Indigenous Studies in Costa Rica 2024

Learn how to get involved!

May 8-20, 2024

Women's and Gender Studies

University of Windsor

In May 2024 10 students from the University of Windsor will learn about contemporary Indigenous studies while traveling Costa Rica.  Preference will be given to students who enroll in WGST 2380 in Winter 2024, though it is not a strict requirement.   Both courses are taught by Dr. Ashley Glassburn, a member of the Miami Nation of Indians of Indiana.

Participants will spend 13 days travelling the length of Costa Rica, meeting with Indigenous peoples, and exploring the rainforest.  There are opportunities for students, alumni, staff, and community members to participate.

All students who are ready and excited to hike in the mountainous rain forest of Costa Rica and learn how to respectfully work with Indigenous peoples are invited to apply.  

In addition to the tuition (which may be partially covered by OSAP), the program will cost $2700 plus the flight (which may be covered in part or whole by air miles); however, $3000 scholarships are available to all Indigenous, low-income, and students with disabilities.  First year students receive a $1000 scholarship and 2nd and 3rd year students receive a $500 scholarship.  This scholarships are guaranteed for students who participate in the program. 

How to register

Applications for the program will be available beginning at 8am on Monday, November 13th. The first round of accepted students will be notified December 1st.  Preference will be given to students who enroll in WGST 2380 in Winter 2024 - Good Relations: Indigenous Sovereignty, Feminism, and Reconciliation. 

The application can be submitted here (opens Nov 13, 8am, closes Nov 30, 10p)

The purpose of the above application is to learn who is interested in going and what supports people need in order to commit.  Everyone (students, staff, alumni, community members) interested in going should fill out the application above sooner than later.   Applications will be reviewed in the order that they are submitted. 


Notice:  I will be adding to these FAQs as I receive more questions and think of new things to add.  2024 is the first year that I will be offering a Study Abroad course on my own, and so I am building these resources as I go.  I traveled to Costa Rica in 2023 as part of a training program for how to run Study Abroad programs.  Many of the things we will be doing in 2024 I have already done, but some activities, locations, lodgings will be new to me this year.

What sort of things will we be learning?  You will learn about the history of Costa Rica and how the nation-state identifies itself in relation to Indigenous peoples.  You will learn how to meet with Indigenous peoples in a good and respectful way.  You will meet with representatives of several Indigenous nations and learn directly from Indigenous peoples about their culture and contemporary politics.  You will learn about the significance of the biodiversity and density of the rainforest, and what happens to Indigenous peoples as rainforest is destroyed.  You will learn to see anew how Canada identifies itself as a nation state and how that national identity is in relationship to Indigenous peoples. 

What sort of special learning activities will we be doing?  We will spend 24 hours on an Indigenous reserve, learning about history, culture, and politics.  We will stay in traditional buildings that evening and share three meals at the reserve.  We will visit educational Indigenous villages as well as several reserves and museums.  Lectures will be tied to the exact locations where we are travelling in order to connect the history of particular land to the histories of Indigenous displacement and contemporary political movements.  If we are lucky we will be making pottery and learning how Mayan influenced pottery made its way all the way down to Costa Rica.

What is WGST 2990?  Broadly, this is a general Special Topics course in Women's & Gender Studies, that can be used as credits towards a WGST major or minor, or as a general elective.  This year (Intersession 2024) WGST 2990 will be "Indigenous Relations in Costa Rica" and will count towards the Indigenous Studies minor as well.  As with all courses there will be assignments and assessments.  The goal is for students to complete all the work for the course while we are in Costa Rica so that there is minimal to no work that needs to be completed once we return.  

What other fun things will we be doing?  We will be taking guided hikes through the moutainous rainforest, wearing wellies (wet rain forest) and carrying machetes (for safety) during the day and at night (to see the amazing night life of the rainforest).  We will be visiting beaches on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides, as well as a beautiful volcano observatory.  There are also opportunities for zipline tours and hanging bridge walks.  We will visit several local swimming holes that are straight out of a dream - one in the turquoise rivers flowing down from the volcano and the other with amazing rocks for swinging and jumping off of.  

How active will we be?  There will be several hikes and walks that are several miles long.  The hike to the waterfall can feel intense for folks who are not used to hiking inclines, but we can keep the group moving slow and steady.  The ground at the beach and in the rainforest is uneven.  The rainforest can be very wet and slippery, making a fall a reasonable expectation.  With the more adventurous outings - like swimming in the ocean, hiking to the waterfall, and the zipline tour, people can easily opt out and choose and sit, chill, and observe the surroundings.  We will be in a very remote area of the rainforest and there are no vehicles or paved pathways for travel other than by foot.   On the other hand, we will be travelling by bus around Costa Rica on small windy mountain roads for 2-6 hours at a time. 

Is there free time?  Most of the time we will be together as a group.  There will be a couple hours here and there every day where folks can rest and make their own choices.  We will have longer free time opportunities at the beach.  Last year, even when students could go exploring on their own, most folks chose to stay together, hangout, and eat together.  For folks who need alone time, I recommend bringing what you need to make your own little world while we are in the bus - headphones, maybe an eye mask, whatever you need to make the most of the down town on the bus. 

Lodging: We will stay in 6-7 different accomodations during the trip.  Some of them are fairly nice hotels, some of them are local hotels far away from the tourists. At the hotels, students will each have their own bed, but they will be sharing rooms. For the longest chunk of time we will be staying at the Texas A&M Soltis Center, which is a beautiful research and education center deep in the rain forest.   The facilities here are amazing.  The rooms are bunks.  Students will be staying four to a room.  There are two bunk beds in each room.  One night we will be staying on an Indigenous reservation, and we will sleep in the simple structures that are provided for us.  

