Costa Rica Pre-Vet Summer Semester

Applications are open for Summer 2024

6 Weeks. Hands-on Animal Experience. Career Readiness. Tropical Adventures. Pura Vida!

Create a summer of incredible memories on this unique 6-week adventure working hands-on with animals in beautiful Costa Rica!

This six-week program brings you to the tropical country of Costa Rica where you’ll work alongside veterinarians and researchers whose job is to help you learn and practice new skills while helping animals in need. Throughout the program, you’ll have the amazing opportunity to work with aquatics, exotics, wildlife, and small animals, providing needed care and assisting in research vital to conservation work.

Beyond the valuable experience, you’ll gain working with animals, this program also teaches you veterinary Spanish, gets you ready to apply to vet school, and builds your career readiness.

But it’s not all work! Your program will also include fun exploration and cultural activities, including ziplining, kayaking, hiking, and touring beautiful natural sites.

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,  but we also accept full-time undergraduates over 25. There are no prerequisites for this program. No prior Spanish skills are required. 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.


  • Spend time living in the rainforest and on the beach in the beautiful Osa Peninsula
  • Care for sloths, kinkajous, monkeys, parrots, and other Costa Rican animals
  • Study and research wild dolphins and whales
  • Assist in dog and cat spay-neuter surgeries
  • Research and create enrichments for monkeys
  • Observe sea turtles in the wild
  • Perform veterinary labs such as coprological exams and necropsies
  • Learn and practice veterinary Spanish
  • 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
  • Explore nature with fun kayaking adventures to national park hikes
  • Go ziplining in the jungle
  • Discover what it’s like to be a vet in the tropics
  • Explore beautiful Costa Rica

Dates open for applications

Summer 2024

May 26- July 6, 2024

The program will start in-country on a Sunday and end on a Saturday.

 apply now

*Subject to 1 day +/- on the schedule, including 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.


Tuition is $10,950, not including 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 $3,000 deposit (credited toward tuition) is paid.

Airfare is not included. There is no group flight for this program. We will have multiple pick-ups and drop-off times at the San Jose airport on arrival and departure days. Your transportation between the San Jose airport and the program location is provided and included in your tuition.

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

Courses and Hours

This program is created with students who may want to apply to vet school in mind. 

You can receive 6 university credits from Loop’s School of Record (credit is included in tuition). Loop Abroad can also assist you in working to get credit directly from your school.

For your application to vet school, the program provides approximately 3 weeks of veterinary hours and 3 weeks of research hours. Students can calculate their own record of hours for their VMCAS or other applications.

This program also provides approximately 230 service hours for which you will receive a certificate upon completion. Loop Abroad is a certifying organization for the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, for which those hours are eligible.

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.

Groups and Staff

Groups will have staff available 24/7 in case of an emergency during your program.

Housing and Meals

You will be living at a few different properties throughout the duration of your program. However, the facility setup will be similar at each location. A Loop Abroad staff member will be on-site 24/7 to help you each day and in case of an emergency.

Housing will include simple, shared rooms: rooms are shared with other Loop Abroad students of the same gender. Bathrooms are shared and have cold running water. Wifi is available, but you should not plan to use wifi dependably for high-bandwidth tasks such as attending virtual meetings or streaming video, as it will be shared by a large number of students using it at the same time.

The housing has screened windows and fans. You will be asked to bring a mosquito net as well in order to help assure you are protected from mosquitoes in the evenings.

Please note that because summer is the dry season, you will be asked to stick to quick showers and limit laundry to a maximum of once per week.

All meals are included in your tuition. We can accommodate vegetarian and vegan diets and food allergies with advanced requests.

Please note that these projects are in locations known for spectacular wildlife and conservation, and as such, they offer simple, rustic lodging and food.


For programs starting after August 20, 2023, COVID-19 vaccinations are recommended, but they will no longer be required.

