Ecological Resilience Studies in Atenas, Costa Rica (SFS)

  • Location: Costa Rica - Atenas
  • GPA Requirements: 2.8 GPA
  • Other Requirements: Students must have completed a college-level course in ecology, biology, or environmental science. At least one college-level Spanish course is preferred but not required. Coursework in international development, economics, or anthropology are recommended but not required.
  • Application Deadline: February 20 for fall programs and September 20 for spring programs.
  • Program Term(s): Fall, Spring
  • Official Website: Ecological Resilience Studies in Atenas, Costa Rica (SFS)
Program Dates
Term Start Date End Date
Spring 2024 January 30th, 2024 May 10th, 2024
Fall 2024 September 1st, 2024 December 12th, 2024

*These dates are tentative. Confirm program dates before booking travel.


Students must have completed a college-level course in ecology or environmental science. At least one college-level Spanish course is preferred but not required. Coursework in international development, economics, or anthropology is recommended but not required.


Bordered by Caribbean and Pacific beaches, Costa Rica, with its spectacular natural resources, is a prime destination for ecotourists. Hillsides are dotted with farms growing coffee, mangoes, bananas, citrus and pineapples. Cloud forests, rainforests, and mountain plains shelter more than 6,000 plant species. There are also more than 500 species of butterflies and more than 800 bird species.

The base for the School for Field Studies is a small farm on a hillside near the town of Atenas in the fertile Central Valley. At 2,600 feet above sea level, nights in Atenas are cool, and the days are warm.


The goal of the program is to contribute to management plans for the sustainable development of Atenas Region communities by focusing on community development, management of protected areas, reforestation, agricultural production and the development of alternative economic opportunities, including ecotourism. The program begins with Spanish language lessons and introductory lectures. Course material is integrated and presented in interdisciplinary case studies focusing on local environmental problems and resource conflicts. Case studies change as problems are solved and new clients and issues are identified. Days are generally spent in a combination of lectures, field exercises, and research. In the last month of the program, students will conduct a Directed Research project and present the results to their peers and the local stakeholders. Research projects are defined by the Center’s Five Year Research Plan, which includes projects requested by local clients. Before projects begin, there is a week-long introduction to field research methods, statistics and scientific writing.

On the Ecological Resilience Studies program, you will take three 4-credit disciplinary courses, one 2-credit language and culture course, and a 4-credit capstone Directed Research course. Courses are participatory in nature and are designed to foster inquiry and active learning. Each course combines lectures, field exercises, assignments, tests, and research. All courses are taught in English.

Academic Structure

This academically rigorous program follows a five-day/week schedule. Most weekends are open. The interdisciplinary curriculum is designed to help students actively discover and understand the complexities of environmental, social, and economic issues in Costa Rica.


For a full list of course offerings, visit SFS’s website here.

Student Life

The School for Field Studies’ base in Costa Rica includes a cafeteria overlooking the valley, an administrative building, and faculty casitas. Students live in a refurbished factory that was converted into a dormitory and contains large bunk rooms for 4 students to share. The base also includes classrooms, a small laboratory, and a library/computer room. Meals are prepared by local cooks and consist of vegetarian and ethnic cuisine.

Students have many opportunities to interact with the local community. They can participate in volunteer work, lecture at local schools, and play soccer against local teams.

Application Process

Allegheny students must apply for approval to study off-campus from the Global Education office AND apply directly to their chosen program. For this program, students should work on the Allegheny approval application at the same time as the host program application. Please note that the Allegheny approval application deadline for this program is January 31 for fall intake and August 13 for spring intake. Study away approval applications will be reviewed immediately following the appropriate semester deadline. The separate application deadline to apply directly to this program will vary and could be before or after Allegheny’s approval application due date. Check directly on their website (linked at the top of this page) for deadline information. For more information about the study away application process, please visit the application steps page.

Costs & Fees

Students pay Allegheny tuition, double room, and a Gator Blue meal plan, as well as a study abroad fee of $800. Allegheny financial aid, except for work/study, is applied to program costs. Normally, Allegheny students do not have to pay the $650 program deposit requested by SFS. Additional costs include airfare to San Jose, personal expenses/spending money ($500-$800), visa extension ($50), break travel ($400), and appropriate immunizations (minimum of $200).