Wednesday, May 17, 2017

ICDS Study Abroad: Sustainability

Study Abroad: Sustainability

According to the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, ”Our world is under strain.  Poverty continues to plague communities and families.  Climate change threatens livelihoods.  Conflicts are raging.  Inequalities are deepening.  These crises will only worsen unless We change course.”

Community Work ICDS

We, as cited by Ban Ki-moon, refers to all of us.  We have to assume our role as global citizens and get involved in every way we can.  However, to bring about changes, it is necessary to be well equipped.  To that end, studying abroad provides students with knowledge, tools, and living experiences that contribute to develop an understanding of complex phenomena, as well as cultural sensitivity and tolerance towards different ways of living.  

Overall, studying abroad enriches our own lives and make us better people and provides excellent opportunities for students to immerse themselves in a different culture, learn or improve Spanish language skills and acquire proficiency to boost academic and professional opportunities. ICDS Fall Semester, Development Studies in Latin America, offers not only the options above but also a choice of courses that cover subjects such as environment, sustainability, human rights, health, food security, gender and human development.   In addition, the program allows students to have a hands-on experience through community work, internships, and volunteering.

Early ICDS Course at Finca La Flor

A special feature of the program is the elective course Sustainability Practicesand Food Security in Rural Costa Rica.  This course takes place at Finca La Flor and  allows students to gain an understanding of sustainable principles and their application in a tropical rural setting; have a hands-on experience of tropical agricultural landscapes and dynamics; and in general, understand  the complexities and challenges in working with participatory processes and help develop relations, projects, and mutual support between the local community and the farm, all of it to collaborate with Finca La Flor’s sustainability.

This is what Nick Erwin (Fall 2016) had to say about his experience at Finca La Flor: 

As part of a new addition to the program at ICDS, I attended a course titled Sustainability Practices and Food Security in Rural Costa Rica.  As part of the course, I lived on site at a farm not far from the nation’s capital of San José.  There I was given the opportunity to not only see the application of sustainable farming practices in a very real way, but I was also invited to participate in the growth of the farm and encouraged to share my knowledge of permaculture into a project that had tangible results.  The resulting permaculture plot, which was designed around the attributes provided by a chayote trellis was built and will provide food for the future guests of Finca La Flor for years to come.”

The good news is that you still have time to apply for Fall 2017!  The deadline is June 10, 2017 -For more information please email 

Do not miss a great opportunity to study, live with a local family, do community work, and travel in beautiful Costa Rica!

Saludos and "Pura Vida,"

Jorge Nowaslski,
ICDS President & Academic Director
San José, Costa Rica

Thursday, May 12, 2016

This time we want to introduce Prof. Helen Temple, who also makes of ICDS' courses a unique opportunity for students to enrich their education.

1) What have you been working on lately? What do you teach? What is the value - added of your teaching (or course) for international students?

I have recently joined a multidisciplinary research team trying to push forth protection for Costa Rican sharks. We are creating a new platform to stimulate the discussion of environmental conflicts and appropriate policy. I am also a forest guardian and spend time developing a forest reserve project which is applying for environmental payment services.

I have also made a personal SDGs commitment for 2016 to organize a series of conferences to discuss sustainability issues and provide a new platform at a Costa Rican private university for professionals and interested parties. I am presently organizing the second one.  

I teach various courses related to sustainable development and environmental sociology. These include Sustainable Tourism and Local Development, Rural and Urban Sustainable Development, Gender and Sustainable Development, Human Rights in Latin America, Costa Rican Environmental Policy and Action.

The added value of my courses:
  1. I bring over twenty years of knowledge of the Latin American development and environmental context into the classroom. I have been studying, researching and teaching in Central America for 20 years.
  2. I am able to guide the students through an exploration of the Costa Rican context, encouraging them to experiment in first hand research opportunities.
  3. I am constantly engaged in study abroad elective course development and teacher training workshop preparation. 
  4. I bring a bilateral perspective to the classroom.
  5. I have multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral experience, working with a variety of academic teams and sectors in the field of sustainable development and conservation. 

2) How does study abroad contributes to responsible global citizenship?

Study abroad contributes to responsible global citizenship in so many ways. For example, students are able to leave their comfort zones and share and discover new and often exciting things about themselves and others. This can help diminish their shyness and apprehension toward new experiences and toward people from different cultures and backgrounds. They get to appreciate different lifestyles and attitudes at close range and emerged in other’s realities. They are also able to develop intercultural perspectives and skills. They can use the opportunity to learn or improve a second or third language, which helps to further develop emersion and understanding of cultures, ideas and views.
Student’s who study abroad carry valuable inter-cultural experiences with them through life; study abroad can offer a catalyst for personal growth and reflection, develop flexibility, openness, compassion, empathy, mindfulness and a critical attitude. These traits often help to develop students desire to be active citizens who participate in decision making processes, are engaged in their communities, and appreciate the issues that impact on their needs and those around them.   
3) For that purpose, what is the contribution of ICDS?

