VN Abroad

Center for Social Justice

Independent internships, Spanish classes, and faculty lead group programs that support social justice efforts in the north of Costa Rica.

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Experiential learning programs for positive social change

VN Abroad

VN Abroad Center for Social Justice coordinates cross-cultural learning programs that support social justice efforts in the north of Costa Rica.   Our group study and internship programs offer students a global perspective on important social and environmental topics.  

Learn from rural families about the impacts of global economic policies on local food security. Collaborate with health education programs  and campaigns with community health workers.  Facilitate activities for women's groups, children and youth, and seniors.  Advocate for immigrant and refugee integration alongside community members and human rights organizations.  

Apply your skills, experience, and dedication to a meaningful internship or study program with VN Abroad! 

Independent study credit is available 

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Over 20 years experience in central america 

Ethical Study Abroad
Sustainability and Collaboration

VN Abroad offers experiential and cross-cultural learning programs that support communities. 

We have long-standing relationships with community partners. We work alongside community leaders, organizations, and institutions to define projects and find sustainable solutions.  

All of our programs provide needs-based collaboration that supports communities and organizations.  We work with and alongside community partners.  We learn together and foster cross-cultural learning and collaborative solutions.

Program Founder and Director, Carrie McCracken, is a Sociologist and Educator with over 20 years of experience in Nicaragua and Costa Rica.  She works with community members to coordinate needs-based programs that support community health, well-being, and social justice.  Carrie lives in the communities we work with, coordinates and accompanies all groups, and provides both community members and program participants with a unique and dynamic learning experience. 

Experiential Learning

Learn by doing! Venture off the beaten path with us and immerse yourself in the culture of the north of Costa Rica. Live with a family and experience daily life in a rural community. Visit hidden treasures-still undiscovered by most tourists- and support small-scale sustainable tourist projects through your visit. Study Spanish and improve your Spanish communication ability by living and working alongside the population.

The Global Fund

We work with communities to design programs and projects that meet their needs.  

Ten percent of placement fees go to the Global Fund to support community development projects. In 2023, the Global Fund was used to fund a small business project for Nicaraguan refugee women in los Chiles, a community garden project at a children's center,  agriculture supplies for an indigenous refugee population, and to purchase school and classroom supplies.  

Social justice and cultural

Why go abroad?

Program participants gain new perspectives about cultures, systems, and important topics including globalization, sustainable development, and social justice.   In addition to hands-on experience, students build tolerance, cultural humility, and a broader world view - important skills for all global citizens.  


Internships that support immigrant and refugee integration

VN ABROAD worked in Nicaragua until 2018.  Why did we leave?

The socio-political crisis in Nicaragua that began in 2018, forced thousands of Nicaraguans to seek asylum in neighboring Costa Rica. According to the UNHCR, in February of 2022, there were over 150,000 Nicaraguan refugees and asylum seekers in Costa Rica . The number of Nicaraguans now living in Costa Rica, combined with differing cultural and historical narratives, has contributed to economic difficulties and social tension between Costa Ricans and Nicaraguans. However, VN Abroad is working with  Nicaraguans and Costa Ricans to transform this difficult situation into an opportunity to grow through cross cultural collaboration and exchange. Nicaraguans can learn from a culture of peace; Costa Ricans can learn about the Nicaraguan reality and build cultural competence. National and international students and professionals can contribute ideas, experience, and tools in order to find unified solutions and foster a more integrated society.

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Intensive Spanish language classes

Study Spanish!!

One-on-one and group full-immersion Spanish programs in Upala, Costa Rica

Live with a family in a rural community to maximize the experience!
Cultural activities including cooking and dance
Recreational activities including national parks, forests, waterfalls, and rivers
Community engagement

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New Program! 
Community Health

On-going - Open enrollement for individuals and groups

1 week to 1-month program, open to social and health science majors.

Through community engagement, conversations, and observations, we will gain a greater understanding of the social determinants of health. We will join community leaders and learn about efforts to meet basic needs including housing and nutrition and see long-term improvements in education, household income, and health. We will visit public health clinics to learn about health systems and services. Students will learn to value small actions and basic interventions that can lead to positive health outcomes. We will collaborate with projects for children and families, participate in after-school crafts and sports programs, and tutor English to students. Students will learn about the culture and daily life by living with a homestay family. We will celebrate our experience with the community at a festive party on the last day. Students will also have time to enjoy the natural beauty of Costa Rica