What our participants have to say about us and our programs
We are very pleased that we have made our teaching practice in Costa Rica. The whole family was very nice to us. The team of ICIES was always one hundred percent reliable, they were always there when we needed help. The internship in the private school was a lot of fun. We hope that the students got a positive impression from the Germans and the German language. Costa Rica is incredibly beautiful; in the 6 weeks we were there, we saw and experienced many things, from beautiful beaches to volcanoes to several national parks. It was just all there! We hope to see you again soon.
Michael and Larissa


I am very glad to have met Maria. She made my year possible as I had canceled my host family shortly before departure. I had not expected to be able to go to Costa Rica! It was a wonderful experience to travel to Costa Rica, which I miss in no case I am especially grateful to Maria who organized my host family, school and recreational activities perfectly for me!


My journey began in late October and I was pretty excited. 3 ½ months in a foreign continent, all alone and without a word of Spanish! After a long flight, I was waiting in San Jose for my host family, whom I knew only from photos. It was a very large family with many children, who received me very warmly and I immediately felt comfortable. At the beginning, I spent a lot of time with the family. With the children, I playfully learned Spanish. With my host sister Paola, we visited the Irazu volcano, and went shopping in San Jose.  I spent a lot of time with the rest of the family and was very happy about it. I had a lovely birthday and a great Christmas in Costa Rica! My apartment had a private bathroom and a kitchen corner in the family home. While in CR, I was on my own, which I thought was good to be in contact with the Ticos. But my host family helped me whenever they could. For example, they showed me the city, the bus stations, the University and the bus stops.
I spent the first 2 months in San Jose, first I attended a language course and then I did an internship at a sports club in Coronado. The staff was very friendly and I learned a lot, because I had to communicate with them in Spanish. Costa Ricans are very friendly, communicative and above all helpful. Once I was at a bus stop and asked a nice lady for help, and she accompanied me and showed me the place. That was just one of many beautiful experiences.
During these two months I could only travel on the weekends! I went from the Caribbean to the Pacific coast. This worked out easily from the bus terminals in San José. There are many backpackers on the road and you get to constantly meet new people from all over the world, which is very exciting. As I traveled, I could store my things at my Costa Rican family, and always picked them  up when I needed something. I can only recommend everyone to experience such an adventure. You learn a lot but especially to know and love many great people and and you get it back two or three times!


If you are looking for an internship, apartment or the like, just contact Maria Elena Gamboa from ICIES. She offers an extremely competitive, reliable service. I can only recommend it. I was very happy because everything went smoothly and I finally got a job which I had looked for.
Forget the well-known online job placements for which you pay for an internship position for half a year up to 7000 €.


I spent 5 months in Costa Rica, 3 of them at a host family and then 2 months at Maria Elena Gamboa’s home. My room was very clean and well maintained, I could use anything including the kitchen, washing machine, TV, garden or even her guitar! Maria was very helpful and nice, I can only recommend it! Muchas gracias Maria and Pura Vida.


I was in Costa Rica for a month, where I lived with a host family. For me it was important to live with a family to understand  Costa Rican mentality closely and improve my Spanish without excuses. The host family welcomed me very cordially and frankly, it was horrible after only a month to fly back home.
In San Jose I did an internship with a national television station, which was really exciting because I had been working in Germany on television and could compare both stations. In Costa Rica everything is much more relaxed, less stressed and the people I met were totally open and interested. Of course, the timeliness are not as ours, but I found this very refreshing.
Meke sure you take time to travel, because there are many beautiful places next to the bustling capital of San Jose. It’s really great because Costa Rica is so straightforward, and you can travel in a few hours from the Caribbean coast (eg, Puerto Viejo – a small «Bob Marley-village on the beach «) to the Pacific coast (eg. Jaco – more of a party Surf port /  Manuel Antonio National Park – well worth seeing / Montezuma – a wonderful little beach town and at Tamarindo – etc. (beautiful resort for surfing, relaxing).I must say I have traveled a lot (Colombia, Mexico, Japan, etc.) and Costa Rica is definitely one of my favorite destinations!


