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  • Locations: San Jose, Costa Rica
  • Program Terms: Summer
  • Budget Sheets: Summer
  • This program is currently not accepting applications.
Fact Sheet:
Area of Study: Biology Minimum GPA Required: 2.0
Language of Instruction: English Recommended Program: YES
Program Description:

Tropical Biology in Costa Rica

San Jose, Costa Rica
4 credits in BIOL 391, BIOL 591
On Campus Dates: 25 June 2018 - 29 June 2018
Travel Dates: 2 July 2018 – 21 July 2018
$2800 + airfare  + applicable VCU tuition

Program Director
Dr. Maria Carolina Yaber

Registration deadline: 1 April 2018

The Global Education Office and the VCU Department of Biology, are pleased to offer an innovative summer study-abroad program in Costa Rica. The program offers an exceptional opportunity to visit and recognize the vast diversity of species in the Tropics. Students will visit three biological stations, which represent examples of two distinct biomes, tropical rain forest, tropical dry forest, and an example of a botanical garden with one of the most diverse species of palm trees. Students will have the opportunity to briefly view a volcano and in the route observed the changes in the vegetation as we drive from low to higher altitudes. Students will also have an opportunity to briefly visit the pacific coast, with the different characteristics of the sand formation (mostly volcanic in nature). Finally students will visit the cloud forest and admire the great diversity of fauna and flora in this beautiful setting.

Course and credit options
All participants will be registered for BIOL 391: Tropical Biology (4 undergraduate credits) or BIOL 591: Tropical Biology (4 graduate credits). The course will have traditional lectures, online material, readings and in class discussions on VCU campus during the first week of the program  A field component of 19 days in Costa Rica will have emphasis on research and development of papers and a presentation at each station. Students will review and finalize papers produced at each station during the last week of the course.
The Education Abroad office will enroll students in the course upon receipt of the registration
Course description
biology costa ricaBIOL 391: 
Students will have the great opportunity to travel the country and observed its rich biological diversity, practice their biological knowledge through conducting research. and have firsthand experience with ongoing biological research in the tropics. Students will have the opportunity to visit an active volcano, Vocal Arenal (one of the most beautiful national parks in Costa Rica), Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio (a beach in the pacific coast surrounded by forest and its natural fauna), and also visit Monteverde (were they will have a great experience of a cloud forest). Costa Rica is an example to the world based upon how costa Rican National Parks and ecoturismo are managed. Students will also be able to experience and appreciate the diversity in Costa Rican culture.  As they travel through the country, they will observe the culture of Costa Rica, from the capital of San Jose to the most remote areas in the country. 
Course description

BIOL 591: 
During this summer session we will be able to recognize the vast diversity of species
in the Tropics. We will visit tree Biological stations which represent examples of two
distinct biomes, tropical rain forest and tropical dry forest, and an example of a
botanical garden with one of the most diverse species of palm trees. During these
visits we will learn the different interactions that occur between the organisms within
each biological station and recognize how this interactions can fluctuate accordingly
to the environment. We will develop mini research projects and collect enough data
to have a presentations and scientific papers at each station. We will also have the
opportunity to interact with local scientists and scientist from around the world and
learn from their research. We will have opportunity to visit briefly a volcano and in the
route observed the changes in the vegetation as we go to a high altitude. We will also
have an opportunity to visit briefly the pacific coast, with the different characteristics
of the sand formation (mostly volcanic in nature) and interact with the local
Students should prepare for extensive walking, traveling and some hiking.

This program is open all students interesting in pursuing a career in Biology or those who would love to know the diversity of flora and fauna in the tropics.  The prerequisites are BIOL 151/152- BIOZ 151-152, or Instructor approval. Students who apply to the program will be interviewed by the program director prior to approval.

