Humboldt State University [link]

Next Program: May 26-June 15, 2015

Health & Safety

Central to any study abroad program is immersion in a new culture and surroundings, which can be difficult at times. Cultural sensitivity and cultural transition discussions will occur during orientation sessions and will be a dominant theme throughout the program.

Students are expected to act in a mature and responsible manner. The program staff may send home any individual whose conduct, in the opinion of the program staff, is detrimental to the program or to the other students. This includes uncooperative or disruptive behavior, alcohol abuse, illegal drug use, and failure to perform satisfactory academic work. Fees will not be refunded if a student is asked to leave the program early.

The avoidance of any illegal drug use, drug purchase, or drug sales cannot be stressed enough. Costa Rican officials inflict severe penalties on foreigners breaking domestic laws, especially illegal drug use. Students are cautioned that a foreign passport and ignorance of local laws will not protect them nor is it likely that anyone from the program or the U.S. Embassy/U.S. Government (or other embassies) be able to provide assistance if they are arrested or convicted for drug use or other crimes.

The field activities take place in a tropical forest environment with poisonous/venomous insects, spiders, snakes, and other animals. The field site also has wild felids. Students undergo training prior to and during field excursions on avoiding potential dangers. In addition to being vigilant and avoiding contact with potentially dangerous animals, students are not to walk off trail without supervision and without wearing appropriate clothing (such as high-ankle boots). No student is to walk trails alone or walk trails in groups without first informing and obtaining permission from the course instructors.

Participating students should be in good health, and should have a medical examination prior to departure to Costa Rica. Students are responsible for obtaining all immunizations required by the US Public Health Service for Costa Rica as well as the student's medical condition and history. Students can find information on vaccinations and health precautions at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site.

Students are required to register with the State Department prior to leaving for Costa Rica.

Program participants should purchase all prescription medicines needed prior to leaving for Costa Rica, and should bring spare pairs of glasses and/or contact lenses if they wear them.

Please see TRAVEL & PREPARATION for more information.

Students must provide a copy of their passport and emergency contact information to instructors (deadline March 1, 2014).

Resources Provided by the Program to Support the Health of Students

La Selva Biological Station has snake bite and first aid kits that may be used for participants on the program. The biological station also has telephones and radios to contact local medical personnel, a local clinic, and a regional hospital, if needed.

In-Country Medical Facilities

The following information was obtained from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs on Nov 7, 2007.

“First aid and snake bite kits are available at the La Selva Biological Station. Major medical care is available in San Jose, approximately two hours from La Selva. Medical care in San Jose is adequate, but is limited in areas outside of San Jose. Most prescription and over-the-counter medications are available throughout Costa Rica. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services, and U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. A list of local doctors and medical facilities can be found at the website of the U.S. Embassy in San Jose. An ambulance may be summoned by calling 911. The best-equipped ambulances are called unidad avanzada. Ambulance service in Costa Rica does not meet US standards, and response time is unreliable.”

Evacuation Procedures for Specific Location (Medical and Other)

There are vehicles at La Selva at all times for use in medical or other evacuations, and the instructors will have a four-wheel-drive rental vehicle available at all times for emergency purposes. In the case that a major evacuation of the field station is necessary, all personnel with follow protocols set by the Field Station Directors (on site). Large and small-scale evacuation via air travel is possible through the San Jose National Airport and students are required to hold international travel insurance while on the program in Costa Rica.

The Political Climate of the Country/Location

Costa Rica has no army and as such is relatively safe in terms of world politics and potential terrorism. The following information was obtained from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs.

"There have been no recent acts of terrorism in Costa Rica. Visitors to Costa Rica may experience the effects of civil disturbances such as work stoppages and strikes. Although infrequent, these acts can create inconveniences for visitors.”

Environmental and Natural Disaster Risks

Costa Rica is potentially subject to earthquakes, volcanic activity, and flooding.
La Selva is a tropical wet forest with a lot of rain, high humidity and temperatures that may rapidly fluctuate between very hot and chilly. Students are cautioned to be prepared for hiking and other outdoor activities in inclement weather (rains), heat and humidity.

red flowers and tropical foliage

Security Issues at the Program Site(s)

Airport/San Jose/Hotel Cacts:

Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination and thus visitors are a potential target for petty theft and pick pocketing. While in the city (San Jose), students are cautioned to keep their belongings in sight and avoid ‘advertising’ that they are carrying items of value. The following information was obtained from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs:

“Travelers should ignore any verbal harassment, and avoid carrying passports, large amounts of cash, jewelry or expensive photographic equipment. Tourists are encouraged to carry photocopies of the passport data page and Costa Rican entry stamp on their persons, and leave the original passport in a hotel safe or other secure place.”

As students are to provide their own transportation to and from the airport and the Hotel Cacts, they are cautioned to use only official taxis. The following information was obtained from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs:

“Travelers should use licensed taxis, which are red with medallions (yellow triangles containing numbers) painted on the side. Licensed taxis at the airport are painted orange. All licensed taxis should have working door handles, locks, seatbelts and meters (called "marias"); passengers are required to use seatbelts. When traveling by bus, avoid putting bags or other personal belongings in the storage bins.”

La Selva Biological Station

As La Selva is a biological research station away from the city, it is fairly safe and devoid of crime. However, common sense should be used at all times, especially at night. Students may visit the restaurant at the periphery of the La Selva field station, but no student should travel away from the field site alone. Identification should be carried at all times. When not on their person, students should leave valuable items in the lockable storage cabinets in their cabins.