Language & Leadership Spanish Camp in Costa Rica

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  • Overview

    Break away from the traditional! This special language immersion experience is specifically designed for those who consider themselves agents of change and are excited to embody Greenheart’s mission to connect people and planet. On top of Spanish classes and local homestays in both Heredia and Samara, you will complete workshops to learn valuable leadership and empowerment skills that will set you on a path of creatively charged social change. At the same time, you will be diving into fun, challenging adventures in a beautiful country known by the UN as the “Champion of the Earth”.

    Each week will be packed with interesting and adventurous activities that connect you with local initiatives working towards a healthier world for all of us. During the week, you will have workshops that focus on leadership, communication, empathy, and mindfulness. While immersing yourself in the Spanish language and Costa Rican culture, you will also learn from local change-makers, get inspired by sustainability and environmental initiatives, and learn tools to become an agent of change yourself. By the end of camp, you will see how all these pieces fit together–and that the future is yours to create.

    On top of all this, you’ll have time to chill on the beach, soak in some sun and surf, gaze at the stars, snuggle up around a bonfire, and build relationships with other young people as motivated and awesome as yourself.

    You won’t be partaking in typical tourist activities. We offer experiences with companies and organizations that work towards a more sustainable planet for all of us! Learn about permaculture farming, indigenous cultures, the interconnectedness of local ecosystems, and see how you can mindfully engage with each of these.

  • Eligibility

    • Must be between 13 – 17 years old at the time of travel
    • Spanish beginners welcome!
    • Be in good mental* and physical health
    • Have a genuine interest in developing your sense of leadership and global responsibility

    *Moving to a new culture and staying in unfamiliar surroundings without your normal support structure can be very stressful, even to a well-adjusted student. Sending a student with pre-existing conditions on a long-term exchange program could exacerbate whatever challenges the student was previously facing. In order to ensure the safety of our participants, we must be rigorous in our pre-screening of all high school abroad applicants.

    Therefore, we may not be able to accept students who have struggled with any kind of mental illness, specifically within the last 2 years and/or are reliant on medication to address their existing mental health condition. Each student will be addressed on a case by case basis and ultimately it is Greenheart Travel’s in-country partner who holds the right to accept or decline a student based on their individual policy.

    These include, but are not limited to:

    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
    • Eating disorders
    • Chronic debilitating migraines
    • Bipolar Disorder

    All students who currently experience one or more of these conditions will be required to submit an addendum to the terms and conditions as well as a letter of support from their current mental health specialist. If the student’s mental health issue has been managed (post-medication) for over 2 years, we will still require a note from his/her relevant practitioner (psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist, etc) as part of the application process.  We encourage you to discuss your specific situation with us directly before securing these documents.

  • Program Dates

    Summer 2024

    • July 7th to 21st, 2024

    This program is 2 weeks long. We cannot make exceptions to this.

  • Costs & Inclusions

    2024 Program Cost:

    • 2 Week Program: $3,790

    Packaged Into The Price:

    • 16 hours of language classes per week
    • Airport pickup and drop-off upon arrival and departure
    • Transfer between program locations
    • Host family accommodation
    • 3 meals per day
    • Comprehensive medical/accident insurance
    • Fully chaperoned daily cultural activities
    • Weekend excursions
    • Language level placement test
    • Arrival orientation and walking tour
    • Comprehensive program handbook with cross-cultural communication training and Costa Rican culture tips
    • Half-day excursions packed with adventure and connection to culture
    • Leadership and communication workshops
    • Latin dance, cooking, yoga
    • Opportunities to learn about sustainability initiatives

    Additional Expenses to Budget for (Estimates):

    • Flights to/from Costa Rica
    • Spending money for souvenirs or gifts

    Payment Details

    • $300 Application Fee due by the program deadline to formally apply
    • $300 Commitment Payment due after acceptance within 14 days to save your spot on a certain start date
    • Remaining balance is due 8 weeks before departure to Canada

    Worried about the program fee?

    Our goal is to help make travel accessible to everyone and we are here to help when you are deciding if this experience is financially do-able. Each year we offer scholarships for high school study abroad students! We also have a guide to fundraising your program fee, and many high school students fundraise in their hometowns ahead of their program.

