features ISA staff members detailing quick tips on study abroad. They have advice on “How to Stay Fit Abroad” and “How to Be a Vegetarian Abroad,” even “How to Unplug But Stay Connected” (our intern, Aurora, used that last one in her first-place Young Dawgs presentation).Our top 2 are their packing list videos for him and her. Some of the advice about adapters doesn’t work for us, ( in CR you don’t need an adapter) but for the most part the info is really great!

 US Passports:

To fly to Costa Rica you will first need a passport! A passport take 4-6 weeks to process, so it is important to plan in advance to make sure that everything goes smoothly. The process of getting a passport is relatively easy if you know where to go. You can get started with this link to the US State Department! Want another way that’s close to home? At the Tate Center UGA has a Passport Office. Check out this handy checklist and then go on in to apply for your passport!

Orientation Handbook:

Did you know that UGA CR has an Orientation Handbook? The Handbook has a lot of useful general info, but a lot of people like it for the Packing Checklist. Within the handbook there are lots of stellar packing tips and suggestions to help figure out what you will need. Even our veteran faculty who travel every year get out the ol’ handbook when it’s time to pack.

UGA Travel Center:

If travel abroad is in your future plans, your best local medical resource is the Travel Clinic at the UGA’s Health Center. The clinic offers travel health information and appropriate vaccinations to students, faculty, staff and the general public. They also offer many tips and resources on how to maintain your health while abroad.

Accepted Student Info:

Once accepted, don’t forget to check out the accepted student page on our website! It has lots of useful checklists and links. It even has a video of the Large Group Orientation from  April 5, 2014 in case you missed it! So check in to see if your program has a specific power point or calendar and make sure to check the top of the page for important things to take care of before your trip.


Monday Top 5: UGACR Virtual Classroom Videos

This week we’re bringing you our favorite Virtual Classroom videos! These were produced by the extra special 2013 cohort of Resident Naturalists, with the technical expertise of photojournalism intern Kristy Densmore. Each video covers a different topic in a few short minutes. They are fun, educational,and proof that we have the best Resident Naturalists ever! Want to see more? You can also search “UGA Costa Rica Virtual Classroom” on Youtube or visit our page.

In this short video Freelance Naturalist Alexa Stickel tackles the subject of Nocturnal Predation.

2013 Resident Naturalist Alex Wright does an excellent job giving a brief Introduction to Interdependent Relationships.

Resident Naturalist Katie Lutz gives us tons of fun facts about The Cecropia Tree.

Water Quality Intern Marley Connor presents a great run-down of Water Quality in the Bellbird Biological Corridor.

Finally, Katie brings it home with a super cool lesson on Bats!

Well that’s all for now. Make sure you check out our Youtube account for more Virtual Classroom videos and for the other fun videos we post!

Monday Top 5: Spring Semester Experiences

Even though our UGA Spring Semester students have entered their last couple of weeks in Costa Rica, they have done and seen some amazing things in their time here. Today we have some of the most memorable experiences from the past few months. Take a look and remember, it’s never too early to think about spending your next spring semester here!

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1) A forest full of inspiration. Our campus is surrounded by beautiful forest trails where strangler figs and beautiful bird calls inspire wonder. Can you think of a better location to take an ecology class? Whether taking a tour in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, or walking to breakfast in the morning, students have the chance to see real-life examples of terms such as biodiversity and adaptation.

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2) A welcoming community. Have you ever stayed in a Costa Rican home? As part of their cultural experience here, our students spend time in homestays with local families. They become part of the family for a week or more and might learn how to make empanadas or spend a Saturday swimming in the river. One student is working on a project to document the history of San Luis through interviews and digitizing old photographs. His project has taken him to old, wooden houses where whole families have been raised and through many stories of the past.

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3) Visiting the indigenous Bribri tribe. This trip the students take in the spring captures the meaning of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Not only is it a chance to learn about making chocolate and cacao beans, it opened their eyes to a people with a different belief system and way of life. You can learn more about this trip by reading this excellent account written by our Spanish instructor, Ana Ligia Lopez. (Photos courtesy of Ana Ligia Lopez and Professor Irwin Berstein.)

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4) Unforgettable adventuresWhitewater rafting is only one of many action adventures our students enjoy. They also had the chance to see the Poás volcano, whose crater lake has a pH of nearly zero! Not to mention ziplining through the cloud forest and rescuing baby turtles on the Osa Peninsula. (Photos courtesy of Irwin Berstein.)