I was looking for a hospital internship for my medical studies in Costa Rica. By chance, I found ICIES’s offer over the internet contacted them. They helped me find an accommodation near the hospital in Ciudad Quesada and helped me get accustomed to the culture and traditions of Costa Rica in my free time. They gave me many valuable travel tips, for tours like rafting and canopy, and I got to know their warm family, with whom I felt like home. Costa Rica was an unforgettable experience. I can only recommend it!


I was looking for accommodation and an internship in Costa Rica for my 20 year old daughter, Anne. I found help with Maria of ICIES. My daughter was thrilled and spent an exciting time in Costa Rica from June to September. She attended a 4-week language course and an internship at an internationally operating travel agency.
Housed in an apartment, my daughter was in Mary’s family. They took very good care of her, especially at the beginning when she was still unsure.
Thank you Maria!


The placement was very easy and actually a bit short. It was not entirely easy to get me an internship for one month only, but Maria was very accommodating and then everything went well. I got an internship with a travel company in San Jose, which I liked very much. I met many friendly and open people and was very well received in this company. Although at first I could barely speak Spanish, they all helped me a lot. I performed a lot of interesting activities and there was always someone there to speak with when I was not busy.
I got a room with a host family, which was very good for me. I had the good fortune to spend time in this great family, to see how they lived and of course also to practice the language a bit to get better. In the morning I had breakfast with Mom and Paola and for dinner, there was always someone around whom I could talk to about my day as far as that was just in Spanish. I was able to improve my language skills very much in that time. I had always asked myself before my trip how things would be over there, once I was so far away from home. But after a very short time, my country and the Gamboa family were so dear to me that I had the feeling of being at home as if it were my family.
I did not sleep during these 5 weeks because I wanted to experience so much and I was not even tired. I have gained so many beautiful impressions, with people at work, in the family, the nightly trips with lots of salsa music or traveling around the country with Vroni and Nico, which I also met with the family and which today are my best friends.
I have experienced Costa Rica as a beautiful country with many kind people. Life there is a little different, with less stress and hassle. One can perceive things so differently – an amazing experience for me! I will never forget this holidasy. With Costa Rica now I have very fond memories of my life. I am very grateful for it and keep thinking about coming back!


When I made the decision to go on an exchange year in Costa Rica, I didn’t quite have an idea of what exactly was expecting me. I searched a lot on the internet and heard costa ricans were very friendly, open people and that the country had breathtaking landscapes and nature. However, I think Costa Rica is a lot more than that and there are many things you should know if you’re willing to spend a good time in Costa Rica. So here below I’m going to write a few of my experiences and impressions I took while being in this beautiful Country and also give you some advice. 🙂

The People
What I love the most about the ‘ticos’, how they call themselves, is their attitude. If something doesn’t work out the way it schould, they stay calm, are patient and even start joking and laughing about it! They always try to make the best of the situation, which I really find an admirable quality.

It is fair to say that Costa Rica has a good educational system, although the standard may not be as high as in Europe for instance. The teacher- student relationships are much more informal and sometimes the teacher is taken more as a friend than a teacher. However, showing respect is very important to them even if sometimes you’ll get to feel the opposite. Yes you can always joke and have a lot of fun with ticos, but this with respect towards them and their culture.

Compared to other countries in Central America, Costa Rica is secure and I never felt in real danger and could walk freely in the streets. However, this is not valid everywhere and you always have to be careful, especially if you’re blonde and people see from far away that you’re a foreigner! I’ve met a lot of People who tried to trick me to get my money (mostly taxi drivers). I think it’s okay to have a chat with somebody you just met in the street, but don’t be naive and give him/her a lot of personal imformation.

Costa Ricans really love rice and beans, they eat it every day! Rice is the basic food for them and they can eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even when they prepare pasta, it has to be served with a little bit of rice. So be prepared to that and maybe it will be hard at the beginning but you will get used to it.
Besides, there are a a lot of other delicious things the costa rican gastronomy has to offer: an immense variaty of tasty fruits and vegetables. I tried so many of them I’d never seen before in my life!

