Course Requirements

Numerous academic and travel issues require consideration in studying abroad, ranging from course requirements, expectations, traveler behavior and logistics, to health and safety.  These points are relatively static policies that should inform you, and further syllabus, travel details and plenty of Q+A will occur before departure.


Prior coursework in geography, economic development, sustainable tourism, environmental studies or environmental science or related fields is required. However, please seek the instructor should be sought if you are unsure.  Motivated students with appropriate analogous experience and motivation will be given strong consideration.


No textbook will be used, but rather a series of required readings will be made available on the Blackboard course mgt. system.


Attendance is required in group activities, including pre-trip meeting/s.  Students may not depart from group activities or itinerary with instructor permission. The class will discuss handouts and relevant items in the media, such as current events in the Tico Times newspaper. Participation will be gauged in the final grade.

A code of conduct and behavior must be agreed upon. Students who violate these may be dismissed from the class at the discretion of the instructor. Students must procure their required personal documents (e.g., Passport) ahead of the trip. Students are responsible for selected meals and optional activities and should prepare for costs outside of packaged arrangements.

Civility and conformance with course policies while in Costa Rica ensures students’ safety and academic success. However, in the event of egregious behavior or non-compliance with policies and in order to ensure the overall safety and success of the program for students as a whole, the instructors reserve the right to eject a student from participation in the program at their discretion. Thus, a student found to be violating Costa Rica laws or course policies may be required return home at their own expense.


As an academic six credit course with grades, it is necessary and appropriate to have a system of student assessment and assignments. Course grades will be based on four instruments: 1) journal-writing, 2) two daily topic briefings, 3) post-trip research paper, and 4) contribution to group documentation and debriefing of days’ events.

1)  Journaling will consist of daily reflection and integration of concepts, observations, and terms associated with our travel and activities. Newspapers like the Tico Times may be used or cited. Keywords and concepts from relevant course pack readings should be featured in these journal entries.  Journal writing should emphasize new knowledge, insights, or unique experiences gained from the trip.  Journals will be submitted for grading at the conclusion of the trip.

2)  Students will read and prepare prior to departure and develop at least TWO topical areas of specialized knowledge from among a set of pre-approved topics (coincident with discussion, interviews, and places in our itinerary). Choose ONE topic from environmental geography and ONE from human geography. Alternatively one may choose to prepare a daily briefing about a place we are visiting. Students will be responsible for two daily briefing presentations of 5-10 minutes on their selected topics.

3)   The post-trip essay or research paper is an assignment that carries on the observations gained in the field and allows the student to apply this knowledge to an area of their own academic expertise, personal, or professional inclination. Topics should be selected and approved before the end of the field trip. You should focus on a theme or research question and write a concise but insightful paper (guidelines below), citing appropriate published literature.  The essay/research paper is due to the instructors two weeks after the field component of the course.

4)   During the field trip, each student will take the role of daily documentarian for one day of the trip. Students will document (photograph, take notes) the day’s activities and observations and present a summary at the end-of-day debriefing the days’ activities and an on the course blog.

Honor Code

Academic integrity is a fundamental value of higher education and East Carolina University; therefore, we will not tolerate acts of cheating, plagiarism, falsification or attempts to cheat, plagiarize or falsify.  Should we determine that an academic integrity violation has taken place, we reserve the right either to assign a grade sanction up to an F, or to refer the case to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.


East Carolina University seeks to fully comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Students requesting accommodations based on a covered disability must go to Disability Support Services, located in Slay 138, to verify the disability before any accommodations can occur. The telephone number is 252-737-1016.


To facilitate communication between students, instructors, and among class members, use of university student E-mail accounts is required.  All official communications should be via ECU student E-mail.  You may access your student account on campus or via web browsers.  You can also easily modify this account to automatically forward mail to any other address (e.g., hotmail, work e-mail, etc.)  In addition, grades and other confidential information will NOT be reported via e-mail or telephone under any circumstances.


IF YOU HAVE ANY PERSONAL HEALTH MATTERS, PLEASE BRING THEM TO OUR ATTENTION (e.g., allergies to medications, hypersensitivity to bee or wasp stings, etc.) More details and policies regarding health will be discussed in pre-trip briefings. In general, Costa Rica is very healthy and safe, including water, but advisories are posted from time to time by the US State Department and CDC. Mosquito-borne diseases are occasionally prevalent in some areas (malaria, Dengue Fever), and sometimes or places it is advisable to drink bottled water.

US State Department‘s website for American citizens traveling to Costa Rica. 

CDC’s website on malaria and health for traveler’s to Central America.

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