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Health and Medical
Packing List

HEALTH AND MEDICAL     top of page

A copy of the insurance policy will be sent to the student’s parent or legal guardian.  Be aware that it does not cover normal dental work, eye examinations, glasses or prescriptions.  It does, however, cover these if they are a result of an accident or hospitalization.  GLA insurance policies are secondary insurance designed to supplement primary policies.  They only care for immediate expenses abroad within the time and financial limits specified and do not allow subsequent claims and coverage after a student’s return from Costa Rica .  Please note that medical treatment for existing illness or conditions is not covered either by the medical insurance policy or GLA. 

Health Care
Costa Rica has some of the best medical facilities and care available in the Western Hemisphere .  If a student becomes ill or is injured he/she will be transported to a private hospital in San Jose .  This hospital provides first-class care and a large majority of the doctors have received their training in the U.S. or Canada and speak English fluently.  The student’s parent or legal guardian will be contacted and they may choose to have the student return home for treatment.  Please be aware that the GLA medical insurance policy does not cover a student for treatment in their home country.  A bilingual staff member will always accompany the student to the hospital or doctor’s appointment when needed. 

Drinking Water
Most places in Costa Rica the water is safe to drink.  However many people don’t like the taste and choose to use bottled water.

Intestinal Upset
Different food and water may cause gastro-intestinal upset during an adjustment period at the beginning of a student’s stay.  Expect some discomfort.  It doesn’t mean you have the flu or have unhealthy food or water, but that your system is not used to
the biochemical differences.  Take some corrective medications to help like Pepto Bismol, Imodium, or other anti-diarrheals.

Because possession of drugs can lead to serious problems, carry required medications in clearly labeled containers and have copies of any applicable prescriptions.  If you are taking a prescription medication you are advised to take a supply with you for the entire time you are in Costa Rica .  Please bring this in your carry-on.  DO NOT check any prescription medication.

If you wear braces and will still have them while in Costa Rica, ask your orthodontist to write a letter explaining the corrective system used so that you can give this to an orthodontist in Costa Rica if you need help.  Orthodontia is not covered under the GLA insurance policy.

SAFETY   See Safety Rules and Guidelines (pdf 20kb)      top of page

While no study abroad program can offer an absolute guarantee students will be safe, Global Language Adventures would like to assure students and parents of the complete concern we have for student health and safety while abroad and our commitment to helping student understand the many steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of becoming injured or a victim of crime abroad.  We understand that safety issues are of great importance, especially during times when international issues are at the forefront of our minds.  Please know that the GLA staff based in the U.S. is in constant contact with the GLA staff located at the program site and all staff members are committed to the students’ well-being during their study abroad experience.

Global Language Adventures has developed a very clear set of Safety Rules and Guidelines that will be strictly enforced. Abiding by these rules and guidelines will greatly enhance your safety and protect you from many dangers. A detailed description of the Program Safety Rules and Guidelines is provided to students during orientation.

Our staff will provide supervision during most activities and be available to assist you at any time, day or night:  24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The staff will always come to your aid in any difficult situation and help resolve any problems you might have.

But all of the above will not matter if we do not have your support in ensuring your own safety. The staff will not be able to supervise you around-the-clock, and it will ultimately be up to you to respect the rules and exercise caution and good judgment in order to stay out of trouble. By using good judgment, you will be able to relax and enjoy the many things that Costa Rica has to offer. 

If you choose to violate the Safety Rules and Guidelines it means that you have put yourself in a dangerous situation in which we can no longer ensure your safety, and therefore it is our duty to send you home.

At all times, GLA on-site staff are in close contact with the Embassy of your home country located in Costa Rica .  GLA closely follows the guidelines of the U.S. Department of State.  If at any time the Embassy of your home country was to recall all its citizens from Costa Rica , GLA would certainly support students throughout the process of returning back to their home country.  In this event, GLA would refund any money that might be recoverable at that time.

Please consider visiting the following websites for more information about student health and safety during the study abroad experience:

Department of State, Tips for Students Studying Abroad

Department of State, Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets:

HOUSING     top of page

Your language learning experience is enhanced by the residential immersion experience.  Typically, students will share a room with two or three Spanish-speaking students of the same gender.  The goal is to create an environment where students are encouraged to speak and hear the Spanish language, listen to Spanish music, read Spanish newspapers and magazines, and otherwise experience Costa Rican culture. Each dormitory dean makes room assignments after consultation with the GLA On-Site Director.

Dorm rooms are average size, but closet space is usually limited.  Bunks beds are provided and students need to bring bedding with them.  Bathrooms in the girls’ dorm have individual toilet and shower stalls.  Rooms in the boys’ dorm each have their own bathroom.  Refreshingly cool showers are the norm.