I have personally witnessed the students that study with us at ICDS go through this (above described) personal development process; they grow with us.  

4) Why are ICDS programs an excellent complement to the home college education?

ICDS programs offer a unique experience and excellent complement because: students are emerged in Costa Rican culture and surrounded by highly qualified and competent professionals who have an interest to guide them through an exploration of development and sustainability issues. Both teachers and Costa Rican community members help broaden student’s understanding of the salient global and local development issues of our time, and help nurture and support more capable and confident young people who have an interest in the world around them, and who want to contribute to healthy and safe communities in their home countries and beyond. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Meet the Staff: Prof. Yanina Rovinski

Meet Prof. Yanina Rovinski, ICDS's professor and specialist on environmental courses! If you want to learn about environmental issues this is the professor to look for.

1) What have you been working on lately? What do you teach? What is the value - added of your teaching (or course) for international students?

Hi everyone! My name is Yanina Rovinski and I have been teaching an environmental course at ICDS since 2008. I am a journalist and science writer, and worked several years as communications officer for IUCN, the largest and most important environmental organization in the world. I also worked for the Costa Rican Foreign Service and was instrumental in the declaration of Cocos Island Marine Protected Area as World Heritage Site by UNESCO. For the last 15 years, I have been living in the Central Pacific coast of Costa Rica and continue to work as a freelance writer, editor and translator for environmental organizations.

My course at ICDS is a participatory experience called Current Environmental Issues. We spend a great deal of our time in class discussing environmental topics featured in the media and selected by the students themselves. Class discussions are usually a lively affair and serve as examples of the concepts illustrated in readings and background materials. We also watch and discuss movies and documentaries, and in general focus on topics of particular interest to the students.

I encourage students to express their passions and opinions, and each course is different to the previous ones as it is based on your own interests, the latest materials published and the most updated information available. Since I continue to work with environmental organizations, I have been able to keep abreast of what is happening in the field and this, combined with the stories and topics brought to class by the students, makes for great opportunities to learn from each other.

2) How does study abroad contribute to responsible global citizenship?

There is no better mind-opening experience than living and studying abroad! Immersion in another culture helps us develop our understanding and tolerance, enriches our own lives and makes us better people. Tasting different foods, speaking a different language, meeting people who are different from ourselves, living (and dancing) at different rhythms, enjoying new and diverse landscapes, playing sports we had never played before, helping others achieve their own goals… to me these are all superb ways of learning how to become a better, more responsible, global citizen.

3) For that purpose, what is the contribution of ICDS?

ICDS provides fantastic opportunities to experience Costa Rica, learn Spanish, meet locals and help others at the same time. As you probably know, this is a country known for its peaceful attitude, its efforts on education, health and other social guarantees, and its immense natural wealth. Living with Costa Rican families is the surest way to approach our culture and create lasting ties. You will feel welcome and pampered, while having to face challenges such as new foods or lack of your usual ones, speaking a different language, learning different family habits while being away from your own. What you learn in class you will then experience on weekend trips and community engagement sessions.

In terms of the environment, this is one of the best places to discover experiences dealing with sustainable development. Costa Rica has committed to protect its nature and its people, and has put into motion many of the newest concepts relating to sustainability. Here you will be able to see both successful and failed experiences, and feel as though you are living in an open-air lab for ideas that other places are still discussing. Far from a perfect example, I think both our country’s successes and failures have a lot to teach… and you can also contribute with your research on “hot” topics and your participation in community programs…

4) Why are ICDS programs an excellent complement to the home college education?

ICDS tailors its programs to provide you with opportunities that you may not have back home. While our academic demands are just as high as your home college’s, our teaching styles differ and our topics are oriented towards Latin American and international issues, thus complementing and enriching your U.S. education. You can experience the “pura vida” style and maybe bring some of its positive features back home.

Want Yanina to be your professor? Apply here now! 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Alumni Catch Up: Meira Harris

It's been a year since Meira Harris (on the right side) joined the ICDS family and she is constantly remembered by all of us! So we were obviously wondering what has this energetic, positive, and hardworking woman has been doing lately and how her experiences at ICDS have help her in her life. Continue reading to find out!

What motivated you to study abroad and select Costa Rica and ICDS’ program?

