CPI Frequently Asked Questions
There are many different countries in the world where one can study Spanish. Costa Rica, however, offers some unique advantages. Costa Rica is known around the world for its stable, democratic government. After abolishing its army in 1948, Costa Rica funneled a large portion of its national budget toward education and health care; today, the country boasts the highest literacy rate in Latin America, and a high-quality educational and health system.
Costa Rica also is home to tremendous biodiversity. The country is teeming with wildlife and natural beauty, allowing visitors to climb a mountain volcano in the morning and relax on the beach in the afternoon. Costa Rica has a long-standing commitment to environmental conservation; about 13 percent of the country is dedicated to national parks, and over 25 percent is protected in the form of biological and environmental reserves.
All CPI programs are separated into week-long segments; students may enroll for as many consecutive weeks as they would like. All classes begin on any given Monday.
Language acquisition depends greatly on an individual's desire and motivation to learn, the amount of time dedicated to homework and conversation practice outside of class, as well as the student’s general ability to learn a second language (this is positively influenced by having studied a second language before - for instance, students who have studied French have an easier time grasping certain grammatical concepts). Generally, in 4 weeks of study while staying with a homestay family, students can ascend one skill level in Spanish fluency (meaning, if you speak Spanish at a low beginner level now, after 4 weeks, you might speak at a low intermediate level).
That depends on your individual goals for learning Spanish. You may study for as little as one week; however, we recommend a minimum study period of two weeks. The 5.5-hour program is offered for those students who desire additional practice in conversation.
Students have the option of studying, by weekly sessions, at each of our campuses: the small town of San Joaquín de Flores, the Monteverde Cloud Forest, and Flamingo Beach. We offer a choice of locations so students can experience the cultural and ecological diversity of Costa Rica. With advance notice to CPI during the application process, students may divide their time by week between any or all of our campuses.
CPI attracts students from many different backgrounds and from all over the world. The average age range of our students is approximately 13 to 70. Our students include people of all ages, including college students, professionals and travelers, families, children, as well as retired couples. The majority of the students are university students, professionals and some are in their golden years. Most of our students are from North America - United States and Canada. We also have students from Brazil and Europe - Switzerland, France, England, Japan and Germany.
CPI offers ten levels of Spanish:
- three beginner (basic beginner, intermediate beginner and advanced beginner)
- three intermediate (beginner intermediate, intermediate, and advanced intermediate)
- three advanced
- one superior
A student can receive one-on-one instruction if s/he so desires. In these private classes the student receives more personal attention and studies in greater detail a specific topic of their choice. One may learn the specialized Spanish and terminology for such themes as: business, social work, law enforcement, politics, species of plants, nutrition, information technology, petroleum, education, ecology, environment, sports, economy and medicine. In the case that the students wish to study less than 4 hours, they can pay only US$30 per hour. For the latter, note the private lessons may be taken during the afternoon.
Yes! Many advanced students have studied with us, as have heritage students. We are experienced in working with their special needs. If you are an advanced or heritage student and there are no other students currently at your same level, then CPI will provide you with one-on-one instruction at no additional charge.
No, each week students change professors in order to expose them to different expressions, vocabulary, accents and teaching styles.
As a general guide, children older than 13 may study in the regular program. For younger children, a different schedule may be recommended depending on the child's maturity level. We have extensive experience teaching children from as young as four years old and up.
CPI offers a family friendly learning environment for parents traveling to Costa Rica with their children. For children 12 and under, a less intensive course corresponds with the particular learning needs of young people. Class time is divided into modules with emphasis on basic communication skills, vocabulary, and the introduction of grammatical concepts. The option of family study is a perfect combination of Spanish immersion with a family vacation. The end result is a memorable linguistic and cultural experience!
Babysitting service during class time hours can also be arranged. The family is responsible for the cost of the service.
Yes. Students must request the certificate on their last week of classes at CPI.
All of our host families are carefully screened, and are accustomed to housing foreign students. The families are very patient and go out of their way to help our students learn Spanish.
