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Spring Semester in Central America

Explore the principles of “Sustainability Through Community” in Nicaragua and Costa Rica! Learn from front-line organizations demonstrating the best practices in conservation and environmental management. Participate in sea turtle conservation, build a solar power system, and live at a sustainable eco-lodge/farm. Go beyond study abroad in Central America with CELL!

Solar Ovens

Building Solar Ovens and Solar PV Systems in Central America

Program Overview

In Nicaragua, we will work with Grupo Fenix to help local villagers improve their standard of living and become economically and environmentally sustainable. We will help build solar power systems that provide renewable energy for people who have never benefited from electrical power, and bio-digesters that provide free, renewable fuel and play a role in stopping deforestation and serious erosion. For another look at the work of Grupo Fenix, check out the videos in our Sights and Sounds section.

We will also spend 11 days at Selva Negra, a sustainable coffee plantation and one of the world’s inspiring ecological farms. We will do a variety of service-learning projects while living in and learning from a community committed to living sustainably. We will learn how ecological, economic, and social sustainability is achievable from a community doing it!

Costa Rica is a country leading the world in its commitment to conserving species and natural habitats through community sustainability initiatives. Here, we will spend time with Kekoldi, a sustainable development organization located in the rainforest of the Talamanca region. We will learn about the Bri Bri indigenous people and their commitment to conserving natural resources through community involvement.

We will also partner with Asociacion ANAI, a Costa Rican sustainability organization which has pioneered some of the tropical world’s most successful community-based, sustainable-development practices. Working hand-in-hand with villagers in the Talamanca region, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, ANAI has been instrumental in implementing a regional initiative that is helping rural communities become more economically self-reliant through environmentally friendly activities.

We end the program with a two-week stay at a wonderful community called Altatmira de Biolley in the hills along the Pacific coast, and partner with an organization called ASOPROLA. Here we learn about their sustainable development projects and other activities that protect the environment and the recovery of cultural values. The Biolley district is located in Buenos Aires, in the province of Puntarenas, Costa Rica.  Half of its territory is located within La Amistad International Park.

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Program Details

Length: 12 weeks
Credits: 15 credits through Lesley University or Northland College learn more
Cost: $14,900 USD, plus airfare from your hometown.
Application Deadline: Rolling applications, so apply early to guarantee your spot!
Program Dates – 3rd week in January through 3rd week in April.

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Program Logistics

Housing: Students are housed in clean hostel-type facilities or home stays for most of the semester program. Although the accommodations are rustic, they are clean and provide an opportunity to form bonding relationships with other students and with your host family.
Food: – Simple and culturally consistent fare, including lots of rice, beans, fruit, and local vegetables.
Internet and Communication: Internet access may be limited when travelling to remote communities.
Electronics: Please leave computers, iPods, iPads, and other electronics at home. We will periodically visit internet cafes so that you can access e-mail and have contact back home, etc.

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Sample Program Itinerary

Actual program itinerary varies slightly from year-to-year. A more detailed itinerary is available upon request.

A note on personal travel: because of the condensed (read: action-packed) nature of our program, there isn’t time for you to personally explore the region on your own. If you would like to further explore the region, we suggest planning some additional time before or after your CELL experience. Please contact us if you have any questions.

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Sights and Sounds

  • Tour the historical cities of San Jose, Costa Rica and Granada, Nicaragua
  • Explore tropical rainforests
  • Witness the power of tropical volcanoes
  • Travel to Gandoca, Costa Rica and participate in a sea turtle restoration project
  • Experience the sights and sounds of tropical birds and Central American people and communities.
  • Check out these videos about Grupo Fenix:

    • ‘Adelante Con El Sol’ — Teaser Trailer
      from Calm Dog Productions on Vimeo.Teaser trailer for Calm Dog Productions’ forthcoming documentary about the Solar Women of Totogalpa.
      Filmed in Sabana Grande, Nicaragua

