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  1. #1
    jafx is offline Junior Member 512 points
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    Studying in Costa Rica - Advice and tips from a real student

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    I've read a significant amount of disinformation on this forum regarding medical school, and university education in general, in Costa Rica. I have lived here three years, have a wife and child who are citizens, and wanted to share some correct information about the educational system here.

    I wanted to set out a few facts for anyone interested in eventually doing their studies in this country.
    • You will need to learn Spanish. There is no exception to this. There simply isn't an English language program here for Medicine, Pharmacy, etc...
    • Tuition is relatively cheap. For me, -2014-, tuition for pharmacy or medical school is around 5k a semester.
    • *Some* Schools may have Spanish immersion courses available. I know my university does and it lasts for an entire semester, 20 hours a week of intensive classroom Spanish. As I was already bilingual, I did not take said course.
    • The *majority* of schools here run three semesters per calendar year. They refer to them as "cuatrimestres" and they are 15 weeks long. There is very little time in between semesters here and if you pass your classes you can graduate rather quickly.
    • Immigration can be a pain in the ***, but your university usually has a representative who can help get your student visa pushed through. US Citizens can enter the country for the purpose of tourism, but you will be required to leave every 90 days. Better to just have your papers in order before you come and get your visa approved. Otherwise you will have to prove return flight before you're allowed to board the plane, etc... It's a freaking nightmare. Universities won't let you matriculate unless you have your immigration papers in order.
    • Education is rigorous in this country. Still, you will have to do a great amount of individual studies to get yourself ready for the USMLE - from what I've heard -.
    • They don't give out diplomas here. Cheating is punished harshly and swiftly. Professors are not corrupt here and don't take bribes for grades, etc... The vast majority of Citizens who attend medical and pharmacy school here fail and change careers. If they don't give a break to their own citizens, don't expect them to give you one either.
    • There's no such thing as an elective course here in the private schools, as far as I've seen. Everyone studies the same stuff. Programs from university to university are essentially the same; the socialist democracy government here tightly regulates University degrees through CONESUP and SINAES.
    • No one school here is superior to another. They are all essentially regurgitation of the same, very good, educational material. Different universities have different teaching styles, but that's about the biggest difference you will find.
    • Expect a culture shock if you move here; this is not the United States. Do not go out alone at night in the Capital city (San Jose.) You will get robbed and you will likely get stabbed and/or shot. Even locals are not stupid enough to wander the streets at night. At night, think of this place as Harlem. Show some common sense. If the locals all have bars on their windows you should realize there is a reason for that. If you absolutely have to go somewhere take an official cab. Don't be stupid and spend your time in the party scene. You will be a target. It is much safer to rent and live in a safe place like Heredia and take a bus to school.
    • Lastly, I do not know of any other school for health sciences than Universidad Iberoamericana de Costa Rica that is approved for federal loans, and it is only approved to administer them for the programs of Pharmacy and Psychology. This might change. -- current information as of 2014 --


    Expect to need private loans if you're going to attend here for anything but pharmacy or psychology.


    Here are some of the Universities in Costa Rica:

    Last edited by jafx; 05-29-2014 at 03:38 PM.

  2. #2
    jafx is offline Junior Member 512 points
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    Here is some cost of living information from my own experiences:
    • Rent: $300-400 for a single room, $500-750 for a very small apartment or house
    • Food: Anywhere from low to high. Depends on how you eat and if you eat out. Similar to the United States, but slightly more expensive for basics such as bread, milk, etc...
    • Transportation: Taxis are cheap, a 25 minute ride to my university costs me $10. Buses generally run around $1 or less. Buses to remote parts and/or out of the country to Nicaragua or Panama can run upwards of $45-75 depending on the accommodations (I.E. Air Conditioning.) It's worth that extra $30... my goodness is it worth it.
    • Fuel & Cars: Bloody expensive. Cars cost anywhere from 30-70% more here than in the United States. Importing a car more than seven years old faces a 50% tax on the cost of the vehicle (from their book, not actual sale,) and shipping. It's cheaper to take cabs. Fuel is around $5-6 a gallon. Take a bus.
    • Vacations: You're surrounded in cheap places to go! Beaches, rain forests, hot springs, volcanoes, etc... lovely place, really is.
    • Electronics: Again, prohibitively expensive. Expect at least a 50% markup.
    • Clothes: Generally cheap at the second hands stores, and often still with tags attached. You can live nice here, or you can go broke buying custom tailored clothes and shoes. Your choice.
    • Medical care: Incredibly cheap; even private medicine. The locals pay next to nothing because they have a socialized medical system, but because of that private care is incredibly cheap as well. For an example, a cesarean at a private hospital runs around $7k; prenatal care, doctors fees, surgery, hospital fees, and medicine all included. There's a huge medical tourism industry here.
    • Dental care: Cheap. I had a tooth root canal, reconstructed, and four titanium rods placed down into the roots (tooth was broken from an assault I received years ago,) for $300. That was three visits and a total of five hours in the chair. Just $300. Try getting that in the states.