All participants must follow the Loop Abroad COVID policies, which include testing negative 2 days before travel, reporting symptoms if they arise during the program, masking or testing if asked to by staff, and isolating if you test positive.

 apply now

Apply Now


Costa Rica is a popular travel destination for visitors from the US because of its wildlife, beaches, volcanoes, and rainforests. Travelers find it both safe and welcoming.

During your 6-week adventure abroad, you’ll have the opportunity to work onsite at a few local project locations, including the Osa In Water project, a dolphin research facility, a dog shelter, and a non-profit located in the rainforest.

Learn more about one of our program partners, Latin American Sea Turtles

We have worked with Latin American Sea Turtles (LAST) to design a sea turtle research program for you that will give you hands-on experience guided by local experts. While you will experience living on a beach on the beautiful Pacific coast of Costa Rica, this hard-working program will not be a relaxing beach vacation! You will, of course, have time to explore the area and enjoy the beach, but there is a lot of important work to do when it comes to sea turtle conservation. We’ll be starting early in the morning each day!

The Osa In-water project is located in Playa Blanca on the Dulce Gulf of the Osa Peninsula. The region is one of the 25 biodiversity hotspots of the world including the Dulce Gulf, one of 4 tropical fiords worldwide. Surrounded by different kinds of beaches, mangroves, and estuaries, the Gulf creates unique habitats for permanent and migratory species. More than 40 different fish species, as well as dolphins, whales, whale sharks, and sea turtles thrive in various ecosystems of the Gulf. The Osa Peninsula hosts a large variety of tropical ecosystems, providing habitats to numerous animals like scarlet macaws, monkeys, sloths, wild cats, and other wildlife, and countless tropical plants. A truly lush nature that still needs to be explored and researched waits here for volunteers. The exceptional natural surroundings make conservation work an exciting and enjoyable experience!

LAST is part of WIDECAST, the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network, which is an expert network of biologists, managers, community leaders, and educators in more than 40 nations and territories who are all committed to the recovery and sustainable management of depleted sea turtle populations.

LAST asks important questions to guide their research:

What would a sustainably managed sea turtle population look like? What would it look like to a government? To a fisherman, a coastal community, a child? To an hotelier, a dive operator, a tourist? What would it look like to a reef, a sea grass bed, a sandy beach?

From the perspective of sustainable development, a sustainably managed sea turtle population would be defined as a population that meets the ecological, economic, socio-cultural, political, aesthetic, and spiritual needs of the present without compromising the ability of the population to fulfill these needs in the future.

LAST seeks to bring the best science to legislation and policy, education and outreach, for training and professionals, conservation and advocacy, and to research and population monitoring.

This program is designed to both ask big questions and empower you to make more informed choices everyday – choices rooted in the belief that decisions today create the choices and opportunities of tomorrow just as the decisions of past generations painted the landscape that we see today.


In this six-week program, you’ll work and learn alongside veterinarians and researchers in a variety of small-group settings. This itinerary, and the order of the weeks outlined below, is subject to change but should give you a good overall sense of the program.

Week 1 – Dog Sanctuary and San Jose

In one week, students work with their veterinary leader to provide care to dogs in underserved areas 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 spay and 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 (Note: the ziplines have a weight limit of 250lbs)
  • Hiking adventures
  • Learning some Spanish

Students work in small groups performing physical exams and health checks, assisting with procedures and surgeries, and learning hands-on from the vet. Each day will have a lecture-style portion on site 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 2 – Dolphin Research Project

The second 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 of fish that the local dolphins eat to determine their health status and 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.

Week 3 & 4 – Rainforest Veterinary Medicine

The middle two weeks of your program will bring you directly inside the lush rainforest.

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, learning activities from blood pathology to necropsies
  • Helping to keep the project site 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 on-site

When available, this 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 on-site 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.

On the weekend in the center of the program, we’ll take a break 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 site.

These two weeks during program will give you a chance to explore wildlife medicine in Costa Rica while getting to see first-hand how a successful conservation project runs.

