Costa Rica 4-Week Experience - Loop Abroad

Costa Rica 4-Week Experience


Applications are open for Summer 2022

Spend a whole month in beautiful Costa Rica working with dogs, dolphins, and victims of wildlife trafficking in this special 4-week program.

Combine two of our popular programs to spend a full month exploring Costa Rica from the jungle to the city to the coast. For one half of the program, you’ll work alongside veterinarians and researchers whose job is to teach you so you can learn and practice new skills while helping animals in need. Work in a dog shelter or a dog clinic and learn clinical skills including blood draws, suturing, skin scrapes, and assisting in spay and neuter surgeries. Spend one week living at a dolphin research facility learning doing boat-based and lab research of dolphin health and behavior. Your program will also include fun exploration and culture activities, including ziplining and touring beautiful natural sites.

The other half of the program is based at Kids Saving the Rainforest, a wildlife rescue center located on the west coast of Costa Rica that rehabilitates, reintroduces, and cares for animals who are victims of wildlife trafficking or who otherwise need care. In addition to learning about the animals of Costa Rica and their conservation and care in the sanctuary and veterinary clinic, you’ll also get a chance to explore the famous Manuel Antonio National Park on the mid-program weekend.

Who It’s For

This program is designed for university-aged students who are interested in becoming veterinarians or working professionally with animals. Participants must be at least 18 years old. Most are 18 to 25.

There are no pre-requisites for this program. You do not need to be in school currently to apply. Individuals of any nationality may apply.

Applicants should be comfortable working with animals and getting their hands, and everything else, dirty. You must be able to swim (no special advanced swimming skills are required.) This program can accommodate a maximum of 10 participants per session.

Highlights

  • Study and research wild dolphins
  • Assist in dog neuter surgeries
  • Learn and practice small animal clinical skills
  • Discover what it’s like to be a vet in the tropics
  • Live in the Costa Rican rainforest
  • Care for sloths, kinkajous, monkeys, parrots and other Costa Rican animals
  • Research and create enrichments for monkeys
  • Perform veterinary labs such as coprological exams and necropsies
  • Help to provide free pet care and spay and neuter surgeries for locals (when available)
  • Enjoy a fun weekend of exploring Manuel Antonio National Park, where you might see two-toed and three-toed sloths, howler monkeys, squirrel and spider monkeys, coatis, pacas, and anteaters in the wild
  • Learn and practice veterinary Spanish (no experience required)

Dates open for applications

Summer 2022

May 15 – June 11, 2022

These program sessions are covered by Loop Abroad’s COVID-19 100% Tuition Refund Policy. If a program is canceled by Loop Abroad due to COVID-19, we will refund 100% of any program tuition you have paid (including the deposit).

 apply now

*Subject to 1 days +/- on the schedule, includes travel days*Dates indicate the dates on which you will arrive to and depart from San Jose, Costa Rica. This program does not have a group flight – you will be asked to book your flight to arrive and depart within a travel time window on the arrival and departure dates. In-country airport transfer is provided. Loop Abroad reserves the right to cancel any program at any time; in case of such cancellation by Loop Abroad, all payments will be returned in full.

Why Two Programs is Better than One

Our Costa Rica 4-Week Experience combines two popular programs: Costa Rica Shelter Medicine and Dolphin Research and Costa Rica Veterinary Medicine.

Spending a full month in Costa Rica allows students to maximize their time abroad and save money doing it. Not only is supervision and transportation between programs provided for a seamless transition, but Loop is discounting each program by $100 for a total of $200 off tuition costs. Plus, you’ll get FREE college credit for both programs (normally $499) and will only pay for airfare once!

Tuition

Tuition is $7,900 $7700 – SAVE $200 with this 2-program combo versus a single program

Tuition does not include international airfare. Tuition includes all program activities, all in-country transportation, and all program housing and meals.

Interest-free payment plans are available. Current college students may be able to use federal financial aid toward their tuition. Your space is not held until your $1,000 deposit (credited toward tuition) is paid.

