2019 Program Info

The College of Nursing will host the 2019 program, Exploring the Health Care System in Costa Rica May 5 – 12, 2019. Application for the 2019 are now being accepted.

On the trip, students will learn and see first-hand how health care is delivered in Costa Rica. In addition, students will meet with nurses, physicians, and other providers of care, along with policy makers and administrators, in an effort to learn how Costa Rica is able to achieve impressive health outcomes. The Learning Objective for this embedded program is for students to analyze information obtained on the trip and effectively present what they have learned and experienced to others. In addition to the travel, this course requires class sessions and course work. For 2018, the student price of the trip was $2,135, which included all student lodging, all food, and transportation to and from the base hotel in San Jose. This price did not include airfare or tuition. Most students obtain some type of support funding. The 2019 trip is expected to cost $2,199.  In 2019 we will follow the same model as we did in 2018 with a spring term one credit course and a May term three credit course. If you have questions about the program, please contact Celeste Newcomb at

Meet a future medical provider and see what she has to say about the program.

Michelle Lai participated in the program in January 2017.  She was very moved by her experience in Costa Rica. In her words, As a future physician, I think it’s important to see how health care systems work in other countries, especially ones like Costa Rica where they are doing better than us both in cost and outcomes. For people going into the health care field, observing how other systems are different can help us be part of the improvement of our own, rather than just accepting what’s already in place. On top of that, we can see how different cultures and beliefs can influence the way people view health and how the system is structured to serve the public. 

I learned that Costa Rica’s universal free health care and community health workers have their benefits, like providing basic care to all and not incentivizing doctors. However, we also saw their drawbacks, like longer wait times and a higher financial burden on the government and taxpayers. Seeing these things with our own eyes made us critically examine the strengths and weaknesses in how our own system works in the US.

Having this experience has inspired me to continue to learn about other health care systems and to never stop questioning the status quo. I feel very lucky to have gone on this eye-opening trip through an HPA class with such a knowledgeable professor and amazing classmates!”

Michelle is now in medical school at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.  She graduated in May 2017 with a degree in Biology and a minor in Health Policy and Administration. During her time at PSU she was a Schreyer Honors College student. 

The following list is tips to the incoming HPA Costa Rica classes from students from the 2017 HPA 499 Costa Rica trip:

  • Pack light (so you can bring back souvenirs)
  • Do your research on Costa Rica beforehand and bring it with you to reference for reflections
  • Read the book before you go to Costa Rica
  • Be open- It’s an adventure
  • Zip-lining is worth it
  • Be ready to learn and ask questions – Be polite while asking questions
  • Do more cultural research prior to departing to Costa Rica
  • Eat plantains whenever possible
  • Bring warm, comfortable clothing for rainforest activities
  • Do research ahead of time about the health care system.
  • Don’t just simply go over with the mindset of observing. Remember, the point of this trip is to learn from Costa Rica and to determine what the U.S. could model to make our system more efficient. Use this trip to evaluate the differences; especially in the cultural view of how they view healthcare as a right, not a privilege! You will be more likely to find topics that really interest you that will make your research poster more thorough and purposeful!
  • Prepare to see living conditions you are not used to seeing.
  • Understand they do not treat animals the same as we do in the US (some people may have pets for a purpose where we normally regard pets as family).
  • Live up your experience- take lots of pictures for the poster and presentation.
  • Bus rides are very long and windy.
  • Plan on not having hot water in Las Juantas & bring a bug net just in case you need it.
  • Remember that the chedule is tentative and subject to change

Helpful Questions and Answers

Question: The Schreyer scholarship grant request form requires me to break out the costs of the trip. Can you break the trip expenses out?

Answer: Yes. Here is the breakout –  For 2019 we allocated 50% of $2,199 to in country transportation and hotel expenses. That is $1,099.   The remaining 40% (or $879) is allocated to food and water and 10% (or $219) to trip translators and support staff.

Question: How do I figure out how much summer tuition will cost?

Answer:   Because several factors go into calculating tuition, please refer you to the tuition calculator here:  and schedule:


The following list is all things the 2017 HPA 499 Costa Rica wish they had known before the trip:

  • Costa Rica is chilly in the rain forest
  • Itinerary is subject to change
  • Do your homework before you leave
  • Costa Rica is very westernized
  • Costa Rica is safe
  • Know your research project beforehand if you can
  • Snacks won’t always be provided throughout the day – bring granola bars
  • Known more about Costa Rica health system specifically before travel
  • How much money things were outside of hospital visits so if things got canceled there can be reimbursement
  • Be prepared to see the living conditions
  • Time is much slower in Costa Rica (do not expect things to be perfectly on-time)
  • Brush up on basic Spanish


Center for Disease Control
Penn State Student Insurance Office
Travel Warning and Consular Information
University Health Services
University Health Services Travel Clinic


Question – Does the three credit May term course count as a 400 level supporting course for nursing students?

Answer – Yes.  Please note that we verified this information with Kris Conn on 10/10/18

Question – Do I need to enroll in the one term credit Spring course in order to participate in the three credit May term course?

Answer – Yes.