UCA Occupational Therapy and Nursing Abroad: Keys to Well-Being in Costa Rica 2024

Important Dates

Tentative Travel Dates:  May 7 -17, 2024

Interest Meetings: View on Office of Education Abroad event calendar here.

Scholarship Application Deadline: November 1, 2023

Application and Deposit Deadline: January 15, 2024

Program Description

Through this international education abroad experience, students will learn how well-being, health, and longevity stems from lifestyle and occupational patterns made along the life course. The Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica is one of five areas designated as a “Blue Zone”, a place where people reach age 100 at rates up to 10 times greater than in the United States. The longevity of “Ticos” (native Costa Ricans) in this region is due in large part to their lifestyle, which centers around having a reason to live, a focus on family, meaningful social connections, healthy diets, hard work, physical activity, sunshine and spirituality. Using these lifestyle dimensions as a guide, students will explore contributing occupational factors that promote longevity and “pura vida” (the pure life).

At specific locations, students will focus on infusion of occupation throughout the occupational therapy process. Students will acquire unique insight regarding multicultural healthcare through hands-on activities, tours, observation and dialogue with local residents, health care professionals and researchers who promote the peninsula’s healthy/happy lifestyle. Students will spend meaningful time at select locations where they will engage in occupation based evaluations and interventions. Outside of the scope of coursework, all students will enhance their cultural competency by visiting sites of historical, cultural, and contemporary significance. This experience will meet the profession’s related educational fieldwork accreditation standards.

 NOTE: Enrollment is limited to 17 participants.

Health and Safety 

Students registering for programs should carefully read through all health and safety information provided during the application process. In addition, students should honestly complete the ‘Health and Safety Form’ so that any health related concerns may be adequately accommodated on study abroad programs.

Participants will be enrolled in comprehensive international insurance for the duration of programming. It is the student’s responsibility to extend insurance cover if they stay abroad beyond UCA’s planned program dates. For information about international insurance coverage: https://uca.edu/globalstudy/health-and-safety/

Students must attend one health and safety meeting during the spring semester. Meeting dates will be announced after the application deadlines.

Faculty Leaders and Course Offerings

Dr. Brittany Saviers, Academic Fieldwork Coordinator for the UCA Department of Occupational Therapy, is the co-founder of the level I international fieldwork experience to the Blue Zone of Costa Rica. In addition to the faculty-led experience, she has also traveled with small groups of students to complete their doctoral capstone experience in Costa Rica with a focus on international occupational therapy practice and education abroad. She enjoys getting to know people and learn from other occupational therapy practitioners in the country.

Courses offered by Dr. Saviers:

  • OTHY 6212 Level I Fieldwork: Analysis of Human Occupational Performance




Deborah Gangluff, Sc.D. OTR/L says “Costa Rica is fabulous! While traveling through the country, we visit various clinics and medical sites, interview centenarians living in the Nicoya Peninsula, and sightsee while touring with our experienced guide. These are unique experiences. I am a faculty member in the UCA Occupational Therapy Department, learning the Spanish language and becoming better aware of cultural expectations. My previous travel and therapy knowledge has helped prepare me to be flexible, adaptable, and ready for the unexpected; even with our full schedule. I hope all interested occupational therapy students will take advantage of this wonderful trip.”

Courses offered by Dr. Gangluff:

  • OTHY 6212 Level I Fieldwork: Analysis of Human Occupational Performance




Mrs. Erin Garrett, MSN, RN, CPN, CHSE is a faculty member for the School of Nursing at UCA.  She has been a registered nurse for 16 years, specializing in Pediatrics nursing.  She currently serves as the Simulation Quality Manager for the Nabholz Center for Healthcare Simulation. She enjoys traveling and spending time with family and friends.  “As a nurse, our role is to continuously learn about the people we serve, so that we may better care for them. I look forward to learning about and from the Costa Rican Blue Zone population with UCA Nursing and OT students. The rich experiences we will encounter on this trip can influence the way we live in the United States and the way we care for our patients.”

Courses offered by Prof. Garrett:

  • TBD





Program Cost

The program cost for last year’s program, can be viewed here.

Learn Spanish

Practice some Spanish before your trip with our Basic Spanish Translations cheat sheet. Also, check out Mango Languages, a language learning resource free for UCA students.