There is a curfew enforced for the dorms.  The curfew time may vary by the day of the week. A typical curfew is 9:30 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends. Please be advised that GLA reserves the right to change the curfew times at its discretion as deemed necessary for safety and organizational purposes.

During the evenings prior to the curfew, the students will either attend program activities, or be on "free time." In the latter case, they must be in groups of at least three, strictly abide by program safety rules, and keep the staff informed of their whereabouts.

Most Costa Ricans do laundry by hand and you can do the same in the laundry sinks available in each dorm.  There is a laundry service available at the school which costs approximately $3 per load to wash and dry.  The expense for this service is not covered by your GLA tuition and fees unless you are a Summer Program student.

FOOD     top of page

Students usually eat in the university cafeteria for all meals.  Costa Rica is not known for its food, which is often described as bland.  Most meals include rice and beans, and a wide variety of fruit is also available.  All meals served in the cafeteria are vegetarian.  If students get homesick for American food, McDonald’s Burger King, KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Subway are all available just a short taxi ride away.

If a student has special food needs, he/she should be sure to let the On-Site Director know as early as possible so that adequate arrangements can be made to accommodate those needs.

COMMUNICATION     top of page

You will need to go to the internet café on campus or one in nearby Alajuela to access your e-mail.  The cost is about 80 cents U.S. an hour in the Alajuela area, in other areas it can be as expensive as $3 for 10 minutes.  Expect service to be somewhat slow.  Students have found it helpful to use an instant messaging program such as Windows Messenger to communicate regularly with their family and friends.

International phone calls are difficult to make and very expensive in Costa Rica .  Students have found it much easier and less expensive to communicate by e-mail and instant messenger.  If parents or friends call they should be aware that it is unlikely that the person who answers the phone will speak English and it may be difficult to locate a student on campus.  It is best to arrange ahead of time when they will call so you can be by the phone. 

Although you can use MCI, Sprint, or AT&T calling cards from Costa Rica , be aware that you need to have international access numbers and rates can be more than $1 a minute.  You can also buy a Costa Rican phone card to make international cards.  The cost is approximately 55 cents a minute.  The following websites contain information on inexpensive international rates calling from the U.S. to Costa Rica .  Prices can be as low as 6 cents a minute.  Rates for calls to and from other countries will vary.

Big Zoo International Rates

One Suite International rates (best rate)
Union Telecard (SuperClean card)

Students can receive mail at the university at the following address:

Student Name
Apartado 138
Alajuela 4050

Be aware that packages are often stopped in customs which requires students to travel approximately an hour and a half to the other side of San Jose to pick up their package.  They must pay the cost of the trip and are often charged customs fees as well. 

Students are able to send mail from the post office in Alajuela.

TRAVEL     top of page

Arrival and Departure Dates
Students are expected to arrive on campus on or before the listed arrival date in order to participate in placement testing and orientation sessions.  GLA requests that students not arrive or depart during Sabbath hours.  GLA will meet students at the airport upon arrival and departing students are escorted to airline check-in.  Students need to inform GLA of their arrival and departure times by e-mailing their travel itineraries to  Students arriving more than two days early or leaving more than two days past the departure date listed will need to pay an additional fee each day for room and board.

Making Travel Arrangements
The student and his/her parent or legal guardian are responsible for making their own arrangements for travel to/from Costa Rica. One good source of information is STA Travel, a travel service for students.  You can find out more information about STA at their website:   You are advised to shop around using STA Travel prices as a basis for comparison.

Travel Documents

  GLA students must have valid passports.  A passport which you have previously obtained should be checked to make sure it will not expire during your stay in Costa Rica or within six months of your departure date from Costa Rica .  If it will, please renew your passport before leaving the U.S. You can download passport applications from the web at  Applications are also available in most post offices, but not all of them provide processing services, so call ahead for verification.  To process the application you will need to personally submit a certified copy of your birth certificate, two passport photos, and the required fee (check for current prices) to the passport officer at your central post office.  Allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.  You may also personally process the paperwork at the U.S. Passport Agency nearest you.  The student should leave a copy of the Information page of his/her passport (the page with the picture) with a parent or guardian and carry at least one additional copy with him/her. 

Visa: You will not need to obtain your visa before entering Costa Rica .  You will obtain your visa at the airport upon your arrival.  Because your stay is limited, you will enter the country as a tourist.  After you have been in Costa Rica for 3 months you will be required to leave the country for 72 hours and then re-enter to obtain a new visa.  The On-site Director will arrange a weekend trip to a neighboring country for the group for this purpose.  If you are a student in the summer program your visa will be valid for your entire stay. 