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5) Enjoying campus life. We all know about the beauty of the forests and mountains surrounding UGA Costa Rica. But the campus itself also provides a warm, friendly environment to study, relax, and build friendships. These memories of playing ping pong, eating ‘smores, or lining up for hot chocolate every night will not be easily forgotten.

Monday Top 5: Staying Fit in San Luis

If you’re looking to get in the best shape of your life here in Costa Rica or just maintain that toned physique, there are many options on campus and here in San Luis de Monteverde. In fact, you’ll probably do these activities just because they’re so much fun!

1.) La Trocha – What we call La Trocha is the steep, paved portion of road that connects San Luis up to the Monteverde Cloud Forest and the downtown area of Santa Elena. As punishing of a walk as it is, there’s nothing like the feeling of accomplishment once you get to the top. And if you do walk up, it’s a great excuse to stop at the Monteverde Cheese Factory for a milkshake. Take a look at this video to get an idea of what it’s like to make the walk up and down. A big thanks to UGACR staff member Geovanny for the ride!

2.) Hiking – What better way to get into shape than by taking in the beautiful scenes of Costa Rica’s natural landscapes. Navigating the ups and downs of the forests will certainly challenge your leg muscles, but you hardly notice as you take in the enormous strangler figs and birds of paradise. Make sure you keep an eye out for a sloth hidden in the canopy.

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3.) Dancing – There’s no better way to get your heart rate up than to take a dance class at UGACR. You can learnsalsa, cumbia, merengue or even bachata. Once you have the basic steps down and learn a few turns, you can try your moves in a dance like the one we had this Saturday at the Alto de San Luis School.

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4.) Soccer – Without a doubt, the sport of choice here is fútbol. Every week, staff and anyone else interested get together for a pickup game of soccer on our lawn in the middle of campus. You can show off your skills, or just try your best to keep up.

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5.) Zumba – And if you still haven’t had enough, you can try a Zumba class at the San Luis community center. The upbeat music and fun dance moves are sure to get you moving. Not to mention it’s a great chance to see more of the San Luis community.  

Monday Top 5: Birds on Campus

One of the best things about our campus in Costa Rica is the number and variety of birds found here. In fact, we have nearly 250 species, so it’s a challenge to pick only five! 

Blue-crowned Motmot — The Motmot is one of the most beautiful birds we see on campus. When he is in the shadows, he blends right into the green and brown of the forest. But when he perches on the edge of the trees, the light shows his dazzling blues and oranges as well. Motmots are sometimes called the poor man’s Quetzal, because although beautiful and stunning like the legendary Resplendent Quetzal, they not as elusive. I like to think they are just more friendly.

Clay-colored Thrush – The clay-colored thrush, also known as the clay-colored robin is the national bird of Costa Rica. Although the bird does not have the bright colors or distinctive plumage you might expect from a tropical bird, he does have a good soul. Because he is widespread across Costa Rica and lives close to humans, he is well-known across the country. His beautiful song has also endeared him to the people of this country.


Long-tailed Manakin – In addition to his stunning coloring, the long-tailed manakin’s graceful tail sets him apart from other birds. They also have an unusual mating ritual where two males must cooperate in performing an elaborate dance to impress the female. If they succeed, only the alpha male of the pair gets to mate.

Blue-Gray Tanager – These birds are easy to identify because of their bright color. You can find them hopping from branch to branch looking for berries. We often see them on the front porch of the Student Union.

Orange-bellied Trogon – This Trogon is found in humid tropical forests. Lately, one has been sleeping in the same tree along the Casita Trails, so it has been a treat to see him sleeping during our night hikes!

Monday Top 5: UGACR Instagram Pics

Some of you might not know this, but UGACR actually has an Instagram account where we post super awesome pictures! This week, however, we solicited your pictures. We have compiled our top five (in no particular order) #ugacostarica Instagram pictures to date! So enjoy and make sure to follow us to see more cool shots!

This first shot captures the easygoing feeling and the beauty of the campus.

#chillin #UGACostaRica

Most of the shots we found were sky pics, but that’s no surprise with a sky as beautiful as this one!

katieblanc The bluest sky I've seen. Picture does no justice. #nofilter#costarica #uga #ugacostarica#puravida #blue #sky
The bluest sky I’ve seen. Picture does no justice. #nofilter#costarica #uga #ugacostarica#puravida #blue #sky

Life is never dull at UGACR.

christindotcom #tbt COSTA RICA 😜 #sofun#waterfalljump #rafting#adventure #jungle#ugacostarica #studyabroad#crazy #memories
#tbt COSTA RICA #sofun#waterfalljump #rafting#adventure #jungle#ugacostarica #studyabroad#crazy #memories

Who would’t be thankful for this lovely rainbow?