    We also offer discounts for applying early (plus there are many other benefits to applying early!) for each start date and for US families that have hosted an exchange student with Greenheart Exchange.

    Please inquire here if you have questions about the program fee, scholarships, or fundraising for your program.

  • Classes & School Info

    There are two locations that you will be transferred between mid-program. Both locations offer a well-connected network of host families within walking distance of the schools.

    Heredia City campus is located in a beautiful area just north of San Jose. Experience the cultural potency of urban Costa Rica!

    Heredia campus

    You will enjoy learning Spanish in a welcoming city environment, with very few tourists, surrounded by hills and volcanoes. Heredia’s weather is breezy and pleasantly warm year-round, ideal for both learning Spanish and exploring after school.

    The province of Heredia is the coffee-growing capital of Costa Rica, and in the countryside you will still occasionally see loaded ox-carts bringing in the beans from the coffee plantations characteristic of the green mountainsides. In the nearby rural villages you will witness a way of life very different to that of the cities, and can see vestiges of the old colonial architecture once typical in the entire central valley.

    The Samara campus is in a gorgeous beach town on the west coast of Costa Rica – the school is right on the sand!

    Campus on the beach!

    Spanish courses are given in modern, air-conditioned classrooms, all with a view of the ocean, providing an ideal spot for learning Spanish at the beach. Sometimes our teachers take students outside to hold a class or conversation hour in the gardens or on the beach under the shade of the palm trees. Our facilities provide student computers and free WiFi to students, tropical gardens leading straight onto the sand (students have time for a quick dip in the ocean during their break!), as well as student social and study areas, rancho, fridge, hammocks, a lounge and outdoor showers.

  • Arrival & Departure

    All students fly on their own to Costa Rica. Host families will be waiting for each student upon arrival!

    • Arrive on July 7, 2024 at the Juan Santamaria International Airport before 11:00pm
    • Depart on July 21, 2024 from the Juan Santamaria International Airport after 12:00pm

    Arriving or departing outside these designated windows will incur additional fees.

  • Your Day to Day

    Educational visits and excursions form an important part of the program. An exciting and detailed day-by-day program will be given to the participants upon arrival, but here was the general 2021 schedule of events so you can get an idea of how your time will be spent.


    Please note:  Participants are not allowed to go out at night outside the homestay unless accompanied by a chaperone.

  • Host Families

    All students live with carefully selected local host families around 20-30 minutes’ walking distance from the language school. Prospective host families undergo a rigorous screening process. Participants can rest assured that only suitable host families will be selected. In order to qualify as a host family, the prospective hosts must:

    • Successfully pass a criminal background check
    • Undergo and pass an in-person interview with program staff
    • Agree to and pass a home inspection

    Usually, two students will share a room and there can be up to 4 students with one host family. They will only share rooms with students of the same sex and will be closely supervised by their hosts.

    Here’s why we love host families:

    • Students who are adaptable, open to cultural differences and willing to challenge themselves are encouraged to participate in this opportunity, as it provides an invaluable source of Spanish practice as well as a wonderful interpersonal experience.
    • Living with a family who speaks no English, in combination with intensive language study in the classroom and during school activities, provides a wholly integrated exposure to both the language and the culture.
    • The learning process is greatly facilitated, as is the speed with which fluency is acquired.
    • Homestays provide an economical alternative to hotels, especially for single travelers (see prices), but probably the most valuable aspect of the homestay experience is the opportunity to really get to know a Costa Rican family, making many new friends and experiencing first-hand the famous Costa Rican warmth and hospitality!


    • If you are a vegetarian, the family can accommodate a basic vegetarian diet (rice, beans, vegetables, fruit, eggs, pasta, etc). However, if you are vegan, gluten intolerant, celiac, eat only organic foods or have any other special food needs, you should expect to buy whatever additional food you require, as the family budget only allows for standard meal preparation.


  • FAQs

    How is this program different from the other Costa Rica language camp Greenheart offers?

    The Adventure and Leadership language camp is designed specifically for students who wish to become agents of change in their local communities. We recommend this program to anyone who feels a strong urge to be a part of impacting others and affecting issues in which they find inspiration.