An academic letter of reference will be required. This program is open to non-VCU students. Contact Dr. Carolina Yaber ( with questions.
Accommodations and Meals
Students will share rooms with their class mates in different Biological locations and hotels. Bathrooms will be shared, en suite in hotels and will be shared, detached from the bedrooms in the Biological locations. The majority of meals is included in the program and will be provided at each Biological station or hotel.  Students are encouraged to bring snacks kept in seal containers. Meals that are not included in the program cost may be purchased at typical Costa Rican restaurants, which are not expensive.
Program director
The program is directed by Dr. Maria Carolina Yaber (PhD in Biology from Purdue University), a native of Venezuela with over 16 years of teaching experience, who joined the VCU Department of Biology in 2015. At VCU, she teaches general biology courses, as well as human anatomy. Dr.Yaber has successfully conducted courses in Costa Rica for 7 years.  Her PhD was in the tropics. She has vast array of experience to share with students. She was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, where she earned her B.S. in Biology from the Universidad Simon Bolivar. Thereafter, Dr. Yaber worked and travelled Venezuela while studying the population of the Cane toad which gave her a great experience, with the different biomes to which the VCU students will be exposed.
A valid passport is required to leave the US. If a student does not already have a passport, they are advised to begin the application process as soon as they are accepted into the program. The processing time for new passport applicants can be as long as 8 weeks. For students who already have passports, they will need to verify that the passport’s validity dates extend 6 months past their return date. For more information about passports and the application/renewal process, please consult the State Department's website.

Payment of fees
In order to complete the application, students are required to submit a $250 registration fee and deposit. This $250 registration fee and deposit is refundable in two cases: if the program is cancelled, or if a student is rejected by the faculty member based on their qualifications to participate in the program. Reasons for rejection could include, but are not limited to, GPA, lack of a pre-requisite, unacceptable or inappropriate statement of interest, etc. and are at the discretion of the faculty program director. However, if a student pays the fee and is not given final acceptance to the program based on failing to complete application requirements, as determined by the Education Abroad office or faculty director, the $250 is non-refundable.

Students will receive two separate charges to their student accounts for this program: one charge will reflect the balance of the program fee (minus the $250 deposit and application fee) and the other charge is for VCU tuition costs (based on the number and type of credits being taken by the student). These bills will be charged through VCU Student Accounting and should appear by May.

Please note: While these charges may post to the student’s account simultaneously or separately, it is the student’s responsibility to make sure the account balance is paid before the billing due date.
Withdrawal procedures and financial commitment policy
All withdrawals must be made formally in writing and submitted to the Director of Education Abroad. Otherwise, the program fee will not be refunded. After committing to the program, students deciding to withdraw will be held accountable for a portion of or the entire program fee based on the following schedule:
  • Formal withdrawal submitted later than 30 days before the first day of the program abroad: 100% of the program fee will be charged
  • Formal withdrawal submitted within 30-60 days before the first day of the program abroad: 75% of the program fee will be charged
  • Formal withdrawal submitted within 60-90 days before the first day of the program abroad: 50% of the program fee will be charged
In the event an unexpected emergency occurs within 30 days before the first day of the program abroad, students must provide a physician’s certification that his/her condition prohibits participation. In this case, refunds will be limited to only those funds VCU is able to recover or that have not already been spent on behalf of the student.

See above for refund policy on $250 registration fee and deposit.
Travel health
Students should schedule an appointment with their physician or at a travel clinic (such as VCU Student Health) at least 4 to 8 weeks before the program to inquire about recommended and/or required vaccines/immunizations. It is the responsibility of the student to ensure that all routine and travel immunizations are up-to-date.
Health Alert:  Zika Virus
The CDC has issued a travel alert for countries where the Zika virus is prevalent.  Check the CDC’s travel notices regularly as new countries are being added to this list.  Check VCU Student Health to stay updated as well.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on recommended and required immunizations for travelers. To view the health risks and requirements for the country to which you will be traveling, please visit the CDC's website.

VCU Student Health offers in-depth pre-travel consultation with a health care provider as well as most of the vaccines recommended for safe travel. Prescriptions for recommended medicines are also available. Please visit their website for full details.
Every effort is made to provide updated and accurate information at the time of publication. The sponsors reserve the right to make necessary changes to the programs and costs.  The university reserves the right to revise or alter all fees, regulations pertaining to student fees, and fee collection procedures at any time.

Dates / Deadlines:

There are currently no active application cycles for this program.

This program is currently not accepting applications.

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