I chose to study in Costa Rica in the ICDS program because it was relevant to my major and because I had heard that Costa Rica is an amazing country that is beautiful, very different from New York, and safe. The program was through my university, which also really assisted the process and made it an obvious choice.

Did you know something about Costa Rica before deciding to come?

I knew that Costa Rica was a beautiful, safe country that is very biodiverse and peaceful because they do not have an army. I knew that Costa Rica invested its army funds into education and healthcare, making it a very progressive country in terms of social services.

Did you have any preconceived ideas/expectations about Costa Rica? how did your time here affected those ideas?

I expected the country to be less developed because of experiences my parents had there about 20 or 25 years ago. I did not know what to think of San José before arriving.

Can you mention some of your favorite academic and leisure experiences while you were at ICDS?

I loved the trips we took on the weekends and with ICDS, though the Nicaragua trip could have been more involved. I really loved going to the farm where I volunteered, and getting to know the socially conscious country.

How did your experience at ICDS helped you in your professional/academic life?

I have been at my internship since returning from Latin America, and this NGO (The Synergos Institute) works on global poverty, which I learned about while in Costa Rica. This knowledge helped me to obtain this internship and understand the multi-dimensionality of poverty. Additionally, I got to see the world from a very different worldview.

Why should people join ICDS’ programs?

This is a great program if you are interested in learning about Costa Rica or Latin America and living that experience. ICDS makes living abroad very simple, while still challenging the students.

--Meira Harris

For more inforation on ICDS' programs visit our website or contact us

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Meet the Staff: Our Couselor Luis Sandoval

Meet Luis Sandoval, ICDS Student Counselor. Luis Sandoval is a professional psychologist and counselor and has been involved in the international studies field since 2001. Luis works with ICDS in the process of integration of students, as well as provides support during students’ adaptation to the new culture, the family, and the community through social and cultural activities particularly designed for this purpose. Please keep reading to check out what he has been doing lateley.

1) What have you been working on lately? What do you teach? What is the value - added of your teaching (or course) for international students?

I have been, in collaboration with another professor, teaching the class Community Engagement and Human Sustainable Development. We have been giving the students the context and concepts involved in this topic as well as presenting experiences that exemplify what we develop in class. Half or the class is theoretical and the other half is applied. Students in our class are working 6 hours a week as a requirement in different organizations that have as their objective the wellbeing of the people they work with. Through the class, we work on giving them a framework to understand why and how the organizations do what they do and, at the same time, our students learn about the impact they have in these places and their populations. At the end of the semester the students have a very good idea about the topic in general and also about how to work within the context of a foreign culture. Through the process our students go deeper on their own mind sets and exercise their skills for adaptation, cultural differences reflections and of course community work, providing through their work many benefits to the different populations we and the NGO´s work with. 

2) How does study abroad contributes to responsible global citizenship?
It is an opportunity for people to observe and experience firsthand many situations that they have not been around to or situations they did not know that existed in the world. I believe it enlarges the perspective and the ability to perceive the world, the new world and the old world (i.e. what the students already new). 

3) For that purpose, what is the contribution of ICDS?

Costa Rica is very unique in the world. Culturally, it may resemble USA but, as a country, its particularities are very interesting. Costa Rica provides the opportunity for students to experience a safe society in which the collective value is probably one of the most important. The fact of being one of the few countries without an army since 1948, the Universal Coverage of the Health System, in addition to its economic and political stability and of course the "family driven" culture make Costa Rica an exceptional place to live, work, study, learn a language and be engaged in the process of development.

4) Why are ICDS programs an excellent complement to the home college education?

My thought on this is that ICDS has a group of excellent professionals who share the value of education and are committed to share their knowledge in order to open the views about many topics that back home colleges may not have the opportunity to address. I believe ICDS is a good step into a different dimension that the students will maximize when going back home and act in their environments. From what we have heard from previous students the ICDS and Costa Rica experience, changed or reinforced their views of their own lives, what they want to do with it and the impact they want to have.  People could be more critic but also more appreciative of their own life and environment back home.

Learn more about us here

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sustainability is possible!

Sustainability is one of ICDS's main focus and we are really happy to see other "ticos" trying to improve our country with such excelent ideas like this!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Hello world! 

We are excited about our first a post! The International Center for Development Studies -or ICDS to save some breath- invites you to follow us and learn about unique study abroad opportunities, Costa Rican culture, news on development, sustainability, health and other topics! 

Don't miss students’ stories and experiences to see ICDS through their eyes!

And wait to meet our staff, we will show you what makes our professors and administrative collaborators so wonderful and singular -we really are a happy family.

We will write really soon,

Pura Vida! 
(Pure Life) 
The ICDS Team