Week 5 & 6 – Sea Turtle Conservation

During your final two weeks, you will learn all about the sea turtle conservation project and the work done at LAST, and have four full days of working on turtle research. This includes boat capture, monitoring and health tracking, and ocean release, as well as beach monitoring.

You’ll also have four full days working on other aspects of the conservation project, including the mangrove reforestation program, which is vital for turtle health.

One day of your program will be spent assisting in a local cat and dog spay/neuter campaign. We will help provide you with the training you need so that you can be as helpful as possible during this important project and get the most out of it.

You’ll also have the chance for fun activities enjoying the many things Costa Rica has to offer, such as a day hiking and exploring in the national park, a kayak tour of the area, and a visit to a local chocolate farm. This portion of the program is perfect for students who want more research hours and a chance to build a deep connection to sea turtle conservation.

We will return to San Jose on the final program day for departing flights.

Virtual Veterinary Spanish

During your six-week adventure, you will also get the chance to learn veterinary Spanish virtually and practice what you learn in-person throughout your trip.

Whether you’re brand new to Spanish or just haven’t used the Spanish you learned in school in real life, this course will help you be as confident in your language skills as you are in your passion for helping animals.

You will start by studying the foundations of greetings, culture, and Spanish grammar. Then apply these principles right away as you practice your listening skills! The course includes video conversations between veterinarians and clients for you to listen to and practice understanding the grammar, vocabulary, and professionalism that would be expected of you in a veterinary clinic.

In building this course, we are striving to remind our animal-loving students of the importance of language and culture in the global mission to help animals from pets to strays to wildlife. All of our travel programs are designed to connect students to cultural perspectives and experiences they wouldn’t have at home and this course is no different.



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. When you look for scholarships for pre-vet programs, you need to look at all your options!

Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship:

The Gilman Scholarship could fund $5000 of your tuition and the next deadline is March 9 at 11:59 pm 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 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 March 2023 Deadline application will open in mid-January 2023 for applicants whose in-person programs or internships start between May 1, 2023 to April 30, 2024. This cycle encompasses Summer 2023, Fall 2023, Academic Year 2023-2024, and Spring 2024 programs or internships. The application deadline is Thursday, March 9, 2023 at 11:59pm Pacific Time, and the advisor certification deadline is Thursday, March 16, 2023.

Loop Abroad “Vet Squared” Initiative

Loop Abroad has committed $10,000 in annual funding to program participants joining us from a military background. If you are active duty military or are a veteran, and are considering a career in veterinary medicine, we hope you’ll consider applying to join a Loop Abroad program.

Scholarships of $500 – $1,000 are available for in-person programs. Scholarships of $1,000 – $3,000 are available for select self-paced virtual programs, which can cover the full cost of a virtual program.

Please find more details here.

Loop Abroad Dr. Erica Ward Scholarship

Focused elephant imageLoop Abroad is offering one FULL TUITION scholarship to cover one travel program (up to 2 weeks) of your choice.  Applications for 2023 are now CLOSED. Applications for 2024 will re-open in January 2024. We’re proud to add this to the list of scholarships for pre-vet programs.

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 have to complete an application to Loop Abroad in order to be selected for the scholarship. The scholarship winner must be able to complete the Loop Abroad enrollment paperwork, requiring a doctor’s signature, and must meet all safety requirements of program enrollment.

Note: if you have already applied to Loop Abroad and been accepted, you can still apply for this scholarship. If you have made any payments toward tuition and later receive the scholarship, your payments will be refunded.

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).

Scholarship details:

This scholarship covers tuition to one Loop Abroad program with a duration of 1 to 2 weeks in the summer of 2023. It is not transferable to other individuals or future semesters. It does not include airfare, travel or medical insurance, passport, college credit fees (optional), visa (if required), or any optional incidentals during your program. Please understand that a full tuition scholarship does not make travel completely free: passport, airfare, and other expenses depend on the program location.