    How much supervision is there?

    Students are supervised and chaperoned at most times. This program is very structured, which means not a lot of time will be spent alone. If students do wish to explore the surrounding area, they must be in contact with their host family and local coordinator.

    Are flights included?

    Flights to Costa Rica are not included in the program fee. Students are responsible for booking their round-trip airfare to San Jose International Airport. We will collect your itinerary to organize your arrival and airport pickup.

    Should my child fly be using an unaccompanied minor service?

    Greenheart Travel does not recommend this service because the “additional” services advertised by the airlines are already provided to all travelers and are not worth the money invested by you the traveler. At any time, a student can ask an airlines professional for help finding their gate or for connecting flight information, so paying for this add-on UM service is oftentimes not necessary. We have sent hundreds of semester abroad students internationally, for whom we book their flights, and we never use unaccompanied minor services. If you would like the peace of mind a UM service provides, Greenheart Travel offers more self-empowering alternatives (such as reviewing airport maps, mapping connections, etc) that we believe teach teenagers relevant life skills about traveling independently.

    Will someone pick me up at the airport?

    Yes! Either someone from our in-country partner staff or your host family will be waiting for you when you land.

    Do I need vaccines?

    Greenheart Travel strongly recommends that all program participants be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before arriving to their destination country. If you will not be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the start of your program, please contact a Program Manager to confirm that your destination country will accept non-vaccinated participants.

    Will I earn high school credit?

    Greenheart Travel cannot award high school credit. Please talk to your school about earning credit for your child’s time abroad. Refer to this blog post for tips on transferring credit.

    How many other students will there be and where are they from?

    Most of our students are Americans between 14-17 years old. However, there are students participating from around the world, so your child will have a cross-cultural setting both in the classroom and out. While the number of students does vary by start date, we like to keep this experience more intimate with no more than 15-17 students.

    Will I be required to speak Spanish outside of the classroom?

    Language practice and immersion are one of the main priorities of this program. While we do not require the students to sign a contract stating they will only speak in the local language, it is highly encouraged that they use their language skills when talking to friends, partaking in the daily excursions and at night in the host family home. Program staff and chaperones primarily communicate and answer questions in the local language to encourage immersion.

    How will this program improve my Spanish skills?

    In a traditional classroom, students may learn language skills; however, they are not forced to practice these skills in real world situations. Through language immersion, you will both learn the practical language skills in a classroom while also being forced to use them with local, native speakers during the excursions and/or host family experience. Studies show that 4 weeks of a full language immersion experience can be equivalent to a yearlong college language course because of the intensity of use.

    Why should I choose Greenheart Travel?

    Greenheart Travel provides 24-hour support to you and your child throughout the application, program and alumni processes. We are a small staffed non-profit that is accredited with CSIET, so you know you’ll always be talking to a real person on the other line. We are proud to always be available for your questions and concerns and we always answer our emails and phone calls quickly. We pride ourselves on developing a personal relationship with our participants, and love staying connected with them throughout the experience on social media & email. We offer the personal connection and support that many of our competitors do not.

    What is the climate like?

    Costa Rica is usually warm, although climates vary depending on altitude and location within the country. There are basically two seasons, the rainy season and the dry season. The dry season generally runs from January to May and the rainy season goes from May/April to November/December. Even during the dry season there is a chance of rain every day, so be prepared for humidity!

    What are meals like?

    Get ready for lots of rice and beans! Fresh fruit is everywhere and really delicious, and meats consist of chicken, fish, pork, or beef. Your host family will provide you with 3 meals per day. Meal times and portions could be different than what you’re used to, as many ticos eat a larger breakfast/lunch and then have a small dinner. You’ll receive lots more cultural information in your program handbook once you’re accepted.

    What if I have an allergy/specific dietary requirement?

    We can cater to vegetarian needs quite easily. Any other specific diets should be discussed with us to see if we can arrange to have your needs met. In some cases, you may need to provide your own food.

    What happens if I get sick while abroad?

    You will be covered by mandatory health insurance. You will receive a policy brochure and insurance card via email 1-2 weeks prior to your departure, as well as supplementary materials in your comprehensive program handbook.

    Can I apply with friends?

