Costa Rica attracts students and backpackers because of its natural diversity and vibrant culture. Although, many come to study Spanish, those seeking a university degree need an accredited program. In Costa Rica, the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR) provides courses in Spanish language and literature through a program called, “Español para Extranjeros” or Spanish for Foreigners.
Located in the San Pedro suburb of San Jose, UCR is located near other private universities and has the feeling of a funky college town with nightlife and restaurants. There are also a number of hostels and hotels that cater to language students. The program at UCR also places students with family stays as needed.
I recently completed Advanced Spanish through the program, and was happy with the individual attention and quality. Classes have four students and require four hours per day, Monday through Friday. The instructor had a computer, and I was able to submit my homework in electronic format. There was also WiFi in the classroom with decent broadband.
Retired expats or those who have no interest in furthering their academic credentials should also consider other schools. The program at UCR is intensive. If you already live in Costa Rica or are planning for a long, leisurely stay then four hours of classroom, followed by a lot of homework is not practical. Also, there are other regions of Costa Rica that can be more scenic or relaxing than the capital.
Although the Spanish program is hosted by UCR, the instructors are not the same who teach regular courses. However, they have credentials and the program is accredited and supervised by the University. My instructor had a degree in Orthography, and did not speak English. However, this was not necessary for an advanced course. The other two students in my class were German.
Students who minor or major in Spanish as part of their degree program are typically encouraged to do their third year abroad. This is the last year of grammatical instruction, and is typically followed by upper division or graduate level courses in literature, which the program UCR also provides. Non-Spanish majors can typically get humanities credits for second year Spanish.
The cost for attending the program is competitive, compared to accredited programs other countries. However, you should take into account that costs for housing and food may be a bit higher in Costa Rica than in less developed regions, for example Nicaragua or rural Mexico. Registration requires a bank deposit and advance notice, which is described on their greatly improved webpage.