Your tuition helps to support the partner projects where you will be working and studying.

Courses and Hours

You can receive 5 credits from University of Findlay for this program at no additional cost to you. Loop Abroad can also assist you in working to get credit directly from your school.

This program is created with students who may want to apply to vet school in mind. For your application to vet school, the program provides approximately the following hours:

Veterinary Hours: 100

Research Hours: 40

Service Hours: 150

Students can calculate their own record of hours for their VMCAS or other applications.

The strongest veterinary recommendation letter is from a vet who has known and worked with you for at least a year. However, you will have a chance to build a relationship with your Loop Abroad teaching vet who may be able to write you a recommendation if you impress them with your performance and are able to build on your experience after your program.

You will receive a certificate for 150 service hours upon program completion. You will be supervised by a teaching veterinarian in your classroom lectures, clinic time, labs, and animal activities – you can calculate your vet hours based on your actual experience, but we estimate 100-110 veterinary hours.

All dolphin project photos by Yuval Amir.

COVID and Safety

All participants will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19. All participants will adhere to the Loop Abroad COVID policy which includes providing a negative COVID test within 2-3 days prior to travel, wearing a mask when flying and when interacting outside of your “travel pod” (your group and staff), daily symptom report, testing if symptoms are present, and testing before return to the US. Loop Abroad had ZERO COVID cases in 2021!

If a program is canceled by Loop Abroad due to COVID-19, we offer a full refund of all tuition paid, including the deposit.

 apply now

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Locations

Kids Saving the Rainforest is a non-profit organization that was founded by two 9-year-old girls in 1999 with the goal of educating people about the importance of the rainforest.

From their headquarters in Costa Rica, where your project will be based, they operate a Wildlife Rescue Center and design and support conservation projects in and around Costa Rica’s Manuel Antonio rainforest. The Rescue Center works to help abandoned, sick, or injured animals and, ideally, re-release them into the wild.

In particular, Kids Saving the Rainforest has helped the endangered Titi monkey population increase from 1200 local individuals to over 3700. This change is due in part to KSTR’s administration of their successful Monkey Bridge Project.

During your program, you will live at the Kids Saving the Rainforest project. You will arrive at the main international airport in San Jose, and Loop Abroad will provide transportation to the project. Housing is on-site and our housing area is reserved for Loop Abroad participants and staff. We will live, eat, study, work, and volunteer on the project site. 

During the mid-program weekend, we will enjoy visiting and exploring Manuel Antonio National Park. This beautiful nature reserve is a gem of Costa Rica and is high on any visitor’s list, and will give you the chance to see some of the wildlife of Costa Rica in its natural habitat.

The Mission of Kids Saving the Rainforest is to protect the diverse wildlife of Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast by rehabilitating wildlife, conducting original scientific research, training volunteers, and promoting conservation and reforestation.

Itinerary

This itinerary is subject to change, but should give you a good overall program feel. Above all else, we want to keep you safe during your program and minimize your risk of exposure to COVID-19. We can help to do that by:

  • Requiring students and staff to wear face masks at all time and to use hand sanitizer regularly
  • Providing housing that is only for Loop Abroad students and staff
  • Providing private transport from and to the airport that is only for Loop Abroad students and staff
  • Limiting travel during the program – all weekday portions of the program, including housing and meals, take place at Kids Saving the Rainforest
  • Keeping our fun weekend excursions outdoors

You will arrive in San Jose on Sunday and meet your group. We will then travel together to Kids Saving the Rainforest. (We will advise you on what time to arrive if you’d like to minimize waiting time to meet your group.)

We will have the day to get oriented and learn the ins and outs of our new home for the next two weeks. Starting Monday morning, your weekdays will be full with a combination of:

  • Learning from and shadowing the vet in the wildlife clinic
  • Working with your Loop Abroad teaching vet in the lab, in learning activities from blood pathology to necropsies
  • Helping to keep KSTR running with work such as preparing animal meals
  • Veterinary lectures from your teaching veterinarian so that you can learn everything you need to know about the animals who live at KSTR
  • Supplementary activities such as veterinary Spanish (note: our Spanish teacher may be joining us virtually depending on travel ability).

