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Costa Rica Biomedical Science Semester

Join us in the Fall 2015 semester for a unique educational experience designed to give upper level pre-med, pre-vet and other pre-health students the chance to study and travel abroad while keeping up with their rigorous course of study.

How would you like to take required "core" courses in a tropical rain forest? Take some key electives and study Spanish while at the beach? Take courses with only 10 other students? Explore volcanoes and jungles with top flight faculty? If any of this sound good to you, this program may be right for you.

Almendros y Coral

Students will receive an in depth introduction to Costa Rican and Latin American health, conservation, culture, and nature, then learn and use Spanish through a combination of classes and home stays. Immunology and Biochemistry will be taught with a "Latin flavor" to show how these sciences are applicable to Costa Rica and the world outside the classroom. Students will visit a local school and learn about the health and diet issues facing Latin America, then follow it up with a field trip to a national park and night walk on the beach looking for endangered sea turtles. Wouldn't you like to have a working knowledge of Spanish and so many new experiences to write about on your next big application?

Dates for 2015 (Approximate)

  • Last week in August: Students arrive in San Jose, Costa Rica and begin their academic program
  • Middle of December: Students free to depart from San Jose, Costa Rica
Rincon Vieja

Student Life

The course will be based at the Soltis Center where students will eat three cafeteria-style meals a day live in shared dorm accommodations. The program itinerary is created to intersperse intense periods of lectures and exams with multi day trips and field excursions to ensure that the basic lecture material is covered while still finding time to explore the unique opportunities available in Costa Rica. We will also do a quick trip in to Nicaragua to explore and appreciate the similarities and differences among Latin American nations. Students will learn about Costa Rican culture, daily life and health care decisions through a series of homestays with families in distinct areas of the country. Throughout the first half of the semester the course will be traveling during the weekends and time will be included for relaxation and exploration of beaches, forests, towns, and cities. In the last part of the semester some weekends will be free and students will be able to travel to destinations of their choice or just relax and explore the jungles and farms around the Soltis Center. Students will be free during Thanksgiving Break to travel in Costa Rica on their own or return to the USA.

The Soltis Center

The Soltis Center for Research and Education is a Texas A&M owned and operated facility which opened in 2009. The modern facilities of the center include dorms, a cafeteria and multiple use area, labs, classrooms, internet access, and a video conference room, all wheel chair accessible, along with more than 250 acres of primary and second growth tropical rain forest. The forests host diverse plant, bird, and amphibian communities which provide a wide array of educational and research opportunities. The closest community, San Juan de Peñas Blancas, is just five minutes away from the center, where approximately 50 families form a close knit community reliant mostly on subsistence farming. The land owners around the center are an eclectic mix of US expatriates and native Costa Ricans who are using their land for sustainable agriculture, forestry, organic farming, cattle grazing, tourism and other micro enterprises. The center is about 30 minutes from the popular tourist destinations of La Fortuna, Arenal Volcano and Arenal Lake.

Excursions

Close Encounters

Close encounters with wildlife are always possible.

The course will make extensive use of the unique opportunities available in Central America. Most of the course will be held in Costa Rica, where we will visit the full range of sites from small local towns to the bustling capital of San Jose. We will also have a brief trip to Nicaragua where we will go from beaches, to towns, to the capital of Managua. This will provide a wonderful contrast to Costa Rica and provide students with a much broader appreciation of Latin America. Field excursions will be closely integrated with the course material and will be an integral part of all courses. The list of sites to visit still being decided and will be posted here in Fall 2013.

We will also have some purely recreational outings including trips to hot springs resorts, snorkeling, zip lines, and relaxing on a variety of beaches.

Prerequisites

The course is designed for pre-med, pre-vet or other pre-health profession students and students from any major can participate.

  • Minimum 2.0 GPA
  • Instructor approval
  • Junior or Senior Standing (recommended)

Courses

One Health and Ecology in the Tropics VTPB 489

3 credit hours | Dr. Donald Brightsmith

Students will learn to look at landscapes through a "One Health" lens which integrates human, animal and ecosystem health. We will also explore the richness and beauty of the complex and sometimes bizarre ecosystems of the tropics through trips to national parks, tourist lodges, and conservation projects. By the end of the course will be able explain how key biological concepts relate to biodiversity conservation and ecosystem health and how these in turn influence human and animal health. Students will also be able to identify key inhabitants of these systems and their roles in ecosystems and disease transmission including birds, amphibians, monkeys, and other mammals. Students will be able to describe the key threats to tropical ecosystems and how these threats can be reduced or eliminated. Students will also monitor local media and report to the class on current events related to human and animal health and the environment in Costa Rica and Latin America.

