Academic Internship Program

A supervised academic program designed for university students seeking hands–on experience in their field of study while completely immersing themselves in Costa Rican culture. Interns work with our community partners in many fields including human rights, migrant and refugee services, public health, gender studies, and social work.

Earn academic credit, gain valuable experience, immerse yourself in a new culture, and contribute to positive social change.

Virtual Internships Available

What do interns do?

We work with you to match your interests and skills with the needs and objectives of our community partners.  We have opportunities in rural communities in Guanacaste and Upala.  Examples of possible internships include (but are not limited to) those listed below. Opportunities vary depending upon community needs and requests from our partner organizations.  Contact us to learn more about current opportunities.

Public Health 

Work in a public or private clinic or in community health education.  Gain hands-on experience alongside Costa Rican health professionals and community members.   Support health education campaigns to promote and empower healthy families and communities.   Assist refugee populations not covered by the universal healthcare system.  Provide health care education to support Costa Rica's public health efforts to prevent chronic illnessis.

Social Justice

Gain a greater understanding of structural factors that cause disparities and inequalities.  Participate in projects to support women’s and children’s rights and advocate for immigrant and refugee communities.  Investigate laws, create educational materials, attend workshops and seminars, and collaborate with community leaders, national institutions, and international organizations, and NGOs.   

Conservation and Climate Change

 In order to achieve social justice, we must also protect our environment.  Costa Rica has implemented environmental policies and initiatives that, if applied at a global level, can slow the negative impacts of climate change.  Interns can study these policies and collaborate with conservation organizations.  In the field, interns can work with communities to study and protect sea turtles, conserve habitats,  educate and re-forest, and participate in sustainable community conservation efforts.  Work alongside community activists,  researchers,  educators, and Costa Rican student volunteers.  


SPANISH: Some, but not all, placements require a certain level of Spanish proficiency. We recommend at least one year of college Spanish for most internship placements. However, those with limited Spanish should not be discouraged. We will work with you to find the best internship for your Spanish level.  

RECOMMENDATION: All applicants must submit a letter of recommendation that supports a student's maturity and ability to work abroad.  

While the internships are not paid, they are serious work commitments. Interns must be prepared to commit to a full-time work schedule in accordance with the work hours of the host organization. 

The only additional requirement is that you are an independent and motivated individual, dedicated to personal growth and social change!   

Homestay Families

Interns stay with carefully screened and experienced local families. All interns have their own room and we only allow one intern per family. Three meals a day and laundry service are included. Family stays are the best way to integrate into the culture and immerse yourself in the language. For many of our students, the homestay experience is one of the most important components of their Costa Rican experience.  

VN Abroad is committed to providing meaningful education and cultural immersion projects that support social justice.

Placement Fees and Services

Placement fees allow us to support many families, young people, and community projects. Placement fees include the following:

• Internship placement services
• Lodging with a homestay or eco-lodge including 3 meals a day
• Pre- and post-arrival advising
• Assistance obtaining academic credit
• Airport pick-up and drop off
• Orientation
• Monitoring and evaluation throughout the internship.  Weekly check-ins with your         program coordinator
• One overnight beach weekend with your coordinator and other interns. Includes hotel      and breakfast
• 24-hour assistance for any reason
• Final evaluations and/or letters of recommendation (needed for credit and useful when applying for employment, research opportunities, or continued education)
• Re-entry adjustment information.

Items not included: Airfare, passport and/or visa fees, entry taxes, weekend travel expenses, international travel insurance, and any accrued medical expenses.



One of the best experiences of my life.  The community of Ortega in Costa Rica will always have a place in my heart.

January, 2019

Los Angeles, CA

The trip to Costa Rica has been a life changing experience for me.  The people and place will always be with me and I am forever grateful.  I am hoping to return soon!

SWAP, January 

San Jose, CA

VN Abroad is an organization that organizes, supports, teaches, and inspires groups traveling to Central America who want to experience the culture in a completely authentic way.

Xan  Boone

Professor of ISocial Work

It's amazing to me that during a time of travel restrictions and closed borders, I was still able to feel immersed into a whole different culture and way of live.


Virtual Program Participant, 2020

Hearing firsthand from the struggles of the people in this program and also their passion in unmatched.  I feel as though we gained so much insight...


Sacred Heart Universtiy 

The biggest takeaway from this experience is how important cultural competency is and also how important conversations are between those that come from different cultures and countries. 


Occupational Therapy Student