Finally, I can say that living in Costa RIca changed my life in so many different many aspects. I’ve learned to take responsability for myself and not to be frustrated but patient when things go wrong.I’m happy I chose Costa Rica and I hope you will like it too. Wish you the best,



I spent one year as an exchange student in Costa Rica and i really liked it. The country is small but very beautiful, and the people are really friendly. After one month here i already had a lot of friends. My family always treated me well and showed me some costa rican customs and traditions. I learned spanish pretty fast because everybody helped me and teached me. I really had a great year and im gonna miss this country and the people here!


my name is Julia (15) and I was for 10 months in Costa Rica as an exchange student of ICIES. So I decided to share some of my experiences with you.

I come from Austria/Vienna, so as you can imagine I experienced kind of a culture shock. So I just tell my exchange story from the beginnig.

On 25th of July 2014 I finally landed in San José after an 20 hours flight. The journey began with an 2 day «Camp» In San José. We talked about the rules and made the whole formal stuff. After this we finally get to our new home. I was placed in Siquirres which is a small town in one of the hottest areas of whole Costa Rica. Siquirres center is built around a football place, like most of the towns here. Around this place are the shops where the people do their shopping. Mostly when you’re going out with friends, you’re hanging out in the center or sit around the football place. Next to the center are the houses where most of the people live. Here on the landside everyone has a house, apartements you just find in the big cities like San José. The houses here are mostly pretty small with a garden. You can see the diferences between poor and rich people pretty well if you look at the houses. Some of the houses are nearly falling apart with broken windows and roofs, others are modern and clean. My house isnt one of the most modern houses but we live pretty well. Most of the people just have cold water in Costa Rica, and I am very grateful that I am one of those who also have warm water. One thing I realized from the first day on is that here nearly everyone has at least one dog, we have 4. Most of the people here have these dogs to protect the house from thiefs. But nearly no one is actually going for a walk with the dogs. Most of the people just leave them in the garden.
Another thing is the school here. School goes from 7-5, which is quite a long time. Here the people are using uniforms which was a new thing for me. The school level is lower then in Europe but I actually enjoy school here even though it is for nearly the whole day. The thing is that most people here dont meet after school because their hanging together for a very long time in school. A funny thing is the school bus which you can compare to the school buses you see in all the US movies. In Austria we dont have this kind of buses, we drive with public buses so this is like kind of a funny experience.
Another important thing here is the religion. 90% of the people here are very religious and catholic. Going to church every sunday is something very normal here. I like the church here more then in Austria because church in Costa Rica is not that boring as I am used to. Praying before eating for example is something normal here what in comparison we almost never do in Vienna. So you can say that Ticos see religion stricter as most of the Europeans.
Many tourist are coming to Costa Rica because of the beaches. The sea is really amazing and always warm! I love going here into the nature like going to the rivers or things like this. The nature is incredible with a lots of diferent trees and palms. They also have very exotic animals like monkeys.
The people here are much calmer then in Europe. Here is very little stress especially in little town like Siquirres. Sometimes a little bit too calm. But all in all the people here are a happy, thankfull and helpfull.
As an exchange student its sometimes hard because in some moments you fell misunderstood but in general I really enjoyed my stay. I didnt have many problems with the culture change and I also wasn’t really homesick. It takes a while to get used to the way of living here but in the end its a great choice for an exchange.



Costa Rica is a beautiful country with a lot of nature. It´s very small, but that´s just a good thing as the country has so much to offer. Here there are volcanoes, beaches, rivers, different types of woods, a lot of animals and plants. The climate is nice and warm, and is divided in summer and winter. In the summer there is a lot of wind and it almost never rains, while in the winter it rains almost every day. Tropical rain is amazing, normally it doesn’t last that long, but you will get wet (even if you bring an umbrella).
The ticos are are really friendly and welcoming. They are proud of their country and love soccer.
My time in Costa Rica is now over, but I´ve had such a great time. Now I have another family, another house, and a lot of friends on the other side of the world. I´m now really close with my family here, because for the ticos, family might be the most important thing.