·Parental Consent Form:  This form is sent with the program packet once a student is accepted by GLA as a participant.  It must be signed by both parents and notarized.  Be sure to carry this form with you when you arrive in Costa Rica .  You probably will not be asked to present it, but keep it with you just in case.  If you do not have it, you can be denied entry into the country.

Be sure that the student’s name appears exactly the same on all documents – passport, plane ticket, application, etc.

What to Take         See Packing List           top of page

In planning what to take, be aware that closet and other storage space is likely to be quite limited.  Be sure to check with the airline you are flying to verify baggage allowances.  Most airlines allow two bags, each not larger than 62” (length+width+height) and not heavier than 70 pounds, to be checked through to the final destination.  Be prepared to pay a hefty fee if you exceed the airline’s baggage allowance.  On certain specified dates, or if the flight is full, airlines do not allow excess baggage.   Be sure to check with your airline.  Former GLA students have found that one carry one and one checked suitcase is usually sufficient.  Be sure to use suitcases, not boxes, because they are easier to carry and less likely to draw the attention of customs officials. 

In packing your carry-on bag, be sure to include personal toiletry items and a change of clothing in case your checked baggage is lost or delayed.  Be sure though to stay within the size and weight limits for carry-on bags and be sure they are easy to carry and manage.  It is important to have a packing list with your travel documents, not only for packing purposes, but also for insurance purposes in case your luggage is lost or stolen.

Do not trust your baggage or personal effects with any stranger other than the agent authorized to handle it.  Guard your carry-on baggage and other luggage.

It is difficult to produce a definitive list of “must take” items because individual needs and priorities differ greatly.  Below are some general suggestions, followed by a basic list.  You will want to talk to others who have studied abroad and develop your own personal list.

  • Travel Documents:  Do not leave home without your passport.  Also leave a copy of the information page of your passport with a parent or guardian at home and have at least one copy with you.  This will be helpful in obtaining a replacement if your passport is lost or stolen.  Also be sure to have the Parental Consent Form with you.

  • Money:  The amount of spending money needed is up to the student’s discretion and will depend largely on the student’s spending habits.  Former GLA students have found that they spend an average of $100 per month.  The following services are available locally for any money transactions that may be needed:
      • Bank of Costa Rica Cashing travelers checks
      • ATM (supports the PLUS system) – Cash advances on credit cads and withdrawals from checking and savings.  Withdrawals are given in the local currency.  
      • Western Union – Money transfers.

  • Clothing:  Dress requirements on campus may be stricter than what you are used to in your home country.  Spring/summer clothes can be worn year-round in Costa Rica .  Long sleeve shirts, light jackets and sweatshirts are sometimes necessary in the mornings and evenings.  Be prepared to do hand laundering or pay to have your clothes washed and dried at the laundromat on campus.
      • School – Students in the Semester and Academic Year programs are required to wear a complete school uniform during school hours.  (See Uniform)
      • Church -   This applies for Friday evening vespers, and all Sabbath services.
        Mendress pants, dress shoes and socks, dress shirt.  Tie and/or jacket are optional.  Dress shirts are full-buttoned and do not include t-shirts, polo/golf shirts, or sweatshirts.
        Women dress or skirt with nice blouse and dress shoes.  This does not include Tevas, tennis shoes, Keds, Sketchers, or flip-flops

  • Swimwear – should only be worn at the beach or swimming pool.  These guidelines apply during the entire time a student is a participant with GLA
    Men – loose-fitting swim trunks/shorts
    Women – modest one-piece or tankini suits

  • Raingear – each person will need a good, large umbrella.  A light-weight raincoat is nice to have and shoes that can be worn in rain are advantageous, especially for students attending during Fall Semester.  Bring along waterproofing for running shoes and walking shoes..

  • Electrical Items:  The electricity is 100-120V AC.  You will not need adaptor plugs or converters.

  • Medicine and Toiletries:  Have a copy of the prescription of any eyeglasses.  Because the possession of drugs can lead to serious problems, carry required medication in clearly labeled containers and have copies of any applicable prescriptions.  If you are taking a prescription medication you are advised to bring a supply for the entire time you will be in Costa Rica .  Please bring this in your carry-on bag.  DO NOT check any prescription medication.  Bring your own contact solution because your brand may not be available.  Cosmetics, perfumes, shampoo, and other toiletry items are expensive.  Bringing a supply will mean having items of a quality you want at a lower cost.

  • Linens:  All students should bring sheets, blankets, pillow cases, towels, washcloths, and a pillow.