When available, this half of the program will also include participation in a spay-neuter clinic for dogs and cats in the area. You will learn from your veterinarians and the local vet, both through lecture and labs, how to assist in providing this care, from safely handling dogs and cats to performing physical exams to giving vaccinations to assisting in spay and neuter surgeries, anesthesia monitoring, and recovery. This project allows our vet staff to work as a team across cultures, allows you to get invaluable veterinary experience, and allows Loop Abroad to provide free medical care to animals who might otherwise be far from a vet, and to control the pet population via spay and neuters.

Please note that most of the animals at KSTR cannot be handled, as they are wild animals and our goal is to provide them with only the care that they need to stay healthy and safe. 

In the evenings, we will cook dinner together relax as a group at our housing on-site. There is wifi and laundry facilities available, as well as a swimming pool.

During the weekend, we’ll take a break from KSTR and travel to Manuel Antonio National Park. This is a breathtaking place and really fun to explore, hike, and relax. This excursion and all activities are included – we will return in the evenings to our housing at KSTR.

Overall, this program is a chance to explore wildlife medicine in Costa Rica while getting to see first-hand how a successful conservation project runs.

During COVID-19, conservation efforts around the world have suffered as they have lost the funding and help often provided by tourists and visitors. Your participation in this program helps to re-open the wildlife clinic at KSTR and begin the process of reopening the clinic for rescues again. Your support truly means the world to organizations we work with, and there is so much that we can learn from their experts on staff.

In the second half of this program, you’ll work and learn alongside veterinarians at a dog sanctuary and with researchers at a dolphin research facility. See wild dolphins up-close in your boat-based research in the Pacific Ocean, provide check-ups and procedures to dogs in need, and experience magnificent Costa Rica first-hand.

Week 3 – Dog Sanctuary and San Jose

This program is divided into two weeks. In one week, students work with our staff vet to care for dogs at a dog sanctuary in a rural forest area outside of San Jose. Students will learn and practice clinical skills, including:

  • IM, IV, and Sub-Q injections and catheter placement
  • Blood draws, blood smears, and microscope skills
  • Sterile scrubbing and gloving
  • Instrument handling and suturing
  • Ear cytologies, skin scrapes, fecals, and other diagnostics
  • Calculating medication dosages and administering medication
  • Physical exams and stethoscope use
  • Canine neuter surgeries, anesthesia monitoring, and recovery
  • Identifying tropical diseases

This week will also give you a chance to explore and learn a bit about Costa Rica, including

  • Ziplining trip in the jungle
  • Hiking adventures
  • Learning some Spanish
  • Waterfall trip

Students are in the examination room in small groups, assisting with procedures and surgeries and learning hands-on from the vet. Each day will have a lecture-style portion at the clinic and a chance to put the skills learned into practice helping animals in need, culminating in one to two surgery days at the end of the week.

Week 4 – Dolphin Research project

The other week is spent living and learning on the Gulfo Dulce on the Osa Peninsula, on the Pacific Coast about six hours from San Jose. This specially-designed research program gives you the opportunity to participate in ongoing research on wild dolphin populations in Gulfo Dulce. 

You will be trained in the on-site research methods and goals, and participate in on-boat research of wild dolphins and sharks. Your time will be split between the boat and the lab, where research includes examining photographic data for photo ID processing and image analysis, necropsies and shark dissections to analyze stomach contents, collecting and analyzing biometric data, and lots of behavior sampling tracking a known population of dolphins.

*Please note: swimming with the dolphins is not permitted, and there are no captive dolphins on-site. This is a wildlife research project. Gulfo Ducle is home to tiger sharks, stingrays, crocodiles, and mangroves, so while it is a wonderful area for marine research, free swimming in the ocean is not permitted for safety reasons. We will have opportunities to swim together in safe beach areas during the program.