Biomedical Microbiology VTPB 405

5 credit hours | Dr. Jeffrey Musser

This course will explore the basic fundamentals of bacteriology, mycology, virology, infectious diseases, immunology, biosafety, and identification of microorganisms. Upon completion of this course the student will be able to answer questions such as: how are microbes important for health and disease?; what are they and what are their normal environments?; what do they do?; do they different between Texas and the tropics?; how do environmental changes influence them?; and others. The laboratory portion is designed to provide hands-on experience and to reinforce basic principles of microbiology, while taking advantage of the uniqueness of the Costa Rica environment and the proximity of special industries where microbiology is integral: milk processors, dairies, backyard farms, breweries, citrus plantations, universities, etc. This course is designed to be a rigorous training program in microbiology, while being flexible in scope to embrace the special learning environment and natural laboratories offered by the Soltis Center and Costa Rica.

Biomedical Genetics BIMS/GENE 320

3 credit hours | Dr. Paul Samollow

This course will provide the fundamentals of genetics needed by all pre-health students, while taking advantage of examples of human, domestic animal and wild animal genetics found in our host country. Traditional lectures will be supplemented by field trips and discussions to ensure that students see genetics as an integral part of the world around us. By the end of this course, students will be familiar with the basic principles of genetics including gene structure, gene regulation, genetic variation, inheritance mechanisms, genetic disease, epigenetic disease, ethical issues related to genetics, population genetics, and conservation genetics.

Biomedical Writing VIBS 310

1 credit hour | Kevin Curley

Our goal is to enhance your understanding of the mechanisms by which knowledge is shared amongst researchers, clinicians and scientific professionals as well as how science is communicated to the public.

This course is designed to help you

  • Strengthen your general writing skills
  • Establish a foundation for continuing to develop your writing skills
  • Increase your ability to do the writing required of biomedical science students, biomedical scientists, and health professionals
  • Learn more about Costa Rica through your reading and writing

These goals will be pursued largely through video lectures, online discussions, and a variety of writing assignments on topics specific to the work and travel we are doing in Costa Rica. This course will be taught predominantly online however, Mr. Curley will travel to Costa Rica and work directly with the students mid-semester.

International Medical Communication VTPB 303

2 credit hours

The goal of this course is to introduce students to Costa Rican culture and cultural communication through experiential learning (field trips, homestays, institutes, museums, independent travel, volunteerism), readings from the primary and popular literature, and presentations by local people and academics. The course will have frequent group discussions about the readings, presentations, and activities to encourage students to explicitly analyze the cultural context in which they are working. Students will be asked to compare and contrast the Costa Rican culture and health care systems with those of the USA. Faculty and students with experience in other cultures will be encouraged to compare and contrast their experiences in Costa Rica in order to allow students to better understand Latin American culture as a whole. Students will also look at the cultural differences and cultural issues between the native Costa Ricans and the US expatriates living in Costa Rica. Topics such as medical tourism, rural medicine, veterinary care, water quality, and public opinions of conservation will also be investigated.

Spanish

Level depends on your ability | 3 transfer credits available | CPI Language Institute

Regardless what your level of Spanish language is today, from beginner to native speaker, it will be better by the end of this program. All students will participate in a four week Spanish course which combines 3 - 4 hours a day of formal classes and home stays with local families to ensure that students learn and use the language. Advanced students can study medical Spanish or literature to help take their language skills to the next level. The first two weeks of class are in Heredia, a safe and popular suburb just a short bus ride from the center of the Costa Rican Capital, San Jose. The last week will be in Flamingo, a small ocean-side side town which overlooks the sandy beaches and blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. During afternoons we will continue with microbiology lectures and labs alternated with cultural activities or educational activities like visits to local health clinics, lectures from local experts, or volunteer work; and of course free time to explore San Jose and relax on the beach. More information on CPI Spanish Language Institute can be found at http://www.cpi-edu.com/.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Since this is a full TAMU program, all previously existing financial aid can be used on this program.

Additional scholarships specifically for study abroad will be made available starting in Fall 2013. For more information contact Larry Komrower (lkomrower@exchange.tamu.edu) at the Study Abroad Office.

Cost

These costs will change

The following costs are based on schedules from previous semesters and are intended for general guidelines only. These costs WILL CHANGE. New and more accurate costs will be posted during Fall 2014.

Estimated Program Fee (subject to change) - billed to university account $11,600
Accommodations, Most meals, Excursions & other Program Related Expenses $6,300
In Country Transportation $1,200
CISI International Health Insurance $125
Study Abroad Administrative Fee $510
Miscellaneous Program Expenses (tips, wire transfers, other) $1,465
Additional Expenses - not included in program fee $6,685
Tuition & Fees (in-state resident for 13 credit hours $4,250
International Airfares $800
Travel Documents (passport and visa if needed) $135
Some Meals (those not included in program fee) $1000
Textbooks & Supplies $500
Personal Spending Varies
Total Estimated Cost $18,285

 

Dancing

Dancing is an important part of Costa Rican culture.