Once a scholarship winner is chosen, the winner will need to complete full application paperwork for Loop Abroad. The winner must then also complete the enrollment paperwork, which includes waiver forms and a medical form signed by a doctor indicating that you are able to safely participate in a travel program.

The scholarship winner agrees that Loop Abroad may publicize the awarding of the scholarship, including the recipient’s information such as name and current university. The scholarship winner will be subject to all regular rules of participating in a Loop Abroad program.

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

  1. Apply for 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 ( and make an Instagram post about the program you’re hoping to join, tagging @loopabroad and #loopabroad in the post. You do not need to mention that you have applied for a scholarship.

Dr. Erica Ward holding a black dog and an elephant at the background and an 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 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.)

The scholarship will be credited toward tuition for the winning student toward the Loop Abroad program of their choice.

The scholarship is non-transferable. If the student cannot attend, the 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.

ALL PARTICIPANTS IN LOOP ABROAD TRAVEL PROGRAMS MUST BE VACCINATED AGAINST COVID-19. All participants are subject to other COVID requirements, such as providing a negative COVID test taken within the 2 days prior to travel. If you are unable to meet these requirements, you may use your scholarship toward a Loop Abroad online program of your choice within the 2023 calendar year.

Loop Abroad reserves the right not to grant a travel scholarship for the 2023 year if there are no qualified applicants who have applied by the deadline.


The Gilman-McCain Scholarship:

Young lady holding a blue parrotThe 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 receive 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 deadline for this scholarship is March 9, 2023.

Freeman-Asia Scholarships:

Smiling woman hanging on a ropeThe 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 for 2+ weeks.

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

All student applications for Academic Year 2023-2024, including the following terms: Summer 2023, Fall 2023, Academic Year 2023-2024, Spring 2024, and Calendar Year 2024, are expected to open in February 2023.

The Fund for Education Abroad:

Loop Abroad scholarships student checking heartbeat of the tigerThe Fund for Education Abroad (FEA) invests in promising students with financial needs who wish to study abroad. Potential applicants who meet our eligibility requirements may participate in 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.

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 Spring 2023 (programs from January- May) are due by September 15, 2022 at 12pm (noon) EST. Students may review the scholarship and application instructions here.

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

  • The Hiliary Echo Douglas Memorial Scholarship – for students studying abroad in Southeast Asia
  • Boston Area Study Abroad Association Scholarship – for students with schools in Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, or Connecticut.
  • Rainbow Scholarship – For LGBTQI students that participate in a high-quality, rigorous education abroad program.
  • Malú Alvarez Global Access Scholarship- Five scholarships for semester-long programs to be awarded for study in any country.
  • NAFSA Tamara H. Bryant Memorial Scholarship– These funds are awarded to African-American undergraduate students in the United States who hope to study abroad.
  • Gateway International Group Education Abroad Scholarship- Scholarship awarded to those who are first-generation college students, or those whose home or college of study is in Kentucky.

Smiling woman holding small wildcat Aging Matters Scholarship continues to bring more awareness to the key issues we face as an aging population. For the 8th consecutive year, we will be awarding an annual college scholarship to an individual that best demonstrates to us why “Aging Matters” to them. A $1500 scholarship will be given annually to a selected college student that currently cares for an aging loved one, works within the senior community, or intends to pursue a career that will have an impact on the elder population. Any existing student (or incoming freshman), in good academic standing, at a 2 or 4-year accredited college can apply for this scholarship. The recipient will demonstrate a unique and admirable understanding and desire to show us that “Aging Matters” to them.

All applicants can get more information and apply online here. Applications are due May 15, 2023.

First Trip offers scholarships for students who are studying abroad for the first time. At the time of writing, Thailand, Costa Rica, and Belize programs would be eligible for these $1,500 scholarships. Find out more and apply at Applications are rolling and suggested to be submitted at least 3 months before your program. They also have funding available for passports ($130) as well as some other supplemental awards.