Of the eight countries that make up Central America, you will discover that each has an exceptional history, culture, and natural beauty to keep your travel bug fully satisfied. Apart from the diverse cultural landscapes that makes up this region, Central America has lots to offer students, including plenty of supplemental activities to suit a range of majors and areas of study. Students are therefore encouraged to dive right into study abroad in Central America, and get a front-row seat before all the good ones are taken!
Central America is a vast region made up of eight different countries, each with something different to offer prospective study abroad students. Each of these countries have well-established study abroad programs and local universities, with additional opportunities and resources available, in the way of community involvement, extracurricular adventures, and weekend expeditions.
Panama. Studying abroad in Panama is about as affordable as it gets. The cost of living is low, and public universities are free for everyone, including international students. With almost 90 higher education institutions, lush rainforests, and of course, those that famous canal, Panama is an excellent place for environmentally-minded students, as well as individuals with an interest in architecture, business, and urban and regional planning.
Costa Rica. Home to one of the largest and most diverse ecosystems in the world, Costa Rica is an attraction for any student interested in wildlife or environmental science. The dramatic landscapes vary, from the high cloud forests to the Caribbean coasts, making this coastal nugget an ideal place to spend a semester or summer studying abroad.
El Salvador. The smallest of the Central American countries, El Salvador packs quite a punch with its mountainous terrain, rich history, and notoriously friendly culture. Despite its rocky political past, El Salvador remains an excellent non-traditional place for study abroad in Central America, especially those interested in studying Spanish, social work, human rights, or tourism.
Belize. Known for its beaches, scuba-diving, Mayan temples, and tropical reefs, Belize is the perfect place to study abroad in Central America for those who love outdoor adventures. Located in the heart of Central America, it is a diverse nation, culturally made up of Creole, East Indian, Garifuna, Chinese, and many more groups of people. Study abroad programs in Belize are especially common in the fields of ecology, marine biology, sustainable development, medicine, and other health related professions.
Honduras. With a recently stabilized political scene and an expanding tourism industry, there has never been a better time to study abroad in Honduras. Students looking to hone their skills in the Spanish language should especially look no further than this beautiful, tropical country. Just make sure you go during the dry season!
Studying Abroad in Central America
While each country (and specific universities within each country) has its own strengths and popular specialties, there are some fields that are strong across the board for study abroad in Central America.
First and foremost, students looking to study Spanish will be able to find a slew of top-notch courses and study abroad program opportunities. Many countries in Central America have developed idiosyncratic slang and dialogues off the traditional dialect, providing students with a more unique perspective of the Spanish language. Even those not participating in a particularly immersive language program in Central America are encouraged to take Spanish language classes as part of their study abroad experience.
Other extremely popular subjects of study in Central America include biology, medicine, or health sciences. Due to some of the well-known medical conditions and health issues plaguing the less resourceful, accessible, and prosperous areas of the region, there are always opportunities for supplemental volunteer work in Central America for those interested in the healthcare fields.
Of course, the most popular subject for study abroad in Central America is anything related to environmental science, ecology, and the natural sciences. Due simply to the overwhelming amount of rainforests, volcanoes, and tropical coastline, Central America is one of the world's premiere destinations for studying nature and the environment. During any study abroad program in Central America, no matter which country you choose, you’ll have the opportunity to supplement your classroom time with hands-on experience in a truly unparalleled natural environment.
Scholarships & Costs
There is quite a bit of fiscal diversity in Central America, so depending on your study abroad program, costs will vary country to country. For example, San Jose, Costa Rica is one of the more expensive locations to study abroad in Central America; however, Guatemala is well-known as one of the cheapest locations to for study abroad in the world. Do your due diligence before selecting a study abroad program in Central America, and consult with your academic advisor at your home university.
It’s recommended that students double check with their home university as well as their host university in Central America to learn more about available scholarship opportunities. But all students can also search through GoAbroad’s Scholarship Directory.
Accommodation & Visas
At most major universities, room and board will be included in tuition fees. Housing for students will likely be provided in university dorms or in shared apartments. Another great way to fully immerse yourself during a summer or semester study abroad program in Central America is to participate in a homestay with a local family. This is the best housing option for students looking to become fluent in Spanish during their time abroad.
Most students will need a visa prior to entering Central America, so be sure to check each embassy’s website (find the appropriate one through GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory) and get a head-start on paperwork early. Forms are different for each country, and some can be a bit confusing, so give yourself time to make some mistakes and submit everything on time.
Benefits & Challenges
Natural Beauty. Although it’s a cliche at this point, words cannot quite articulate the true power of the ecological beauty present in Central America. Even if you aren’t studying ecology or the environment, the pure, untouched, almost tranquil beauty of the region will absolutely blow you away.
Resources At Your Fingertips. As mentioned before, studying specific academic areas hands-on is always beneficial, and this is especially true for study abroad in Central America. Having the opportunity to supplement classroom learning with experiences in the field will be an invaluable addition to your study abroad experience.
Witness History. Many Central American countries are going through, or have just finished, major changes in the political and social landscape. While this may present its own challenges, the chance to experience social change firsthand from within the region and country will be fascinating for international students.