    • Adelante Con El Sol: The Solar Women Of Totogalpa
      from Calm Dog Productions on Vimeo.
      Adelante Con El Sol: The Solar Women of Totogalpa is a short documentary set in rural Nicaragua that follows a group of women through their journey toward a sustainable lifestyle. With the Nicaraguan civil war barely in the rear view, the village of Sabana Grande has created jobs and rebuilt their strength as a community through the building, usage, and distribution of renewable technologies.
      Directed, Produced, & Edited by Lee Fritz and Jenna Morse

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Program Courses

Language, History, and Culture of Costa Rica and Nicaragua (LINTD 2003)

(Interdisciplinary course designed to fulfill Interdisciplinary, Language, History, or Sociology requirements -
3 credits)

This interdisciplinary course provides students with an immersion experience in the language of the host country. Through classroom instruction and living with a host family, students develop an ability to converse in basic Spanish. Students who have already completed one year or more of college-level Spanish, receive more intensive intermediate Spanish instruction and practice. In addition, this course also gives students an overview of the culture of the host country.

Sustainability: Secrets of Simplicity (LINTD 3699)

(Interdisciplinary coursed designed to fulfill Interdisciplinary, Sociology, or Ecology requirements – 3 credits)

This interdisciplinary course examines the field of sustainability and explores creative ways to build sustainable communities. We look at innovative strategies currently being implemented (both worldwide and in Iceland/Central America) to proactively address issues threatening sustainability. The focus of this class is to examine the choices we make and to look at how to incorporate sustainable practices into our lives. Students also explore the principles of voluntary simplicity and the relationship of these principles to sustainability and to their own lives. Students live in one of the world’s oldest and unique eco-villages and have ample opportunities to apply what they are learning in the classroom to real-life sustainability projects (these projects will be coordinated with students’ service-learning course).

Human Ecology: Humans and Their Environment (LINTD 3700)

(Interdisciplinary course designed to fulfill Geography, Sociology, Environmental Science, or Interdisciplinary requirements – 3 credits)

This interdisciplinary course provides students with an understanding of how ecological systems work, how the structure and function of these systems is altered by human activity, and how we can minimize our impact on these systems. The course is designed to help students understand the relationships between the principles of ecology and human environmental decision making. Students develop an understanding of biologic and biomimicry (i.e., human innovations inspired by nature), as well as sustainability, and have opportunities to visit a number of community-based, ecologically sustainable projects.

Service-Learning: Sustainability Through Community (LINTD 3707)

(Interdisciplinary course designed to fulfill Interdisciplinary, Sociology, or Service-Learning course requirements – 3 credits)

This service-learning course is designed to immerse students in another culture and to provide real-life opportunities to assist a community in becoming environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable. Students participate in a dynamic process involving local participants in the evolution of new habits-of-living and making-a-living that incorporate renewable energy and other environmentally sound strategies for achieving sustainability.

Specific service-learning projects will be driven by the needs of the local community. Through structured reflection exercises and journaling, students will constantly evaluate their progress, examining how theory relates to their real-world experience in the community.

Crossroads Thinking Skills for the 21st Century (LINTD 4003)

(Interdisciplinary course designed to fulfill Interdisciplinary, English, Philosophy, or Sociology requirements – 3 credits)

This course grounds students in a new and interdisciplinary way of thinking. Crossroads thinking combines elements of critical and creative thinking and helps students to develop skills in questioning, imagining possibilities, exploring opportunities, analyzing alternatives, synthesizing ideas, and evaluating thought. Through a variety of course activities, students identify essential intellectual traits, question long-held assumptions or biases, evaluate ideas, reason honestly and open-mindedly, problem-solve, and form objective conclusions. Students learn that “things are not always as they seem,” and they develop the capacity and skill to be able to examine thought from different points of view (e.g. cultural, political, social, economic, scientific, artistic, gender-based, multi-age-based, spiritual, philosophical, historical, empathetic, and integrated perspectives). This course will stretch both the depth and breadth of your thinking.

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Please contact us for information on your instructors.

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