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Study Abroad


Texas State DPT Students: Learning by serving the local community in Costa Rica

This Spring, Texas State DPT students traveled to Atenas, Costa Rica, to participate in a 9-day service learning study abroad program.  Atenas is a small town located 30 minutes outside of San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica.  To maximize their cultural experience, students lived with host families in the local community.  As part of their educational experience, students learned about Costa Rican recreational activities and nutrition.


"The immersion of the Costa Rican culture was the most superior experience to learning Spanish that I have ever received!  Sitting under the el rancho for afternoon classes enhanced my understanding of the community's "Pura Vida" culture.  It was invigorating!  I also appreciated how movement was promoted outside in the beautiful and mentally stimulating environments at each facility." - Tracy C.

"I learned a lot about clinical communication through these experiences and gained more confidence in my Spanish abilities.  I would say I came home even more inspired to continue my Spanish education, find opportunities to apply my language skills, and continue to improve my patient communication." - Melissa C.

"The Universidad Latina de Costa Rica Physical Therapy School is different in that they incorporate their learning style with the other health professions.  The university is set up to simulate a hospital setting with advanced technology, simulation labs, video technology, and auditory feedback for practicals. The PT schools showed a different perspective with their interprofessional approach as well as their practical set ups." - Kaycee H.

"Our visit to the private and public retirement homes opened my eyes to the difference in care that the patients receive at the varying institutions and the different treatment approaches taken by varying physical therapists.  The facilities were beautiful and advanced and seemed to allow for collaborative, investigative learning.  The biggest lesson that I will take from this opportunity is the fact that the desire to communicate our needs and wishes, aches and pains, joys and sorrows, is strong, despite any language barriers." - LeighAnn M.

"Speaking common language Spanish was not the issue for me.  My biggest struggle lies in the ability to communicate and describe medical terms to other medical professionals and then turn those medical terms into lay terms for the patients and their families to understand.  This is where the service learning activities of this trip really impacted my growth and confidence in treating the Spanish speaking population." - Laura Q.

"I have always believed that in order to learn a language, you must immerse yourself in it.  That is precisely what we had the chance to do through service learning.  This study abroad trip has inspired me to look for similar opportunities in the future, maybe through a volunteer organization, so that I may continue to learn medical Spanish." - Karen R.



They hiked a local volcano and through a cloudforest.  Students participated in traditional dance classes and cooking classes, and they shopped for groceries at the local farmers market.



Students took two courses while in Costa Rica.  In the first course, they learned Medical Spanish for Physical Therapists and then volunteered at Hogar de Ancianos (Retirement Community) to serve patients who speak Spanish.  In the second course, they learned about Costa Rican culture, its impact on health and wellness, and its implications for physical therapy. They also learned about Costa Rican PT education, and they met with the faculty and students of a physical therapy school in Costa Rica.  In this course, they learned about the differences in physical therapy between the US and Costa Rica.  They also visited local hospitals and physical therapy clinics, including the Clinica del Dolor (Pain Clinic).


If you would like to learn more about this program or support this program, please contact Dr. Suzy Okere ( 512-245-3507.