City of Flowers! No, not actual flowers, although Heredia has plenty of those as well. Heredia, also known as La Ciudad de Flores (or City of Flowers), got its nickname from being known for having the most beautiful people in the country of Costa Rica. Come see for yourself while attending one of many immersion language programs in Heredia!
Language Programs in Heredia
Heredia offers a multitude of cultural and language immersion options for the world wanderer hoping to add a Costa Rican stamp to their passport. Whether you are looking to improve or perfect your Spanish skills, volunteer your talents to a good cause, or earn university credit in your field of study, there is a language program in Heredia for nearly every interest.
Home to both public and private universities as well as excellent Spanish language schools and a multitude of volunteer opportunities, Heredia is a fantastic destination for cultural immersion. Combining different types of opportunities into one amazing experience is always possible when choosing Heredia. For example, many students choose to attend intensive spanish classes for a few months at one of the language schools in Heredia, followed by several weeks of volunteer work assisting an English teacher in one of the local public schools. There are also other volunteer opportunities for language students, such as working at an animal shelter, wildlife sanctuary, national park, or social care project.
Another possibility for language study in Heredia is enrolling in a program that offers language classes at one of the private or public universities for a semester to complete coursework in a particular field of study and experience campus life in the city, all while learning a new language.
Life in Heredia
What can visitors or language students coming to Heredia expect? Well, Heredia is a city of contradictions. It is colonial and modern; it is a medium-sized city with a small town feel. It is tidy and organized, yet a little rough around the edges. There is truly something for everyone in Heredia, and most often within walking distance too.
The university neighborhood, on the east edge of downtown, is full of cafes, multinational restaurants, and nightlife. The center of town is the perfect place to “get lost” while exploring buildings, churches, and homes, some of which date back over 200 years. Don’t forget to stop for an ice cream and relax in the beautifully maintained central square Parque Central while you are taking language courses in Heredia.
Sports and exercise enthusiasts will find what they are looking for along the west side of downtown. An Olympic size swimming pool, large gym, and soccer stadium are located in the same complex (ask about student discounts to improve on already very reasonable prices). And best of all: from one side of town to the other is no more than 10 blocks! For those wanting to escape the city, there are plenty of options though, including municipal and national parks just a short bus or taxi ride away, where language students can enjoy hiking and take in the fresh mountain air.
Something everyone will enjoy is the IDEAL Heredia weather! Heredianos (as the locals are referred to) are so accustomed to temperatures in the high 70s or low 80s fahrenheit that the hats and scarves come out if Mother Nature dares to dip into the 60s. Likewise, they are quick to comment on the “heat” of Alajuela as unbearable; Alajuela, a neighboring city, located at a lower elevation, is typically a few degrees hotter.
Accommodation & Visas
Most language students in Heredia take advantage of the large homestay network available in the heart of the city. Heredia has been hosting foreign students from around the world, of all ages and program types, for decades. Because of the many years of experience, most homestay programs place language students with local Costa Rican families who are thoroughly screened, live in safe neighborhoods, prepare healthy and delicious meals, and most importantly, care deeply about their pivotal role in the cultural immersive experience that is language learning. Heredia is home to many middle-class neighborhoods with comfortable, clean, and well maintained family homes (many multi-generational), making it the ideal city for those who don't want to be just a tourist, but rather become part of a family and the local community.
Living and studying a language in Costa Rica for extended periods of time is not complicated for visitors of most nationalities. Most individuals can stay in Costa Rica for up to three months on a tourist visa, which will be stamped into their passport upon entry into the country. Some language schools in Heredia that offer longer programs may provide assistance in applying for a study visa once in-country. However, this often proves to be a huge hassle; the long-term visa process can be expensive, time consuming, and simply long. An alternative option, for those who wish to attend language courses in Heredia for longer than three months, is to renew the tourist visa as needed by simply leaving the country, which is known locally as a “border run.” An added bonus of this option is the opportunity to visit one of Costa Rica’s bordering countries, such as Panama or Nicaragua, for an even more culturally enriching weekend excursion.
IMPORTANT: Anyone traveling to Costa Rica as a tourist needs to be aware of the requirement for proof of onward travel within three months of entry upon arrival. This can be a return plane ticket, a plane ticket to another country, or a bus ticket.
Of course, entry requirements can vary greatly depending on your country of origin. Anyone wishing to visit Costa Rica as a tourist, student, or volunteer is advised to do their own research on the most recent information regarding the subject of visa/entry requirements.
Benefits & Challenges
One of the great benefits of language programs in Heredia is the close proximity to the transportation hub of San Jose, giving students and volunteers easy access to all of the most exciting destinations in Costa Rica. Students can easily find themselves with their toes in the Caribbean one weekend, flying high on a zip line through the jungle canopies the following, and collecting shells on one of the world famous, idyllic beaches of the northwest Pacific coast the next. Day trips to coffee plantations, chocolate farms, active volcanoes, and waterfalls are all within reach as well.
Not unlike any other destination in the world, the city of Heredia, and Costa Rica in general, doesn't come without its own unique challenges for foreign travelers. Visitors sometimes complain about the excess noise from cars and trucks along main streets, and the inconsiderate attitude toward pedestrians from motorists. Costa Ricans do not live by the “Pedestrians have the right of way” rule that is commonly understood in most parts of the world, and this can indeed be difficult to adjust to! Long lines at public institutions, less than punctual bus schedules, and the famous “Tico time” (the practice of arriving anywhere from 10 to 50 minutes late to any social event), can also present stressful situations for the unaccustomed traveler. An open/flexible mind on the part of each traveler is of utmost importance to learn and adjust quickly to these, and other, cultural challenges.
Heredia is decidedly NOT a tourist destination. Those who attend language programs in Heredia can expect a very authentic experience, untarnished by the flocks of foreign and local tourists that frequent many other Costa Rican destinations. Living like a true local is very possible while studying in Heredia, and it is one the great benefits of choosing Heredia for your language learning adventure.