Going Global: Penn State's Costa Rica Healthcare Program

College classes get a bad reputation. Usually, the mind jumps to large lecture halls, rows of chairs and a person in a suit explaining stuff. While this might be the case for some classes, it’s definitely not all classes. For students involved in the Health Care System in Costa Rica program, their classroom includes busy hospitals, bustling cities and a tropical climate.


The program takes students to Costa Rica for a week in the beginning of May. While on the trip, students learn about how hospitals, government, agencies and citizens engage in the healthcare system. To prepare for the trip, students must complete a one credit course in the Spring semester that introduces them to their classmates and the Costa Rican culture.


"What made me interested in this program was that it involved studying healthcare,” Aminah Henderson, a World Campus student, said. “As an HPA major I believe that having the opportunity to study healthcare in another country is an amazing opportunity.”


The course lets students explore new cultures, gain professional experience, conduct research and work with students of other majors.


"Being from a branch campus, I never thought I would have the opportunity to participate in a study abroad type of program,” said Antonia Corma, a student at Penn State Scranton.  “I think the minute I heard that it was possible I was all in. I wanted to be able to have that experience under my belt.”


Students in the program spend time prior to their travels preparing a research topic for their trip, something many undergraduate students don’t experience often.


Kaléi Kowalchik, another Penn State Scranton student, said, “I believe it is always important to remember you only experience undergraduate school, specifically nursing school, once which makes it important to look for these opportunities to make this experience the best.”


With the growth of STEM fields, research is becoming an important skill in today’s job market.


"It is important for students to engage in research,” said Henderson, “because many careers have some aspect of research incorporated into it. You have to be able find answers, and know how to interpret your findings.”


To Corma, research is important to how jobs are performed, especially in health care fields.

"[Research] helps you stay up to date on the most current information that is available in your field.” With nursing,” Corma added, “evidence-based practice highly influences the care you will provide for your patient, therefore, you have to ensure that you are providing the best care.”

Through the “Looking at the Healthcare System in Costa Rica” program, Penn State students all over the commonwealth have an opportunity to research and experience new cultures. The 2019 program included students from not just from the College of Nursing but also Liberal Arts, Science and Bio-Behavioral Health. Applications for the 2020 program are open now. For more information and to see pictures of the program in action, visit http://sites.psu.edu/costaricapsu.