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Programs : Brochure

Fact Sheet:
Language of Instruction: English, Spanish Language Prerequisite: 2 Semesters of college level language
Minimum Cumulative GPA: 3.0 Credit Available For: College
Other Eligibility Requirements: Prior Coursework as Required by Subject, See Program Description Type of Program: Semester/Year Study Abroad
Housing Options: Homestay Visit, Program Provided Housing Application Deadline: Fall/Year: February 15, Spring: October 15
Program Description:

Program Snapshot

CIEE LogoCIEE Monteverde: Tropical Ecology and Conservation

The CIEE Tropical Biology & Ecology program places an emphasis on experiential learning and students will learn in a variety of settings including classrooms, beaches, waterfalls and treetops. With a biological focus, the small, rigorous courses incorporate extensive travel, research, and field study. Located approximately three to four hours away by car from the capital San José, the CIEE Study Center in Monteverde is located in a small, friendly, bilingual community surrounded by a cloud forest reserve. U.S. and Costa Rican biology professors teach and evaluate a select group of CIEE students in both the classroom and on field trips.
For additional information, visit the CIEE Monteverde: Tropical Ecology and Conservation program website
The City of Monteverde

With a population of 4,000 permanent residents and up to 200,000, the official language of Monteverde is Spanish (though English is widely understood).  Recognized by National Geographic as one of the ten most beautiful places in the world, Monteverde’s Cloud Forest has been studied for over 25 years by both visiting and Costa Rican biologists and the nearby Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde, a private reserve, contains the bulk of Costa Rica's rainforest. The nearby Spanish-speaking community of Santa Elena includes a number of small businesses, giving students informal opportunities to learn and improve their Spanish.

Did you know…?

Back during the Korean War the US had a draft going on. But not everyone was going to let their sons be taken away from them. In the late 1940’s a dozen or so Quaker families arrived on horseback to Monteverde. There was no electricity, no water but great land for their farming. With too many cows, one of the men decided to make cheese and Monteverde Cheese Factory was born and is now one of the best cheese companies in Costa Rica.



The CIEE Monteverde: Tropical Ecology and Conservation program is for College students for College credit only.

Minimum GPA Requirement: 3.0

Language Prerequisite: Successful completion of 2 semesters of college-level Spanish or the equivalent, by the end of the academic semester (fall or spring) prior to departure. 
Enrollment in a Spanish course during the academic semester (fall or spring) prior to departure.

Additional Course Pre-requisite(s): Successful completion of 2 semesters of college-level biology by the end of the academic semester (fall or spring) prior to departure.  Additional semester of ecology or environmental science recommended.

Other Requirements: Prior coursework as required by subject.


Language of Instruction

English, Spanish


A full course load on the CIEE Monteverde: Tropical Ecology and Conservation consists of 5 classes per semester.  Penn students must maintain a full course load while abroad and may only enroll in courses at the undergraduate level.

Program participants are required to take all offered courses:
Humans in the Tropics
Tropical Community Ecology
Tropical Diversity
Independent Research in Biology/Ecology
Spanish language course
All biology courses are taught in English. Note that Penn students will not receive credit for the Spanish course from the Hispanic Studies section of Penn's Department of Romance Languages.

Program dates can be found on the CIEE program website.

Grading Scale

As on all Penn Abroad programs, grades are recorded on the Penn transcript and are calculated in the cumulative grade point average.  The pass/fail option can be exercised according to the Penn on-campus policy of your home school. For more information on Penn Abroad’s academic policies, click here.

Grades for CIEE courses are awarded using an A-F grading scale.

Grades are reported to Penn on the CIEE grading scale and then converted to Penn grades according to the following grade equivalencies:
CIEE Grade Penn Grade
92.50 - 100 A
89.50 – 92.49 A-
86.50 – 89.49 B+
82.50 – 86.49 B
79.50 – 82.49 B-
76.50 – 79.49 C+
69.50 – 76.49 C
59.50 – 69.49 D
0 – 59.49 F
Grade conversion effective Fall 2017 and forward. 

Special Features

BCC Special FeaturesOrientation Activities

All Penn students are required to attend the orientation activities organized by the CIEE Monteverde: Tropical Ecology and Conservation program prior to the start of each semester.  More information on CIEE’s orientation activities can be found on the program website.

A two-day, mandatory orientation session, conducted in San José at the beginning of the study abroad program, will introduce you to the country, culture, and academic program, as well as provide practical information about living in Costa Rica and the Monteverde community. It includes both structured activities and independent sightseeing. You'll attend lectures, tour museums, and purchase last-minute supplies in the capital city. Orientation continues with a 20-day Pacific Coast field trip to highlight the diversity of tropical ecosystems. Upon arrival in Monteverde, a special orientation of the program site is held. Ongoing support is provided by CIEE staff on an individual and group basis throughout the program.

Language Courses

For information regarding language courses, please visit here: and scroll down to “Course Descriptions.”

Independent Research
BCC Special Features
Students will carry out a project in tropical ecology or conservation. Beginning with personal observations, they will formulate a hypothesis, design an appropriate test, and spend the next four weeks gathering and analyzing data. The project culminates in a formal scientific report, poster presentation to local students, and symposium presentation.

Group Excursions

Program participants get to explore the Monteverde regional forests and Costa Rica’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts, visiting areas like a lowland rain forest equal in stature and diversity to forests in Amazonia, and the volcanoes of Rincón de la Vieja National Park. Approximately half the program is spent off site, exploring and studying the diverse ecosystems within Costa Rica.


Participants must be willing to live under local conditions for students.

BCCFor two months out of the four, students live and attend classes in a biological station, which is situated adjacent to the magnificent Monteverde Cloud Forest. Four people share one room (two bunk beds provided), with a private bath and hot shower in each room. Meals are taken at the biological station and served family style. Vegetarians and vegans can easily be accommodated.

A one-month homestay is also included in the program, during which participants live and take their meals with local Costa Rican families throughout the Monteverde-Santa Elena regions. Homestays are assigned based on Independent Study research interests. All meals are included for the length of the homestay period.
Students spend several extended periods of time (about one month total) traveling with their professors throughout Costa Rica to explore the country's various ecosystems.

Information regarding housing and meals can be found on the program website.

Cost and Finance

Penn Abroad Financial Policies

Students are charged Penn tuition and academic fees for all Penn Abroad programs.  Additional expenses will typically include items such as housing, visas, and airfare.  Please see the program budget sheets below for more information.  For more on Penn Abroad’s financial policies, click here.

Financial Aid and Study Abroad

In most cases, financial aid applies to Penn-approved programs.  Student Financial Services reviews program budget sheets each semester to determine how to appropriately adjust your aid package. For more information on how Financial Aid will work during your semester abroad, click here.

Budget Sheets

Scholarship Opportunities

Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program: Competition for awards for study abroad, for US citizen students who are receiving federal Pell Grant funding at a 2-year or 4-year college or university. 

CIEE Scholarships & Grants: Provides both merit-based and need-based scholarships and grants for undergraduate studying abroad on CIEE programs. 

Next Steps

For information on the Penn Abroad application process, click here.

To open an application or learn more about the program, please click here to schedule an appointment with a Penn Abroad Global Programs Manager.

For a student perspective on life and academics in Monteverde, contact a Penn Abroad Past-Participant or Exchange Student.