    Last edited by jafx; 05-29-2014 at 03:33 PM.

  3. #3
    jafx is offline Junior Member 512 points
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    Okay. Here's some information on what will be necessary for your student visa:

    If your country is not party to the Hague Convention, then you will have to have your documents translated, notarized, and authenticated at your nearest Costa Rican consulate.

    If you country is party to the Hague Convention then you will need to have all of your documents affixed with an Apostille.


    • You will need a birth certificate.
    • You will need a Police Good Conduct Statement from the place you have most recently lived the last three years. Some websites have said an FBI check is required, but this is not the law. After you submit the good conduct statement Costa Rica runs their own backgrounds check to include Interpol.
    • You will need proof of sufficient funds. Generally your school will take care of having a CPA draft a letter for you stating that you are able to do so. An apostille will not be needed on this document as the CPA will be making a legal document for you stating your means of supporting yourself while studying.
    • You will need a copy of your High School Diploma and your High School Transcripts. You will need an apostille on these documents. Your school will assist you with having these documents reviewed by the Ministerio de Educación Pública (MEP.) They will issue an equivalency document to allow you to study at University level in Costa Rica. This document is necessary to study, but not for the residency process. Without it you cannot get your letter of admission for residency purposes so I list it here.
    • The University will give you a document showing that you're an enrolled student. This is necessary for the student visa.
    • A certified photocopy of all pages of your passport. They can make this photocopy and affirm it while you are at immigration so there is no need to do anything but have your passport with you.
    • Expect to need a record of your vaccinations for studying any health related field (Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing, etc...)
    • If you previously studied at University level and wish to pay the fee to have an examination of your previous studies done and credit granted towards the current degree program, you will need a copy of your University Transcripts. No apostille necessary for this as it will not be something reviewed by the Government.


    Additionally for student loans expect to need your original social security card.

    Whatever university you work with will likely have a contact available for having translations into Spanish made; if your documents did not come in Spanish originally.

    -- Information current as of 2014 --
    Last edited by jafx; 05-29-2014 at 03:31 PM.

  4. #4
    jafx is offline Junior Member 512 points
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    ..........
    Last edited by jafx; 04-27-2016 at 02:22 PM.

  5. #5
    jafx is offline Junior Member 512 points
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    Here are a few good websites to buy items and/or find information about the cost of apartments, cars, etc... Sorry, they're all in Spanish:


    There is one English newspaper that I know of, but it's mostly a liberal rag that rehashes stories from other news agencies:


    Here is a local newspaper in Spanish:

    Last edited by jafx; 05-29-2014 at 03:34 PM.

  6. #6
    jafx is offline Junior Member 512 points
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  7. #7
    jafx is offline Junior Member 512 points
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    Information for my fellow Veterans: - As of 2014 -

    These universities are approved on the WEAMS List, I've emboldened the relevant approved programs:

    UNIVERSIDAD AUTONOMA DE CENTRO AMERICA (COSTA RICA) -- Nursing, Medicine, Psychology, and Physical Therapy

    UCIMED -- Medicine, Pharmacy, DERMATOLOGY (MA), INDUSTRIAL MEDICINE(MA), MED CENTER ADMINISTRATION(MA), and BA in Physiotherapy

    UNIBE -- Pharmacy

    This is not an exhaustive list, as there at least one other medical program approved for veterans.... but that university, which is not mentioned in this post to avoid defamation, has a bad reputation in this country.

    WEAMS LIST - Select Costa Rica from drop down menu.
    Last edited by jafx; 05-30-2014 at 12:42 PM.

  8. #8
    jafx is offline Junior Member 512 points
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    Resources for Spanish Speakers:



    Note on California Accreditation:

    Currently only these two universities are approved by the California Medical Board, and therefore a number of other states:

    None of the other schools have bothered filling out and sending in the mountain of paperwork required for the California Board. The more people who ask, the more likely they will do it... just saying....

    -- Information Current as of 2014 --

    Last edited by jafx; 05-29-2014 at 03:36 PM.

  9. #9
    gabbymaria1981 is offline Newbie 510 points
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    So you are a veteran attending medical school there but not using VA benefits? I am looking into applying there and have about half of my Post 9/11 remaining.

  10. #10
    gabbymaria1981 is offline Newbie 510 points
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    nevermind I read your blog so I see you are doing Pharm. Thanks for the info above

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