Our families are diverse - young couples without children, couples with children (of all age groups) and older couples with grown children who no longer live at home. We always do our best to accommodate students' wishes concerning homestay families. If the student does not state a preference, we typically place them with couples of the same age group.
The majority of CPI homestays are within 20 minutes walking distance of the school. If your homestay is more than a 25-minute walk from the school, we will pick you up and bring you to classes without extra cost.
The standard of living of CPI homestay families is middle-class by Costa Rican standards. However, most students will find a simpler way of life than to which they are accustomed, especially in Monteverde and Flamingo. Students should remember that although its economy is better than most in Central America, Costa Rica is still a country in development and many homes do not have the same consumer items which are found in North America and Europe. Each homestay is clean and safe, and all students have a private bedroom.
Often students ask about their host family prior to their arrival. Due to our attempts to make a good match between students and families, we do not place students with families until a few days before the student arrives.
CPI does place students together upon request; however, because students tend to learn Spanish faster when not in constant contact with friends/spouses (due to the tendency to speak in their native language), it may be to your advantage to live in separate households.
Families do not expect gifts so please do not feel obliged. However, by the end of one week, many students feel close and connected to their families and want to extend a token of appreciation. We recommend something that is particular to your area of the world, for example: a mug, magnet, or deck of cards that shows a famous landmark in your town. Other popular gifts include: kitchen items like tea towels or pot holders and chocolates or candy. If you cannot decide what to bring (or do not have room in your suitcase), a small thank you card is also acceptable.
You may enter your homestay the Sunday prior to your first Monday class, and must leave the Sunday after your last Friday class. If you would like to start your homestay earlier or stay extra nights after Sunday then you would only need to pay extra per night. Please note that if you arrive in June or July extra nights are limited.
Yes, the host families are accustomed to cooking for vegetarians. If you have special dietary requests or needs (i.e. vegetarian or low fat, food allergies, others), please note that the Costa Rican families can provide students with vegetables, fruits and other products which are typically consumed by the families daily. If any special products are needed, the student should bring them or purchase these in the supermarket once in Costa Rica.
If you are not interested in living with a homestay family (or would like to combine homestay and non-homestay accommodations), we are happy to help arrange other accommodations for you.
In Flamingo, Heredia and Monteverde, you may stay at the apartments and rooms; these are fully equipped and within a short distance of the schools.
CPI, first and foremost, puts respect for all people above everything else. We seek to create an open, safe environment where students are free to study Spanish and immerse themselves in Costa Rican culture. Furthermore, homestay families are non-judgmental toward all sexual preferences and races; they are interested in getting to know the students, as well as help them with their Spanish and give students insight into what life is like in Costa Rica.
Homestay students and CPI apartments/rooms
We would like to emphasize that the pick up and drop off service offered by CPI is only for those students staying in either a homestay or one of the CPI rooms/apartments/villas at either Heredia, Monteverde or Flamingo. Students must arrive into San José, Costa Rica at the Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) to take advantage of our transport service.
PLEASE NOTE that we do not offer airport pick up from the Liberia (LIR) airport.
* For students enrolled at CPI Heredia as their first school, a driver picks up the student and takes him/her directly to their homestay in San Joaquín de Flores.
* Participants studying in Monteverde or Flamingo are recommended to take advantage of our pre-arranged ARRIVAL PACKAGE, staying in a local accommodation close to the airport before traveling to Monteverde or Flamingo and the following day, by private transportation, be dropped off at your accommodation in Flamingo or Monteverde. This arrival package fee includes one night at a B&B in a single room and transportation to Flamingo or Monteverde. This is also an option for friends, families and couples travelling together; we have special prices for families travelling with kids under 12 years old.
* The price of the local accommodation and private transportation is not included in the tuition price; these are extra costs. CPI makes the ARRIVAL PACKAGE reservation; please inform the CPI Admissions Office of your plans.
For non-homestay students who need to travel to Monteverde or Flamingo, we recommend the previously explained local accommodation/private transportation combination and we are happy to make these transportation arrangements to Monteverde/Flamingo for non-homestay students. It is necessary to inform the CPI Admissions Office in advance if the non-homestay student would like to take advantage of this "combo".