  • Food:  It is not necessary to bring any food, unless you have special dietary needs. 

  • Books:  A Spanish/English Dictionary is a MUST.  Be sure to also bring a Spanish or Bilingual Bible and a Spanish hymnbook.  Hymnbooks are available in a words only format which is less expensive.  If you wish you can purchase both the Spanish Bible and hymnal after you arrive on campus.

Camera and Film:  Be sure to bring all the film you think you will use.  Film and film developing are very expensive in Costa Rica .  Be sure to bring extra batteries for your camera.  You are welcome to bring a digital camera, but will also need to bring the appropriate software to install in order to download the pictures.

Packing Tips

  1. Pack tightly – put everything in air tight, sealed, plastic bags to limit wrinkling and make inspection at the airport quicker and easier.  Sit on the bags before you seal them to “vacuum pack” your clothes.
  2. Pack shoes in plastic bags to protect other clothes from being soiled.  You can stuff your shoes with underwear and socks so they won’t be crushed during travel.
  3. Liquids (shampoo, toothpaste) have a tendency to ooze: pack them in a plastic bag. 
  4. Don’t cram your suitcase full.  If you have to force your luggage to close, remove some items to prevent breaking hinges and zippers.
  5. Pack what you’ll need first on top.
  6. Important items should NEVER be packed in your checked luggage.  Always carry travel documents, medication, money, and all other valuables in your carry-on luggage.
  7. Pack all prescription medications in their original containers to avoid problems when you pass through customs.
  8. Check with your airlines to find out what limits they have on carry-on and checked luggage (size, weight, number of bags).
  9. If losing something or having it stolen would affect your happiness, leave it at home.
  10. Label your luggage inside and out and make a list of everything you pack.  Take this in your carry-on luggage. 
  11. Do not overpack.  Airline people are not sympathetic to tears.  If your suitcase weighs too much, they can make you re-pack your bags on the floor of the airport, and that can be very embarrassing.
  12. The ideal carry-on should contain: (printer friendly)

     top of page

 Travel Documents
 Airline Ticket
 Any Medications
 Travel-size Toiletries
 Something to Read
 Something to Listen
 Spare clothes in case your luggage is lost (it happens!)

Packing List    (printer friendly)
Alarm Clock
Bathing Suit
Hat or Sun Visor
Insect Repellent
Linens (Sheets & Blankets)
Money Belt
Personal Medication
Rain Jacket
Sabbath Attire
School Uniform
Shower Shoes
Spanish Bible
Spanish Hymnal
Toothbrush & Holder
Towels & Washcloth
Walking Shoes
Water Bottle
Spanish/English Dictionary
Day Pack

Camera and Film


Hiking Boots or Tevas

ORIENTATION     top of page

Global Language Adventures believes that orientation is an integral part of a quality study abroad program.  In order to help students make a smooth transition to Costa Rican life, students spend time in the first few days after arrival getting to know one another, the on-site Director, and their teachers.  They also become acquainted with the area around the school and are taken on a tour of Alajuela and San Jose . The policies of the school and GLA are explained and students are given information on cross-cultural adaptation.  Students will also take a language placement test at this time.

It is important and required for GLA students to be present for these orientation meetings.  It is necessary for all GLA students to be sure that they clearly understand all the guidelines and policies of the school and GLA and the procedures for getting help when needed.

OUTREACH     top of page

Each program features community service work that complements the program focus.  Students will be assisting in a variety of projects in the area around the university.  As students give of their time and effort they will be provided with another opportunity to practice their emerging language skills.

Students in the Semester and Academic Year Programs are required to complete 3 hours of community service per week on or around the school campus.  One or two Sundays per month will be spent away from campus working with Habitat for Humanity helping to build housing for low-income families.

EXCURSIONS     top of page

Several excursions are included in the cost of each Program.  No refund will be given if for any reason a student does not participate in these excursions.  Excursions are designed to enhance the language learning program and give students insight into Central American culture and geography.  In addition to accomplishing educational objectives, students have a chance to enjoy sightseeing, nature hikes, visits to jungles, hot springs , volcanoes, wildlife preserves, and the rainforest canopy. 

Students are also given the option to participate in several extra excursions/activities.  Because they are optional, the cost for these extra excursions/activities is not included in the regular program cost.  The student will need to pay for these out of his/her own personal spending money if he/she chooses to participate.  Costs range anywhere from a few dollars up to $30 for local activities and as much as $300 for the week-long trip to the Panama Canal . Once you are accepted as a GLA student, you will be sent information about the optional activities and the approximate costs to participate.