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Doing an internship in Costa Rica is a fantastic way to gain international experience in your chosen field, while immersing yourself in a Spanish-speaking environment, thereby accelerating your language skills. Read this article to find out more.

An internship in Costa Rica can provide you with the opportunity to get the hands-on experience that is so vital for your professional development while getting to know this beautiful Central American destination. You can live and work alongside Ticos during the week, then explore one of the most biodiverse countries in the world in your free time!

An internship can also connect you with potentially valuable contacts, both in terms of other international students and experienced professionals in your field. Networking opportunities abound while you're doing an internship, and many programmes also offer the chance to partake in additional activities and excursions.

As Costa Rica is regaled for its biological diversity, popular internships revolve around the environment; and internships in conservation, ecology, veterinary medicine and zoology are understandably common. However, you can find internships across a wide variety of fields, such as social work, education, hospitality and tourism, business and healthcare. So, whether you wish to do a marine biology internship at a conservation NGO or a business development internship at a consulting firm, you should be able to find something that meets your interests and requirements.

It is important to note, however, that some qualifications may be required for internships that revolve around certain medical, veterinary or conservation efforts. It is also sometimes required to be proficient in Spanish, which is the country's official language. Even if your placement does not have this requirement, it is still highly advisable to know some Spanish before you intern in Costa Rica, so as to establish easier communication and better relationships at your placement.

The duration of an internship can vary from just a week to over six months, depending on the company and the experience you seek. And many programmes arrange homestays for the relevant timeframe — this is a great way to immerse yourself in the environment and improve your language skills.

Most internships tend to be suitable for undergraduates or recent graduates. If you are still a university student, you can often earn credits for doing certain internships, even if it is not a course requirement.

Generally speaking, a placement will require a bit of experience or a working knowledge of departmental activities — from marketing and research to sales initiatives and client services — as well as an awareness of a company's functional activities. It is, therefore, worth doing your research about where you will be placed before you start interning there. You may also be required to have some presentation and negotiation skills so that you can directly contribute to various aspects of a company's development, and recommend any improvements to established procedures.

Where to intern

Interestingly, many internships in Costa Rica are not based in San José, although there are still plenty of opportunities for those looking to intern in the capital. The most popular cities for internships are arguably San José, Alajuela, Liberia and Cartago.

You can often find opportunities in Alajuela, Cartago and Liberia that will enable you to gain experience in the fields of computer technology, biology, journalism, and social justice, to name but a few.

Visas

Citizens from many countries (namely Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Japan, Panama, Paraguay, Uruguay, United States and most European countries), who plan to intern in Costa Rica for less than 90 days, won’t need to apply for a visa.

However, if you are not from one of these countries or plan to stay for a longer duration, you will need to apply for a relevant visa. Depending on your contract and the duration of your internship, you may even need to apply for temporary residence and submit various paperwork to complete the process.

Be sure to contact your nearest Costa Rican consulate or embassy for up-to-date requirements that are specific to your situation. If you are arranging your internship through a third-party programme provider, they should also be able to provide you with all relevant details.

As a result of visa regulations, most internships in Costa Rica are unpaid, but some companies do offer a stipend or bonus. However, in many cases, you will need to pay for the placement, as well as all of your living costs while in Costa Rica; and you may need to show proof of being financially able to support yourself while in the country.

Find an internship

The easiest way to find an internship is through a project coordinator, such as GVI or Go Abroad, which work with Costa Rican institutions to offer internships to people from around the world. There is a wide range of programme providers from which to choose from, so if you wish to go down this route, do your research beforehand and go with a reputable company that offers an internship that meets all of your requirements. Many of these organisations charge quite a hefty fee, but this usually covers the cost of the placement, as well as ongoing support, accommodation, meals, and sometimes extracurricular activities.

There are many organisations based in Costa Rica, from multinationals to small NGOs, so you could try to find an internship directly at a company that interests you. If you have a particular institution in mind, keep an eye out on their website or follow them on social media. It's also worth contacting your embassy in Costa Rica or local chambers of commerce, such as Britcham or Amcham, to find out if there are any opportunities available, or to just ask for advice.

You may also be able to find an internship on a recruitment website; or filter your search on a specialised website, such as Idealist.org, to look for internships.

Furthermore, if you are currently a student, you could seek assistance from the higher educational institution at which you are enrolled, or ask the advice of fellow students who have already interned abroad.

 Useful links:

Expat.com – Work in Costa Rica Forum
General Directorate of Migration www.migracion.go.cr
Opción empleo www.opcionempleo.co.cr
Study Abroad www.studyabroad.com
UGA Costa Rica www.externalaffairs.uga.edu

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.