Costa Rica is a very different country than Denmark, so I needed to adjust to everything, like the food, the houses, the weather, the school, the language and the people. I adjusted after about two months, and after that I really liked it here!
The food is mostly rice and beans, and I was very strange compared to Denmark where there is more variation in the food.
In the school we had to wear a uniform, witch I’m not use to in Denmark, so it was a fun experience as well, also the schools are more open, and outdoor.

Ticos are a very special kind if people, and it’s hard to explain exactly how they are, they are Ticos! They are very friendly and sweet people who will help you the best that they can, and they have this thing called tico time, which means that 5 Danish minutes are 10-15 tico minutes.

Costa Rica is an amazing country, with all the volcanos, the beaches, all the interesting plants and animals and in general, the whole culture!

Costa Rica is my second home, and I really really love it here!
I have been SO happy to be here! And AVE helped me a lot, so thank you very much!



I was very lucky and got placed right by the Pacific Ocean on the north-west side of the country, in a town called Santa Cruz. This is a part of the country that’s like on the “countryside” and it’s where you can find the oldest, most conservative and typical culture.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived was all the happiness, smiles and laughter I was surrounded by. The Latin’s is a race of people with strong emotions!
Another really nice experience I got here in Costa Rica was taking the diving license. The organizations decided to be that nice to me, that they made an exception from the roles of the program and let me take the “risk” as they think it is – and I am now a certificated diver! That is the nicest experience of my stay it actually changed the plans of my whole life – I´ve now decided that I want to study the exiting life of the ocean – marine science!
With the organization we went to Punta Leona in Puntarenas, Puerto Viejo nearby Limon on the Caribbean side, but also the neighbor countries – Nicaragua and Panama. These trips were really nice and we saw a lot of nice places and compared a lot of nice moments with the other exchange students.
Since the roles of the program are such strict that you can´t travel on your own – it is very good of the organization to bring us to see some of the country.
This year I learned a lot, not only a new language, but a new culture, how to handle really hard situations and all on my own, and I understood how different the world can be on the other side of this planet and that I now know how important my friends and family is.
It has without doubt been the hardest and most challenging year of my life, but I am proud I made it through the year and never gave up, while I am trying to be thankful for all that I learned.


Now I’ve spend a year here in Costa Rica and I have to say that it was the greatest year of my life.
I really enjoyed every second and learned a lot of spanish.

Of course, at the beginning it was very hard to understand the people and to communicate myself because I didn’t know any spanish, but you can be sure that it will work out very fast and very good.

I really recommend you to do all the tours that AVE offers you, they are all amazing.

The people in Costa Rica are very lovely so it isn’t difficult to find new friends. You just have to talk with them and soon you will have a great social network.

The experience that I made her, is that the Ticos acept all the people how they are, so be yourself and don’t try to change you.

You should enjoy this year, don’t worry be happy. Soon you will notice that you don’t miss your country that much because Costa Rica is pretty cool.

So I hope you will have a lot of fun in your exchange year



The first time I thought about studying abroad for a year I was kind of afraid. I wasn’t sure about the country I wanted to go to and started to look for information about Costa Rica and some other nations. Finally I chose Costa Rica as the perfect country for my year abroad – All the nature you can discover, the beautiful beaches, the people described as happy and nice all the time.
When I came here, I saw that most information I got on the internet, came true. My hostfamily, which really became my family, is awesome, all the people are kind and helpful and even if you can’t speak their language at first, they’ll be nice and try to talk to you. You’ll always feel welcome and they’ll receive you with wide opened arms.
In Costa Rica the family is one of the most important things. Instead of only hanging out with your friends, like I used to in Germany, you spend most of the time with your family. It’s nice to see that the family is so united and that you can tell them everything and count on them everytime. When my mum has to go to the supermarket at least one of us accompanies her or everybody wants to see the soccer-match of my brother, even the aunts or grandparents. It’s very important to attend to activities like that. If you would decide not to go, they’ld think you don’t like them or you’re unfriendly.
Another big point is the religion. Most of the Costa Rican are Catholic. My family almost doesn’t go to church, but God, Jesus and the virgin are very important. Maybe you don’t share the same religion or you’re not that religious, but you should participate in the prayer after Christmas and every othe religious activity. If you try hard enough, you’ld probably can change your point of view like I did. Before I came here I was christian, but I didn’t really believe in it, but once seeing all the faith of my family and hearing their stories, I started to believe more and more. And now religion is a important topic to me.
When you hear someone saying «Costa Rica», you first think in nature and beaches, comprehensible when you just think about the meaning of Costa Rica – Rich Coast. The beaches here are wonderful. The strand of the Pacific are as beautiful as the ones of the Atlantic. I could get to know many beaches, but even when you’ll only know a few ones, you’ll fall in love with them!
Thinking about the nature always puts a smile on my face. You’ll get to know so many beautiful places, with animals you couldn’t see in Germany. It’s a big experience to see all this places, but you really have to want to know them, because sometimes it’s kind of complicated to get to all this places, that means you’ll have to climb or hike.
At the end I only can say that Costa Rica is like my second home! If you want to live an adventure and you’re open-minded, Costa Rica is the perfect country for you’re year abroad!