Happy Thanksgiving from Costa Rica! #nofilter #UGACR #costarica#puravida #rainbow#monteverde #thankful

Although those are our top 5, we would like to add an honorable mention. This shot may not be a scenic view of campus, but it is one of our favorites because it expresses excitement to be involved in one of our programs. We are thrilled to have you too!

jdnmichelle GOT ACCEPTED TO THE#UGACOSTARICA STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM!!!! I cannot voice the amount of excitement exploding in my entire body.
GOT ACCEPTED TO THE#UGACOSTARICA STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM!!!! I cannot voice the amount of excitement exploding in my entire body.

That’s all for now! Make sure you follow us @ugacostarica for new pictures every day!

Monday Top 5: UGA Costa Rica Videos

This week, we are showcasing some of our favorite videos made by our very own UGA CR folks. (There were many to choose from so don’t be surprised if you see a second edition of this post in the future.) And now, without further ado, here they are in no particular order…

1 – UGA Costa Rica: Carbon Offset Project, Dong Hyuk Kim (John Kim)*

*John Kim was a Runner Up in the 14th Annual IEW Photo & Video Contest sponsored by the UGA Office of International Education.

2- Costa Rica Ecological Forecasting Fall 2013 – NASA DEVELOP

3 – I Love Cheppe (San Jose), William Walker Harris*

*William Walker Harris was an Honorable Mention in the 14th Annual IEW Photo & Video Contest sponsored by the UGA Office of International Education.

4 – Hairy Dawg in Paradise, Matt Evans & Clara Nibbelink*

*Edited by Spenser Simrill.

5 – Can’t Stop (Flying with Captain Bill), Collin McNew*

*I would also highly suggest reading Collin’s blog post that goes with this video!

Monday Top 5: Things I wish I knew before studying in Costa Rica

2012 IPIC Service Learning at Escuela Negro31) I wish…I had known more (or even a little bit of) Spanish.

It is not a requirement to know Spanish to participate in a UGA Costa Rica program, but most students who have returned would say they wish they had known more Spanish. From one perspective, it’s exciting to learn how to communicate without using verbal communication. On the other hand, it is probably helpful to know how to order your lunch or at the very least, be able to exchange pleasantries with the locals you meet or families you live with. Bring a dictionary or guide book to help you learn some common phrases before you depart and to assist you while you’re in Costa Rica. You might also want to consider downloading iTranslate for the iPhone or Google Translate for your Android.

2) I wish…I knew that everyday resources are not as accessible in Costa Rica.

Although there are plenty of items provided for you on the UGA Costa Rica campus (we’ll get to the specifics in #3), students who have participated in previous programs noted that it was different not being able to just hop in their car and head to Target when they realized they needed something. Depending on the length of your program, make sure you have enough of personal hygiene products to at least make it through the first portion of your stay.

As far as resources available to stay in touch with friends and family back home, consider Viber, an app that allows you to send free texts and make free calls to other Viber users using WiFi.

Mud3) I wish…I had planned for the unexpected and had not over-packed.

You never know what mood Mother Nature will be in while you’re visiting Costa Rica. Previous students would advise you to bring a variety of clothing because the weather is always changing—hiking boots, some warm clothes (it gets chilly in the mountains), nice clothes, enough socks, poncho/rain jacket, shorts, water shoes or sandals, and clothes you can get dirty. And don’t forget your sunscreen and bug spray – it can be expensive to purchase once in Costa Rica!

We want you to be prepared, but we also want to help you avoid over-packing (you will be carrying your own luggage around). Consider this list of things you don’t need to pack or should avoid packing in excess:

  • Excess Toiletries – You can get these (shampoo, soap, deodorant, feminine products, etc.) in-country but do plan on bringing enough to get you started.
  • Hair Dryer – Let’s be honest…you’re going to be living in a rain forest…you don’t need it!
  • Bedding, Pillows & Bath Towels – Provided for you while on campus!
  • Rubber Boots – You can check these out on campus and if your size isn’t available, you can likely get them from a local store for less than $10.