    Absolutely! We are happy to accept friends and groups. However, keep in mind your primary purpose of attending this program is to immerse themselves in the language and culture – so make sure your child and their friend commit to speaking Spanish!

    Do you accept groups?

    Absolutely! If you are an educator who would like to organize a group trip, please inquire here to speak about dates, pricing, and special requests.

  • Why Greenheart Travel?

    Greenheart Travel has been sending teens to Costa Rica for many years, and there are advantages of applying for this program through us:

    • 33 years of experience with cultural exchange programs
    • Friendly, responsive, and professional support from your program manager.
    • Connect with alumni and others on the program via our Greenheart Travel only Facebook forums, before you even leave!
    • We try and make our program fees as inclusive as we can. We include things like medical insurance so you don’t run into any hidden fees down the line.
    • Greenheart Atlas Program. The Greenheart Travel Atlas is a cultural training interactive guidebook alongside five videos where you will find three main topics covered: Personal/Professional Development, Cultural Understanding, & Environmental Awareness.
    • Hands-on support and personal attention every step of the way
    • 24/7 emergency phone number to reach a staff member at any time
    • Pre-departure “Culture Shock and Adjustment” Webinar before you leave
    • Discounts for future Greenheart Travel programs
    • We are a non-profit, mission-based organization
    • Continued support throughout your time abroad

    We also have some unique offerings to our Greenheart Travel students and alumni!

    Greenheart Global Impact Grants (GIGs)

    Greenheart GIG Grants are funds awarded to Greenheart Travel participants to use for community development projects in their host or home country after they return home. A GIG is the opportunity to create, improve, or maintain an impactful, community-focused project abroad or at home. Grant funds could be applied to supporting women’s cooperatives, schools, community centers, or health clinics, for example. Grant winners will be featured on our website, social media, and blog. You can see our past winners on our blog here.

    Greenheart Alumni Program

    We created the Greenheart Travel Alumni Program to provide resources and a community to support alumni in their advancement as global leaders, and a way to celebrate and reward our participants for being ambitious, inspiring catalysts of cultural exchange!

    Junior Greenheart Global Leaders Conference

    Each May Greenheart offers full-ride scholarships to around 10 teen alumni to attend our annual conference in Chicago. You can see more about what Jr. GGLC is and what you could do at the conference here.

  • Application Process

    Committing to a language camp program can feel a bit daunting, but we are here every step of the way to make the application process as simple as possible. Below are the steps you’ll need to take to be accepted on a Greenheart Travel program.

    1. Ensure Your Eligibility: The eligibility requirements, such as age or language proficiency, may be required for certain destinations.

    2. Start Your Application HereYou will be sent more information as well as the link to our application portal to begin your formal application. You’ll be able to save your progress along the way.

    3. Sign the Terms & ConditionsAfter you complete the first part of your application, you (and your parent(s) if you’re under 18) will be asked to read through and sign our Terms and Conditions which outline the requirements and policies of the program.

    4. Submit your application fee: You will need to submit your $300 application fee at this point in the process. This is required in order to reserve your spot on the program and is subtracted from your total program fee.

    5. Secondary Application FormThis is the most in-depth part of the application process as it helps us get to know you better. You will need to provide detailed information about yourself, why you want to go abroad, and what you hope to gain from your experience. You will also need to upload your passport.

    6. Acceptance: Greenheart Travel will thoroughly review your application and will contact you within 1-2 weeks to confirm your acceptance. If we find something in your application that we have concerns about, we will let you know immediately. 95% of applicants are accepted on the program they apply for.

    You’re Accepted – now what?

    Your program manager will be in touch with you directly about your acceptance. At this point you will be required to submit a second $300 commitment payment that also goes towards the total amount (it’s not extra). This is your commitment to your start date and once we receive it is when details will start to be booked on your behalf.

    You should then expect to receive your Greenheart Travel program handbook via email, which talks more about your program, as well as supplemental information about dealing with culture shock and our insurance program. We will also schedule an online pre-departure orientation to answer any lingering questions you may have. You can expect to receive your host family placement 1-2 weeks prior to your start date.

  • Schedule a Call

    Have questions and want to chat with a program advisor? Set up a time here:

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