When I first got to Costa Rica, I would have never thought, that I would get that great along. But with some time and some effort from my side, it wasn’t that difficult to adapt myself to Costa Rica and now it is my home. If I could I wouldn’t leave Costa Rica anymore.
My adventure started in Sarchi where I live with a Costa Rican Family, who adopted me for 10 Months. In the meantime they are all family for me and it feels like home. My family is a really big family, like it is normal for Costa Rican family. They helped me accustom myself and whenever I had a problem I could go to them. Thanks god I never had to change my host family because it worked from the very beginning.
They showed me all the culture and helped me learning Spanish, because when I got to Costa Rica I couldn’t speak at all. But that wasn’t a problem for long; I just had to tell the people to speak slower and with easier words, so I learned the language really fast. You just need to have an open mind and not feel overwhelmed by this new language, you will learn fast enough.
As a European you are very interesting for the ticos (That is how the Costa Rican call themselves, because they add that to some word endings) and they will speak with you and ask you a lot. But if you don’t show yourself interested they soon won’t make any efforts anymore to help you to integrate.
In School it was really hard for me because everything was in Spanish and the teacher didn’t care much about me. On my first day there they talked with me in English so that I could understand something, but after the first week I told them to speak Spanish with me because I wanted to learn Spanish and not English. I just tried to do my best at school but I didn’t bother to only learn at home and don’t appreciate right that I was in Costa Rica. It was more important for me to see something from Costa Rica and talk like the ticos than having good marks. I cared more seeing something of Costa Rica and so I learned Spanish because I talked to the people “learning by doing”.
I’ve seen a lot places in Costa Rica. Many ticos would even say that I know Costa Rica better than them. While I would say, that is absolutely not true, I guess I do know more places then they do. I travelled with my organization or with my family a lot in the 2 months of vacation I had from December to January. I’ve been in all the provinces and know many beaches. From Monteverde to the volcano Poas and the beaches in Guanacaste, Puntarenas and Limon I’ve visited all these places. In January I visited with my Organization the beaches of Guanacaste like Samara and Flamingo and then we went to Nicaragua. It was great to be able to compare Costa Rica to another Centro American country and I must say that the ticos are less poor than the Nicaraguans.
The ticos are really friendly and you can have a great time here. I found many friends and hope that we will stay in contact even after my exchange year. You will feel welcomed from the very beginning and will make many new experiences. If you care enough you will have here the time of your life and will never forget your exchange year again. Just give some effort and then almost nothing can go wrong.


Costa Rica is a little country and beautiful with a lot to discover. Costa Rica is filled with many attractions, such as volcanoes, misty cloud forests, river valleys and hundreds of beaches along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. Costa Rica is one of the most developed countries in Central America with a peaceful democracy, free education and health care for all citizens.

To describe the Costa Ricans, I would say that they are friendly, hardworking, happy, and that they care a lot about their families.

The climate in Costa Rica is warm, and the sun shines every day. From May to November it is rain season, but the temperatures are still very high. Unlike other Central American countries, Costa Rica has clean tap water.

Mari Aune