II. Airport drop off
Once the homestay student finishes classes, students are transported from San Joaquin de Flores to the Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO). Students finishing classes at the Heredia campus are picked up from their homestay; students whose last week of classes terminates at Monteverde or Flamingo are picked up at the B&B in San Joaquin. This service is only offered if the student is flying out of Costa Rica within one week of the termination of classes. The price of the last night in the local accommodation (for students coming from Monteverde or Flamingo, in this case the DEPARTURE PACKAGE) is not included in the tuition price.
PLEASE NOTE that we do not offer airport drop off to the airport in Liberia (LIR), and that there may be an airport exit tax which must be paid in either colones or dollars.
III. Intercampus transfers and local tours
CPI specializes in organizing all your tours and excursions while in Costa Rica. The goal is to provide high quality tours at reasonable prices while remaining dedicated to the concept of Spanish immersion by utilizing guides experienced in working with language students. Each of CPI's three campuses has a Student Coordinator on staff to arrange weekday activities and excursions to the most popular nearby sites.
Additionally, each week-end CPI organizes a variety of trips, available to students at any of the CPI campuses. These weekend trips can also be combined with intercampus transfers, when the student plans to attend one of the other CPI sites. The student is picked up for the activity at their current campus, and then dropped off with their luggage at their homestay/lodging at the new campus.
PLEASE NOTE that the tour prices are not included in the program price and that availability of any given tour depends on a minimum amount of students.
If a student does not wish to participate in a week-end tour, intercampus transportation can be arranged with the Student Coordinator. The price depends of the transportation company and the route.
If you are beginning classes in Monteverde or Flamingo, we recommend that you fly into San José (SJO) the Saturday before your classes begin, so that we may transport you to Monteverde or Flamingo on Sunday morning.
If you are beginning classes in Heredia, we recommend you arrive into SJO on Sunday.
Yes, we are in contact with the airport and will know the exact arrival time of your flight. In the case of a delay, students starting classes in Heredia will be taken to their accommodations later. Students who use (or choose) the Arrival Package to Monteverde or Flamingo will have to rearrange transportation and accommodation at the B&B. The additional costs for the rebooked services will be charged to their final balance.
If you are flying into the Liberia International Airport (LIR), CPI could arrange a taxi in advance to meet you once you send your flight information.
The taxi driver would wait for you outside the airport exit, holding a sign with your name. The trip from the airport to Flamingo takes about an hour.
Please note this is a non-CPI and optional service; CPI is lending a helping hand to organize this transportation. If you confirm you want this service and CPI helps to make these arrangements, you must be sure that you will use the service. If you miss the taxi or your plans changed, the taxi service will still be charged to your final balance on the first day of classes.
If you live within walking distance, your host family will show you how to get to school the first day.
If you live more than 25-minutes walking distance from your campus, we will provide daily morning transportation to the school.
PLEASE NOTE: In Monteverde, we provide daily morning transportation for students who live in the town of Santa Elena, which is about 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) from the CPI Monteverde campus.
In Flamingo, we provide daily morning transportation for students who live in Potrero and Brasilito.
On the first day of class we offer a student orientation designed to ease your transition into Costa Rican culture. During the orientation we discuss many important subjects, such as: what you can expect in your homestay, safety precautions, and how to use local transportation. We also discuss topics related to CPI, including the services provided by the school and your daily schedule. The orientation supplements the orientation packet you will receive when you arrive.
San Joaquín de Flores is a small town, just close enough to San José to enjoy the benefits of a big city, yet far enough away to maintain a sense of serenity outside the traffic and tension of San José. This distance allows students to experience the people and culture of a small Costa Rican community, relatively free of tourists and other English speakers.
Monteverde offers students the opportunity to visit Costa Rica's famous cloud forests and enjoy a variety of exciting outdoor activities while studying Spanish. With its clean air, beautiful mountain views, and easy access to the Monteverde and Santa Elena cloud forest reserves, CPI Monteverde is the ideal location for nature, hiking, and birding enthusiasts.
