SFS Costa Rica: Sustainable Development Studies

Language of Instruction: English, Spanish
Multiple locations,
Costa Rica
Term: Spring, Fall

Examine the effects of globalization on sustainability issues while studying in Costa Rica.

The next application deadline is Oct 1, 2021
See other program dates


The SFS Sustainable Development Studies Program in Costa Rica is a field study program that focuses on ecology, biology, and environmental science. During the program, you examine the effects of globalization on classic sustainability issues such as agro-ecology, national park protection, economic development, urban sprawl, population growth, trash management, air quality, etc. Your research focuses on evaluating the success of Costa Rica's world renowned management systems as well as developing alternative strategies, such as organic agriculture, that conserve biodiversity and protect natural resources. Visits to cloud forests, dry forests, volcanic parks, lowland rainforests, and plantations offer opportunities to examine management schemes, identify the benefits of protected areas, and determine which systems offer the best option for economic development, the maintenance of cultural norms, and the preservation of biodiversity.


You register for several courses that focus on topics such as: tropical ecology, sustainable development, ethics and economics, resource management, as well as language and culture. You also complete a directed research course which gives you the unique opportunity to conduct independent field-based research.

Program Features

The program is located at the Center for Sustainable Development Studies, which is a small farm overlooking the Rio Grande River. The field station includes a large house, an outdoor classroom, an organic garden, a patio, and pool. You live in a dormitory shared by fellow SFS students.

The friendly town of Atenas is a short walk from the field station while Costa Rica's tropical forests, beaches, mountains, and volcanoes are within a day's travel.


Review eligibility to ensure that you meet all Columbia requirements to study abroad.

Review the external program webpage to understand any additional program prerequisites. Note the program language requirements.

Application Instructions

To apply, you must complete the two steps below. Deadlines vary and some applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. Therefore, you should complete the steps below simultaneously:

  • To apply for Columbia clearance (approval) to study abroad, click on "Start Your Application" on this webpage. Clearance applications are approved on a rolling basis until the application deadline listed on this webpage.
  • To apply for program admission, complete an external application directly on the program webpage. Note that this deadline may be in advance of the Columbia clearance deadline.

Fact Sheet

Columbia College, Columbia Engineering, Columbia General Studies, Columbia Undergraduates, Junior, Senior, Sophomore, Study Abroad
Language of Instruction:
Multiple locations,
Costa Rica
Latin America and the Caribbean
Spring, Fall

Dates & Deadlines

Application Deadline: 
Monday, March 1, 2021
Application Deadline: 
Friday, October 1, 2021