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  • Locations: San Jose, Costa Rica
  • Program Terms: Summer
  • Restrictions: Lehigh applicants only
Fact Sheet:
Fact Sheet:
Area of Study: Environmental Studies, Sustainable Development Experience / Activity Type: Internship, Service-Learning
Credit type: NO Credit Minimum GPA: 2.0
Class Eligibility: First Year, Junior, Senior, Sophomore Host: Lehigh Program
LU Study Abroad Advisor: Brian Wasserman ( Click here for a definition of this term Exchange Program: No
Click here for a definition of this term Global Engineering Consortium: No
Program Description:
Application for Summer 2020 NOW OPEN!
***For information on Summer 2020, reach out to Professor Don Morris (***

Next Information Session
Tuesday, January 28th at 4:30pm in Steps 394

The Lehigh in Costa Rica Program has operated as a study abroad experience for over 25 years!  The close association between Lehigh faculty and a variety of Costa Rican Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) allows for the following initiatives:
  1. A 7-week summer internship program in tropical forest conservation and sustainable development
  2. An environmentally-oriented "summer serve" project.
Both activities are closely tied to sustainable development as described in the sections below.

                                                                                       Costa Rica
APPLICATION DEADLINE: Rolling admissions through February 7, 2020

PROGRAM DATES (tentative): TBD
 (Will be similar to 2019 dates: June 20 - August 10, 2019)

-  Tuesday, January 28th            4:30pm - 5:30pm          ST 394
Please direct questions about this experience to Professor Don Morris (

Applicants must meet the following eligibility requirements for Lehigh summer study abroad experiences:
  • GPA > 2.0
  • Good Academic Standing
  • Good Disciplinary Standing**
  • Good Financial Standing
* Senior applicants scheduled to graduate at the end of the academic year will be required to defer their graduation date until after the summer as all participants must be currently-enrolled students in order to participate in Lehigh study abroad experiences.  For more information regarding deferring graduation, contact the Lehigh Study Abroad Office.

** Students cannot be on disciplinary probation at time of application.  Students with past student conduct incidents who are not on active disciplinary probation may be required to meet with the program faculty leaders to discuss course expectations and to obtain their signature on a behavioral document.  Receipt of a faculty leader signature on the behavioral document does not guarantee admission to the program; the signature only verifies that the student has met with the faculty member to discuss their past student conduct history.

$4,200 (tentative) - This includes group airfare, accommodations, local transportation, and project supplies.

Not included: $100 registration fee, meals outside the program, person travel and expenses, and/or other costs. 

EI-STEPS Summer Internship/Research Fellowship
Limited funding may be available through this fellowship.  Applications are due by February 7, 2020.  If interested in applying, please contact Professor Don Morris at for more information.

In addition, students are encouraged to review the Finances section of the Lehigh Study Abroad website for information on additional funding opportunities.  
The goal of program is to augment classroom education currently available to students with practical on-the-ground experience in sustainable development projects. Students will work on projects related to conservation, particularly in the area of building and/or maintaining biological corridors. The sustainability and integrity of Costa Rica’s environment is crucial to the ecotourism strategy of sustainable development for which Costa Rica is well known. These programs are designed to address the following educational goals:
  • Allow students who lack the time or financial resources for a semester-long study abroad program to participate in international learning experiences.
  • Create international opportunities specifically tailored to students with an academic background or general interest in the environment and/or international development. 
  • Demonstrate the inherent interdisciplinary character of “sustainable development” studies by emphasizing the connections among environmental conservation, economic development, and social/economic equity.
  • Provide students with an appreciation for the environmental aspects of sustainable development in rural Latin America and expose students to issues related to conservation and preservation of biotic and ecosystem diversity.
  • Expose students to Latin American culture and reinforce Lehigh’s connection with various NGOs in Costa Rica. 
Interns will begin the program on the Lehigh campus by participating in seminars that will be conducted during the spring semester. These seminars highlight the basic principles of sustainable development as well as relevant academic content related to development economics, community participation, field work methods, the political economy of poverty, and project management, as well as the polity, economy, society, and culture of Costa Rica.  Students in this internship program may also participate in a module containing instruction in ecosystem ecology, conservation, and environmental policy relevant to their impending activities in Costa Rica. 

After arriving in Costa Rica, students will spend approximately 6 weeks in internships with NGOs focused on various aspects of forest conservation related to sustainable development. In many cases, students will live in the local community through family homestays. The specific internship will be selected for each student according to their particular interests and their Spanish language proficiency (some will require a high level of fluency while others may not). Students will be placed at one of the following institutions which we have utilized since 2011 or have been associated with during our 25 years in Costa Rica with the winter study abroad courses (note the attached hyperlinks for each): 
The last 7 days of the internship will consist of a “Summer Serve” environmental community service project. In the past, “Summer Serve” students established a permanent forest survey plot near the CIEE Monteverde Costa Rica campus in San Luis. This site will be a crucial ongoing research plot that will help assess the success of the Pájaro Campana Biological Corridor. Other “Summer Serve” projects included work on reforestation and infrastructure improvement projects
at Osa Conservation and constructed a community biogas production facility near San Luis. The biogas facility will help meet the energy needs of the community while improving water quality in the associated watershed. Unique community service projects are developed annually; potential projects for 2020 are currently under consideration.

Costa Rica is an ideal location to study sustainable development because it has been woven into the fabric of Costa Rican society and constitutes the core of Costa Rican development strategy. Costa Rica has made progress in the area of prosperity and social equity. Remarkable progress has also been made in the environment through extensive preservation of large tracts of land. In fact, about 26% of Costa Rica has been preserved as national parks, reserves, and conservation areas.  Most of these tracts are owned by the National government but many are also held by private individuals and conservation trusts. Tourism has been an important industry in shaping the economic development of Costa Rica (it represented ~10% of GDP in 2015).  Much of the growth of tourism is linked specifically to “ecotourism” which attracts visitors to the country largely based upon its rich ecosystem and biotic diversity.  In many regions of Costa Rica, ecotourism is the instrument that connects conservation to economic development. Thus, progress in conservation has the potential not only to protect biological diversity, but to synergistically expand economic activity through ecotourism. 

Although Costa Rica has had remarkable success with respect to forest management, many undisturbed tracts exist as fragmented, isolated “islands” in a landscape that has become degraded by agriculture, tourism, or urbanization. One of the most pressing conservation goals in Latin America is to reconnect many of these tracts of land with intact biological corridors via the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor which stretches from southern Mexico through Panama. Conservationists are actively involved in preserving and reforesting critical sections of this biological corridor. The resulting new forest patches will help to improve forest connectivity and will directly contribute to the establishment of new habitats for a variety of animal species. Reforestation is also part of a broader effort to engage local landowners as part of the solution by developing market-based incentive programs which will provide income to them for reforesting degenerated landscapes and protecting existing forests on their farms. Reforestation efforts will eventually attract ecotourism to the region which will stimulate economic development.

The conservation activity described here has impacts well beyond Costa Rica. Because reforestation sequesters CO2 (a “greenhouse” gas), it has implications for global climate and for the development of global scale policies to “offset” or mitigate anthropogenic CO2 emissions.  The conservation activities described here are also easily transferred throughout Central America (and beyond) to link critical conservation and economic development goals inherent in the concept of sustainable development.