Learn more about the O’Neill in Costa Rica program

July 5- July 19, 2023

Food, Forests, & Community: Sustaining Costa Rica (3cr.)

Program Director: Sarah Mincey

O’Neill in Costa Rica is a three-credit course (E482/E582/V482/V582).

Costa Rica’s global reputation for environmental and sustainability practices is impressive, but these practices are relatively new following a period (from 1950-1990) of extreme forest loss and environmental degradation. How did Costa Rica make this dramatic shift toward sustaining its common pool resources and its people? What has it meant “on the ground” for local individuals and communities? How do internationally and nationally coordinated sustainability initiatives influence the every-day lives of Costa Ricans? And in turn, how do local Costa Ricans contribute to the sustainability of their communities, their nation and the world? 

The goal of this course is for you to immerse youself in the history and current context of this global sustainability leader to explore critically these cross-scalar (local to global) questions from an integrated economic, social and environmental perspective that distills best practices and lessons learned. Sustainability initiatives related to food and agriculture, forests, energy/resources and community are the main media through which the course explores these themes. A social-ecological systems perspective frames course goals, offering students a foundational understanding of the work of the late Elinor Ostrom (IU distinguished faculty and Nobel Prize winner in Economics) and the relevant theory related to her body of work focused on the sustainability of coupled natural-human systems, namely common pool resources.

  • Visit a local recycling plant, both to see how they work, and to learn more about the challenges and opportunities inherent to recycling in Costa Rica.
  • Participate in a service-learning project at the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation (CRHF), a non-profit organization committed to developing creative and economical solutions to a wide range of social problems in Costa Rica.
  • Meet with leaders from the Costa Rican government agency FONAFIO on the country’s exemplary ‘Payment for Environmental Services’ program. Then visit a small landholder involved in this program to hear firsthand about the experience from the community perspective.
  • Visit a local renewable energy project
  • Tour a coffee plantation and learn about sustainable coffee production and processing.
  • Spend a day in the Quittirissi District, located just outside of San Jose. You will learn about the traditions orally passed down through the generations, and then a family will share with you the age-old tradition of basket-weaving.
  • Meet with the Manager of Boy with a Ball, a community-learning program that teaches English in poor neighborhoods, strengthens youth leadership, and runs ‘learning camp’ programs for low income children. You will also have the opportunity to volunteer in a tutoring program for children from the community.
  • Spend the morning at Tarcoles, a community renowned for its sustainable fishing practices. They have worked with Conservation International to work on artisanal fishing, and will talk to us about their journey as leaders in the fight for sustainable fishing regulations. After the talk, try your own hands at artisanal fishing as we go out in small boats with the local fishers!
  • Spend two days with the Inter-American Center for Global Health (CISG), which offers innovative training programs that contextualize global health to understand and solve the complex relationships between health, development, politics, the environment, and the sociocultural context.
  • Tour Rainforest Spice Farm and learn about processing of vanilla, cacao and other products.
  • Visit Manuel Antonio National Park and learn about the government’s conservation efforts through the park system.

You will be housed at various hotels throughout the country that suit the various locations detailed in the itinerary. The first few nights will be spent near UPEACE in an eco-art hotel that will provide a perfect experience in sustainable living. Students will share a room. Each room will be furnished with beds and its own bathroom. A main house reserved for our course is centered among the hotel rooms and has a full kitchen, group dinner table, living room, study room, as well as wireless internet access.

Note: Your IU Bloomington Bursar account will be charged two amounts for participation in this O’Neill International program:

  1. O’Neill International program fee (two payments)
  2. IU Bloomington Tuition

Please see the Costa Rica Fee Sheet for additional details.

2023 O’Neill in Costa Rica Program Fee: $2,500

The program fee will be charged to your Bursar account in two installments:

  1. A $550 non-refundable pre-payment shortly after you confirm your participation in the program
  2. The remaining program fee balance will be charged in March, due in April

The program fee for this program includes:

  • Lodging
  • Medical insurance
  • Some meals (Breakfast each day, 8 lunches, 6 dinners)
  • All group cultural excursions
  • Transportation around Costa Rica
  • Transportation to and from the airport in Costa Rica

Flights are not included in the program fee

IUB Tuition – 3 credits

The tuition cost for O’Neill in Costa Rica is based on IU Bloomington tuition. The cost of tuition you pay will vary based on your student status. For more information on the cost of summer tuition, please contact IU Student Central.

Additional Costs

You will need to pay for your flight to Costa Rica, food that is not included in the program, vaccinations, and other incidentals.


The O’Neill International Equal Opportunity Scholarship is available to help O’Neill students from IUB and IUPUI study abroad. Please visit our scholarship page for eligibility requirements and application deadlines. 

Other scholarships are available on a competitive basis.

The program will be open to IU undergraduates and graduate students with a GPA of 2.9 or higher. Students from across IU will be considered, and the instructor will review student applications and make the final decision on admission to the program.

During the application period (December 1-January 27) an "Apply Now" button will be available at the top of this page. You will need to submit the online application by 5 p.m. on January 27. 

Detailed application instructions

If you have any issues throughout the application process, please do not hesitate to contact the O'Neill International Office, 812-855-7568, oio@indiana.edu.

People who don’t travel cannot have a global view, all they see is what’s in front of them.

— Martin Yan, Chinese chef, writer, and TV host