Note: The order of weeks is subject to change.

Safety

Every program begins with a safety orientation. We’ll discuss how to stay safe and healthy during your time in Costa Rica. We’ll also discuss best practices for staying safe with all of the different species we will be interacting with, and staff will always be on hand to further instruct students regarding safe interactions with animals.

Dogs

While most dogs are very friendly, some would rather be left alone. It is important to approach all dogs carefully. In order to safely interact with animals in a shelter and clinic setting, students and staff need to have an understanding of animal handling and behavior.

Staff and students will discuss animal behavior, including signs of anxiety, and animal handling and restraint before interacting with the dogs. All dogs at the project have been vaccinated against rabies.

Marine Life

Your research will be capturing and analyzing data about wild dolphins and other marine life. You will not have physical contact with live dolphins – we believe in leaving wild animals in the wild. However, you will be able to see them VERY close from the boat throughout your work. It can be even more rewarding to watch the dolphins interacting with their natural environment from a distance because this is when their true personalities shine!

The research vessel will be captained by on-site project staff and exclusively for your Loop Abroad group. Your first full day on the project includes an orientation and safety training for participating in the program.

Students will always be accompanied by trained guides and volunteer coordinators who will instruct students in how to safely complete their wildlife research.

Scholarships

 

There are lots of ways to help fund your online and travel programs with Loop Abroad, and we are here to help.

Scholarships are a terrific way to cover some or all of your tuition for a Loop Abroad program.

Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship:

The Gilman Scholarship could fund $5000 of your tuition and the next deadline is March 1 at 11:59pm Pacific Time! The Gilman Scholarship was designed to help students of limited financial means have the opportunity to study abroad – online or in-person. Nearly a third of applicants are awarded the scholarship! This is a great opportunity to help cover your tuition.

Students can receive up to $5,000 for travel or virtual programs. The scholarship can be applied to any of our online programs, to our semester programs, or to one of our 2-week programs.

Along with their application, students must submit two essays, the Statement of Purpose Essay, and the Community Impact Essay. Students must also upload their transcripts (unofficial or official). For more information on the application guidelines, please click here.

See the official website and read about Loop Abroad students who have received this scholarship. If you are a US citizen receiving a Pell Grant and currently enrolled in college or university, we encourage you to apply for this scholarship. The round of applications due March 1 will cover in-person programs or internships that start between May 1, 2022 and April 30, 2023. This cycle encompasses Summer 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, and Academic Year 2022-2023 programs.

Loop Abroad Dr. Erica Ward Scholarship

Loop Abroad is offering one FULL TUITION scholarship to cover one online program of your choice starting January 2022 or later. Applications are due December 1, 2021.

Who can apply: This scholarship is open to all students age 18 and over. You do not have to be a US Citizen. You do not have to be currently in school. You do not need to be enrolled in an online course to apply. You can apply for the scholarship first and make your online course selection after you receive a decision about the scholarship. (Note: if you make any payments toward tuition and later receive the scholarship, your payments will be refunded up to the value of one online program of your choice, not including an online semester.) 

Criteria for selecting the scholarship recipient: 

We will consider financial need, commitment to conservation and/or animal science, academic performance, and ability to be a positive team member as factors in our decision. We are not looking for the applicant with the highest grades or the most animal hours. We are not looking for the applicant with the saddest story. We are looking for a student who embodies Loop Abroad’s values of teamwork, commitment to a cause, and hard work, and for a student who would not be able to otherwise afford Loop Abroad tuition (whether because of household income or recent change in circumstances).

How to apply:
In order to apply, you must complete the following three steps:

  1. Submit the application to the Loop Abroad Dr. Erica Ward Scholarship here. The application requires a copy of your proof of household income (such as last year’s tax return).
  2. Follow @LoopAbroad on instagram (instagram.com/loopabroad) and make an instagram post about the program you’re hoping to join, tagging @loopabroad and #loopabroad in the post.