Flamingo is a small beach town with a distinctive rural feel. Guanacastecos, or people from Guanacaste, are well known for their warm hospitality. Since the school is on the beach, this location, like Monteverde, is an excellent choice for those who wish to combine language study with a vacation.
We observe the following national holidays, and no class will be held on these weekdays:
- January 1st (New Year's Day)
- Thursday & Friday of Easter Week
- July 25th (Anexation of Guanacaste)
- August 15th (Mother's Day)
- September 15th (Independence Day)
- December 25th (Christmas Day)
For the 2017 Christmas period, please note:
CPI Heredia, CPI Monteverde and CPI Flamingo remain OPEN the whole month of December 2017
NOTE: No refunds or make-ups will be made to students for days missed due to holidays. However, we will be happy to apply a discount off classes for the week of the holiday.
There are no vaccinations required to enter Costa Rica, although the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does recommend that travelers be vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B. Malaria contraction in Costa Rica is extremely rare, and most cases have been reported along the Caribbean coast; however, some visitors do bring anti-malaria medication. All tap water is potable, although if you wish to drink only bottled water it is readily available throughout the country. Costa Rica has high-quality, relatively inexpensive medical care; if you need to see a health care professional during your stay in the country, we will be happy to assist you.
For more information on traveler's health precautions, you may visit the CDC's Central America web site at: http://www.cdc.gov/travel/ and choose the Central America and Mexico option on the pull-down menu.
CPI recommends that students bring a certain amount of cash. ATM machines are also a good option for withdrawing money; however, in Flamingo there are not many ATMs close to the homestays so you must prepare accordingly. You may receive cash advances from a VISA and Mastercard.
For those students in the homestay program, additional expenses may include: entertainment, travel and souvenirs. Lunch is your responsibility and restaurants range from cheap to expensive, but on average a good meal at a decent restaurant costs about US$15 per person, without an alcoholic beverage and a beer costs about US$3 in a bar. If you plan to travel on the weekend, costs will vary depending on your tour choice and budget. Public transportation throughout the country is very reasonable.
High speed internet service is available free of charge at all CPI campuses for CPI students. This service is offered in the libraries of each school during working hours. But you can also use CPI's wireless internet service available at all CPI campuses, also free of charge. You, too, will find that Wi-Fi is readily available at local restaurants.
If you would like to send a fax, you can do so at the the school for a small fee. In addition, you may have letters sent to CPI, but please note that letters typically take two weeks to arrive from North America. Express mail companies are also an option if you need something sent quickly.
As well, you can communicate with your family by telephone; CPI offers free international and local calls through Skype. Ask at reception which countries are included in this service.
Or you may use applications through Wi-Fi with a hand-held device; current popular options are SKYPE and WhatsApp. Another option is to rent a cell phone (see cellular phone section below).
Once in Costa Rica, you can buy a pre-paid cell phone. Alternatively, you can also bring your own cell phone and buy a local Simcard.
Important: in order to use a Simcard, make sure that your cell phone is unblocked and that works on 850Mha frequency. Simcards do not work on AT&M, MCI, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile cell phones.
Simcards can be purchased in your country before coming or can also be purchased at the airport.
You can also contact the company Costa Rica Cellular Connection in order to purchase services in advance; their website is: www.cellservicecr.com
Costa Rica Cellular Connection provides affordable cellular rental phones for use in Costa Rica. This is an easy way for CPI students to stay in touch with family & friends while studying and traveling and there is a special rate for CPI students.
Future students who are interested in this service will have to contact Costa Rica Cellular Connection at least one week before leaving for Costa Rica. They will receive the phone at their home address and can activate it as soon as they arrive.
Since CPI's campuses are in three diverse regions of Costa Rica, volunteer opportunities vary according to location; however, in the majority of cases we can find you a position in your field or area of pursuit. If you e-mail us about your interest in volunteering prior to your arrival, we can investigate potential options.