Costa Rica Veterinary Experience

Spend your next spring break exploring a renowned wildlife rehabilitation center and going behind-the-scenes at one of the most famous dog sanctuaries in the world.

During your week in the picturesque mountains of Costa Rica, you’ll learn about typical stray animal care procedures, practice your clinical skills, and enjoy walks with the dogs.

Prepare for the future

At Costa Rica Veterinary Experience, you get the chance to contribute to the vital efforts of respected animal care facilities as you learn from the experts that run them. That means you can look forward to:
  • Participating in clinical lab rotations to practice skills like using the microscope to conduct ear & skin cytologies
  • Creating post-surgery care plans for dogs recovering from procedures, including spay and neuter surgeries
  • Honing your clinical skills, including taking stray animal histories and safe handling and restraint techniques

By attending Costa Rica Veterinary Experience, you can earn up to 30 veterinary hours, a required part of every vet school application.

2024 Program Dates & Tuition

Full for 2024

What’s Included

Local meals


10:1 Teaching Vet-to-Student Ratio

Up to 30 veterinary hours

Round trip airfare*

*Roundtrip airfare from the designated international airport hub is included. Any travel costs from your location to that hub are not included.

Program Highlights

Emergency Vet Med

Shadow a teaching veterinarian for the duration of the program as you learn about emergency care procedures like suturing wounds, proper animal handling technique, and specialized diet preparation.

Animal Rehabilitation

Learn what it takes to practice long-term care for animals that have been the victim of wildlife trafficking or who otherwise need care, including for special species like toucans, spider monkeys, porcupines, and kinkajous.

Cultural Immersion

After a full day of learning, you can look forward to a fun, culturally enriching group activity, from taking a dance lesson with a local instructor to a Spanish trivia game to an art project inspired by the motifs of Costa Rica.

Arenal Volcano and Hot Springs

Arenal is an active volcano that provides fertile soil for the highly biodiverse habitat surrounding it. Here you’ll practice your animal identification skills and have a chance to swim in the natural hot springs.

Your Adventure, Day by Day

Day 1

Arrival in Houston

  • Registration at a hotel nearby the George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
  • Group introductions and welcome dinner

Day 2

Journey to Costa Rica

  • Group flight with chaperone from IAH to Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO)
  • Introduction to teaching veterinary staff
  • Orientation and welcome dinner

Day 3

Welcome to the Land of Strays

  • Orientation and group hike through the sanctuary grounds
  • Safe Handling and Restraint Techniques
  • Anatomy Terminology Practice
  • Game Night

Day 4

Land of Strays Sanctuary

  • Hike with the dogs
  • Small Animal Behavior Workshop
  • Canine Medicine Lecture and Lab
  • Cultural Art Project

Day 5

Welcome to Rescue Center Costa Rica (RCCR)

  • Orientation and tour
  • Discussion on Wildlife Rescue and Release
  • Training on Role of Enrichment in Veterinary Medicine
  • Salsa Night

Day 6

Learning Rotations at RCCR

  • Students will be assigned an animal as they rotate through different stations at RCCR to observe, plan, and build enrichment for their assigned animal. Learning rotations may include:
    • Animal Care Team
    • Sloth Team
    • Clinical Team
    • Enrichment Team
  • Trivia Night

Day 7

Excursion to Arenal Volcano and Hot Springs

  • Group transport to Arenal Volcano National Park
  • Option to swim in hot springs
  • Nature Hike: Animal Identification Practice
  • Game Night

Day 8

Departure Day

Please Note: The events included on this itinerary are subject to minor changes before your program.

Image Gallery

What some of our students and their parents are saying…

Dr. Marisa was such a good teacher and vet. She worked with all of us as individuals and I truly felt she cared.”

My experience in Costa Rica was eye-opening, insightful, and enriching. I now feel more confident in my future academic ventures.”

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For the safety of students, staff, and animals, not all animals may be touched or handled by participants. The teaching veterinarian and other professional staff members will advise students of the proper time, place, and method to handle animals when it is safe to do so.