Announcement of Award: The scholarship winner will be notified by January 15th.

girl elephant dogWhy is it called the Erica Ward Scholarship? Dr. Erica Ward is our Academic Director. We believe that she embodies the values we are seeking in our scholarship applicants: she is passionate, dedicated, hard-working, and driven to make the world a better place. Dr. Ward consistently strives to find ways that Loop Abroad can support projects in need and help its students and alumni have fulfilling academic opportunities. We have decided to name this scholarship after her in order to honor her continued commitment to her values and purpose. (PS – She isn’t dead. Please don’t write your essay about honoring her legacy. She is very much alive and still working here. If you are a finalist for the scholarship, she will read your essay.)

Details:
The scholarship will be credited toward tuition for the winning student toward the Loop Abroad online program of their choice. If the chosen winner has already made payments toward his or her Loop Abroad tuition, those payments will be refunded in full.

Scholarship is non-transferable. If student cannot attend, scholarship will be void – it is not a cash prize and cannot be paid as such. Applicants must be over the age of 18. Citizens and residents of any country may apply.

 

The Gilman-McCain Scholarship:

The Gilman-McCain Scholarship is a congressionally funded initiative of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and named after the late senator John S. McCain from Arizona.

This scholarship is open to US citizen undergraduate students who are child dependents of active duty service members and receiving any type of Title IV federal financial aid. Students can receive awards of up to $5,000 for 2+ weeks of international travel or online programs. The scholarship can be applied to any of our online programs,  semester programs or 2-week travel programs.

The next round of applications for the Gilman scholarship open in January 2022. The deadline will be in March. At that time, you can apply for scholarships to use on any program starting between May 1, 2022 and April 30, 2023.

Freeman-Asia Scholarship:

The Freeman Awards for Study in Asia (Freeman-ASIA) provides scholarships for U.S. undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need to study abroad in East or Southeast Asia. This scholarship is open to both US citizens and permanent residents who are undergraduate students at a two-year or four-year college or university.

Recipients can receive up to $3,000 in awards for summer programs. This scholarship can be applied to our Thailand programs of 2+ weeks.

In order to apply, students must fill out an online application. Read the scholarship instructions here and the eligibility requirements here.

Applications for the 2021-2022 school year are closed. 

The Fund for Education Abroad:

The Fund for Education Abroad (FEA) invests in promising students with financial need who wish to study abroad. Potential applicants who meet our eligibility requirements may participate on any international education program that meets their academic objectives.

This scholarship is open to US citizens or permanent residents currently enrolled as an undergraduate at a college or university in the US. Scholarships range from $1,250 – $10,000 and can be applied for programs that run for at least 28 days.

Along with their application, students must submit a financial aid form (filled out by the financial aid office at their school), one recommendation letter, and a copy of their unofficial transcript.

Applications for Summer 2022 and Fall 2022 will open November 16, 2021 and be due by January 20, 2022. Students may review the scholarship and apply here.

Scholarships of note that you can apply for through the Fund for Education Abroad include:

InternationalStudent.com Travel Video Contest:

The InternationalStudent.com 2020 Travel Video Contest gives students the opportunity to win a scholarship by sending in an original video discussing:

  • How COVID-19 has impacted your international education or cultural exchange experience abroad
  • Your ideal international education or cultural exchange after Covid-19

There are several prizes available ranging from $250 to $4,000.

In order to apply, students must create a 4-minute video and submit an online entry form. Tips and tricks for filming a video entry can be found here. Applicants must be 18 years of age or older.

Submissions are due by October 13, 2021. Apply here.

"This was a great learning experience! We were able to spend a lot of time with the vets and they were constantly answering questions and sharing their knowledge. Strongly recommend this trip!"

Andrea G., Thailand College Veterinary Service 2016

Wright State University, Dayton, OH

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