Sustainability and Conservation International Service Learning: Costa Rica (Reading Week)

When applying please note your preference for the Reading Week program, Sustainability and Conservation.

Date Activity
January – February, 2017 Orientation and pre-departure learning sessions
February 18 – 26, 2017 International placement in Costa Rica, exact dates may vary depending on flight availability
March 2017 Post-placement reflection sessions and public engagement event

Please note these dates may be adjusted but will be confirmed before you receive an offer of a placement.


Open to all UBC Vancouver students.

Program overview

You will have the opportunity to explore the learning theme of sustainability and conservation by participating in a International Service-Learning (ISL) placement in Costa Rica during Reading Week in February 2014. You will also participate in pre-departure learning sessions; a facilitated reflection; and post-placement activities as part of this program.

You will travel as a group to work alongside ASVO (Asociación de Voluntarios para el Servicio en las Áreas Protegidas) on projects in Costa Rica. Led by UBC facilitators and a local Costa Rican biologist, Roberto Solano Cordero, ISL participants will engage as a group in a hands-on service project which contributes to the goals of the organization. You will learn about approaches to conservation and sustainability as well as ecological systems of the local area through daily facilitated discussions. The program will also include a day trip to a National Park with a very diverse ecosystem.

Community partner

Our community partner in Costa Rica is  ASVO (Asociación de Voluntarios para el Servicio en las Áreas Protegidas). Costa Rica has over 160 parks and wildlife refuges, which are habitats for many endangered species. ASVO is dedicated to protecting endangered species and biodiversity, and to decreasing the impacts can have on the environment. Students will work on an ecological service project alongside Roberto Solano Cordero, the Coordinator of Scientific Research for ASVO and is a biologist and educator. He oversees projects in sea turtle conservation, ecology and biological management. Roberto has also worked for the National Maritime Patrol, the National Coast Guard Service, the Ministry of Education and non-governmental organizations dedicated to conservation.

Community placement

Project Site – Quelonios
Quelonios is on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica in a remote setting accessed by boat through local canals, resting right on the edge of the ocean.  The Protection, Conservation and Ecological Education Station at Quelonios del Caribe works with three species of marine turtles (Leatherback, Carey’s and Green) that nest on the Caribbean beaches and are in danger of extinction. Students will benefit from exposure to the site’s rich biodiversity as well as exploring ASVO’s efforts to redefine how the local population interacts with their native ecosystem.  Students should note that it is HIGHLY unlikely to see a turtle at this point in the season, but important work is done on site to prepare the turtles to be able to safely lay eggs.

One of the goals of ASVO is to make the station as self-sustainable as possible, in order to reduce impacts on the local habitat and provide a model for nearby communities and international volunteers. You will contribute to this goal by helping to build a greenhouse on the site to assist in reducing the need to bring in outside sources of food to the site and increase the diversity of plant species (vegetables) available for local consumption.  The greenhouse will be constructed to allow photosynthesis of particular plants, while providing shade to others and will function as a prototype to transfer this technology into the surrounding community.  The greenhouse will incorporate hydro-technology and will use local plants and vegetation as materials to construct the greenhouse (ex. bamboo). You should expect hands-on work, manual labour, and the need to problem-solve in the field. The service project will be guided by biologist Roberto Solano.

Leading up to your placement (Pre-departure)

Pre-departure learning sessions take place in the weeks before you leave for your placement; it prepares you for an intensive International Service Learning experience.  During pre-departure you will explore learning topics at regular meetings with your placement team.

Living environment

You will stay in modest and rustic hostel-style accommodation with shared bedrooms with bunk beds. The project site will be in a remote community.

After you’ve returned (Post-placement)

After you’ve returned, you’ll regroup, reflect and work at unpacking the intensive experience you’ve had. The post-placement activities you will participate in include;

  • A debrief with advisors and peers
  • Presentation at a public engagement event

Program cost

We expect the program fee to be approximately $2,200 – $2,650*. Fees include

  • Pre-departure learning sessions
  • Room and board
  • Return flight
  • Local transportation
  • Professional advisors
  • Reflection materials
  • Community partner management fee
  • ISL project management fee

*Fees will be confirmed upon placement offer. The variable cost of the program is due to price fluctuations with flight bookings.
*students will automatically be assessed for a $500 ISL Award to offset program costs.

Visas and vaccinations are not included in the program fee.

Am I eligible for the International Service Learning Award?

If accepted in to the ISL program you will be automatically assessed for eligibility for the $500 International Service Learning Award.  You’re eligible if you:

  1. Successfully completed at least 18 credits in the Winter Session prior to the program*
  2. Achieved 70% or higher on your best 18 credits in the session prior to the program
  3. Have no failed or incomplete courses during the Winter Session prior to the program

*Students in their first year of study during the 2014 – 2015 Winter Session will be assessed based on 9 credits during term 1