What does the course fee cover?  The course fee covers all the lodging and travel once you arrive in Costa Rica, all of the cultural experiences, almost all of the meals, and for a guide/translator to accompany us on the length of the trip.  

What's not included in the course fee?  The small things include 1) any added health/travel insurance ($20-50), 2) 3-4 free-time meals ($40-100 depending on your preferences), souvenirs and alcohol (this cost is all up to you), and your flight ($200-1000).  About purchasing the flight: some folks will prefer to use budget airlines, air miles, and other options to get a less expensive flight.  Some folks will prefer to fly out of Canada, while others may want to book a flight out of DTW.  All of these things will impact the cost of the flight.  Once the group who is traveling has been identified we will meet and talk more about booking the flights.  

Scholarships:  As mentioned above Universities Canada offers some standard scholarships.  Students who qualify for the scholarships will receive them through the UWindsor Go Global office.  There is no extra application for the scholarships.  The maximum a student can receive is $3000 for a study abroad trip.  As soon as the student has enrolled in the course and filled out the required paperwork, the scholarship money will be put into the student's account.  From there the student can use that money to pay the course fee and submit receipts for things like their flight and travel insurance up to the total amount of their scholarships.  

$3000 for students who are Indigenous, low-income, or has a disability.  $1000 for first year students. $500 for second and third year students. 

At this time, I am not aware of more scholarships than this, but if you find some, please let me know.  Some students may choose to independently fund raise for their course like you might do in high school or for sports teams - there will not be any group fundraising for this course. 

Total Costs: Students who take this course for credit will pay for tuition (which may be partially covered by OSAP), the student fee ($2700, which may be partially covered by scholarships), their flight ($200-1000 depending on air miles, deals, etc.), and then incidentals in Costa Rica ($100-$300, depending on how much money you spend on free-time meals, alcohol, and souvenirs), which brings the cost beyond tuition to roughly $3300-3900.

Non-students (people who are not taking WGST 2990 in Intersession 2024) are not eligible for scholarships and do not have to pay tuition.  Their costs for this trip are $3100 trip fee, plus flight, and incidentals. 

When do I need to pay money?  This is what I know so far:  the first deposit will be about $200 in January (all students), in March the second deposit of $500 will be due (though students with scholarships - most all students - can pay this out of the scholarships deposited into their student accounts,  then around this time, March-ish is also when most students will purchase their flights.  Students will need to purchase the flights on their own and then those with scholarships can submit the receipts to get reimbursed for the flights.  This means that all students will need the cash or credit on hand to purchase the flight and wait to get reimbursed.  The final deposit ($2000) will be the remainder owed (if funds are not already in student account via scholarships) - I am not entirely sure when this will show up as due on student accounts - it will be whenever student fees are required to maintain your registration for the intersession semester.   As I learn more I will update this site. 

Students who want to pay in installments can make a payment of $675 each month, for January, February, March, and April to cover the entire cost.

What do we do once we land in Costa Rica?  The first thing you will do is go through customs.  Once you leave customs, I will greet you near the luggage pick-up area and transport you to the hotel.  Once everyone has arrived and settled into the hotel, we will begin our adventure by exploring San José together. 

What about next year?  I truly hope that this course becomes an annual course, but I can't promise anything yet.  

Do I need to do something special to travel to Costa Rica?  No visa or special vaccines are required for traveling to Costa Rica for Canadians at this time.  If something emerges, the traveling group will talk about this in time for everyone to meet the requirements for travel.  The most immediate consideration is that your passport needs to expire after November 2024 to travel.  It is quite normal that countries require your passport to be valid for the longest period of possible stay.  

What about the food?  Some folks may have food allergies or food restrictions, and they will face the same struggles they face eating out at home while in Costa Rica.  You can learn how to ask questions in Spanish about menus and practice asking the questions most important to you: Does this have nuts in it?  Is there cheese in this?  The good news for vegetarians is that there is rice, beans, and fruit at nearly every meal.  However, if you ask, "Is this meat?" that will be understood as "Is this beef?"  Seafood, poultry, and beef are referred to separately, not as a group under meat.  If you ask "Is this vegetarian?" it may be interpreted as "Does this have chicken or beef in it?"  In any of these cases, you will learn the Spanish words that are related to your concerns and then you will quickly learn to recognize those words on menus.  Most of the time we will also have a translator nearby to help navigate these questions.  If you have special dietary needs or restrictions you will want to buy extra snacks at the grocery store once you are in Costa Rica, keep in mind that you CANNOT bring plants, seeds, vegetables, or fruits into Costa Rica because they could bring plant based diseases or contaminants into the country that would threaten the plants there.  We will regularly stop at grocery stores to pick up snacks along the way.

What happens if there is an emergency?  Just like at home, emergencies or accidents can happen without warning.  Everyone who goes on this trip will have emergency travel insurance that will cover the costs of emergencies and travel delays due to illness or injury.  There will be several non-students on this trip and most of the time we will have a translator with us.  If there is a medical emergency, one non-student person will go to the clinic the injured person while the rest of the group will stay together and continue the plan for the day.  No one wants this to happen though.  We will continuously touch base about the risks of various activities and no one should participate in activities that they feel is beyond their comfort or ability. 

What about my phone?  I will have a fully functioning phone on me at all times that can be used in case of emergencies.  At most, though not all, of our lodgings, we will have wifi that you can use to contact friends and family without using cellular.