As a good rule of thumb, set out everything you think you’ll need then pack half!

Bonus: Check out this Pinterest board for an at-a-glance look at more Study Abroad Info & Tips!

4) I wish…I had a better understanding of my money needs before I left.

There are a couple of different points to make here.

  • First, students suggest bringing extra money for the items and souvenirs you will want to purchase to bring back to the U.S.
  • Second, most places will accept U.S. dollars, Visa, and/or Mastercard so there is no need for Travelers Checks or to exchange your dollars for colones. ATMs are also available.
  • Third, if you do plan on taking your credit card to Costa Rica, call your bank or credit card company to let them know you are traveling abroad and the dates, so they won’t put a hold on your account for unusual activity.


5) I wish…I had talked to someone about my program sooner, it was perfect!

With so many different program options, it’s important to talk with your academic advisor or Jessica Cooper, Assistant Director of UGA Costa Rica, to determine the best program fit for you. Consider what you hope to get out of your study abroad experience, the courses you need to complete to stay on track, and the length of the program. Once you determine the right program for you, you are sure to get the most out of your time in Costa Rica.

Bonus: Check out one student’s blog post for more helpful study abroad tips!

Monday Top 5: Costa Rican Foods

This week we’re tackling everybody’s favorite topic: Food! Costa Rica has too many delicious dishes for us to describe all of them, so we chose our top 5. We guarantee that these dishes will make you want to fly to Costa Rica to enjoy some authentic cuisine for yourself…or maybe jut call in for carry-out.

1. Gallo Pinto: Costa Rica’s main dish is gallo pinto. Gallo pinto basically consists of a mix of rice and beans. Depending on who is making it, they may choose to add cilantro, onions, or peppers. Gallo pinto was originally considered a peasant’s dish of leftovers, but has quickly become the country’s favorite breakfast dish, although it can be eaten at any meal. It is often served with eggs, fruit, plantains, and sometimes meat or cheese.  If you’re staying on campus (or anywhere else in the country for that matter), you will likely enjoy this tasty dish nearly every day!

2. Casado: If gallo pinto is the typical breakfast dish in Costa Rica, casados are the main lunch plate. A casado can be found at almost any small restaurant in the country. A casado is not really one kind of food, but moreso a collection of foods. It generally consists of a type of meat (chicken, steak, pork chop, or fish) with sides of rice, beans, salad, cooked vegetables, and often fried plantains. Make sure you try this scrumptious meal at least once while you’re in Costa Rica.

Bonus- it is usually one of the less expensive items on the menu and the one with the most food!

3. Ceviche: Ceviche is a very popular dish, especially near the coastline. In Costa Rica, ceviche is prepared with fish or seafood, usually tilapia if you’re inland, but on the beach it can be made with shrimp, oyster, octopus, or clams. The fish or seafood is cut into small pieces and marinated in lime juice with cilantro, diced onions, garlic, and salt and pepper for seasoning. Ceviche is cooked without heat (the lemon or lime juice does all the work) and like sushi, must be made fresh to minimize the risk of food poisoning. Ceviche can be served as an appetizer, snack or even a main dish.

4. Plantains: Plantains are a major staple in Costa Rican meals, and are often served as a side dish with gallo pinto and casados. Plantains have a similar look as bananas, but are generally larger and are eaten cooked instead of raw. There are two main ways that plantains are cooked in Costa Rica: maduros (sweet plantains) and patacones (green plantains). To make maduros the plantains are cut and cooked in oil and butter. They are sometimes stuffed with cheese for extra tastiness. Patacones are twice fried and made with the starchy unripe plantains. The plantains are cut into rounds, fried in oil, smashed flat and then fried again until crisp and golden brown. Salt is then added for flavor and they’re served as a sort of french-fry side dish. For those of you who live in Athens, both of these can be found at Cali n’ Titos!

Side note: If you’re looking for patacones on the menu at Cali n’ Tito’s, you will find that they are called tostones. 

5. Arroz con Leche: Let’s finish off with a dessert! Arroz con leche is a typical rice pudding dessert. For this dish, rice is cooked in milk with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, sugar and raisins. It is a dish that is popular throughout the entire Central American region, and considered a very traditional dessert. For some, it is an acquired taste, but don’t worry, you’ll be able to judge for yourself, because the kitchen staff on campus makes up fantastic batches for our eating pleasure!

Well, those are our favorites, but you should try out some of the included recipes to decide for yourself!