Human Rights in the Americas

Application Information

Classes: May 24 – June 12, 2015 (4 units)

Internships: June 15 ~ July 31, 2015 (4-5 units)

Classes | Internships | Fees & Financial Aid | Housing | Exploring The Area | Travel Information | Testimonials | Contact Us

Mix & Match: After classes in Costa Rica, students with adequate Spanish language skills may undertake an internship placement in Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, Jamaica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, Peru, or Dominican Republic.

Already Enrolled? See Information For Enrolled Students

Classes: Human Rights in the Americas (4 units)

Costa Rica volcano

Site visits include:
*Meeting with union members who are suffering labor rights violations in banana and pineapple plantations
*Meeting with rural communities who lack basic access to clean water
*Traveling by boat to through territories of indigenous peoples
*Participating in a hearing before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

The Costa Rica program in human rights takes advantage of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and numerous human rights organizations which are located in San José, Costa Rica. Our three-week human rights course provides a broad, general overview of the international human rights system, before drilling deeper to explore human rights within the inter-American system.  

The course introduces students to public international law, the origins and scope of the international human rights movement, global enforcement mechanisms and institutions – with a focus on the United Nations human rights system, covering treaty-based and Charter-based human rights institutions. Students examine both the law and politics of regional human rights through the lens of the inter-American system. These international human rights classes are taught in English Monday-Thursday. We also offer Spanish language instruction and a cultural immersion program at no additional charge. The final exam will be administered in-class at the end of the course, and will be a combination of multiple choice questions, short answers, and short essays. Application deadline for classes only is March 24, 2014. Students applying for internships have earlier deadlines (see below).

Internships: Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, Jamaica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, Peru, and Dominican Republic (4-5 units)

Spanish language ability is preferred for some, but not all, of the internships. A quick language evaluation will be arranged where Spanish language proficiency is necessary.

Costa Rica Internships: Representative placements include the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, international organizations & non-profits working in international human rights or international refugee law.

Note: If you are applying for the internship at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, your application and deposit must be received by January 15, 2015.  

Mexico, Panama, Jamaica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, Peru, and Dominican Republic Internships: Student placements include international organizations, non-profit organizations focused on human rights, international refugee law, indigenous people’s rights, or nationality and immigration, as well as private law practice.

If students are interested in a different internship opportunity not listed above, please email Francisco Rivera and he will do his best to match students with an HR organization.

Students gain valuable practical experience by doing legal work under the supervision of a professional in the host country, while integrating into the legal culture of the country, and make invaluable professional contacts. The expectation of an intern is full-time work from the period of the internship (e.g., 40 hours or more a week of supervised legal work). Santa Clara Law requires a minimum of 50 hours of supervised legal work for each internship unit of credit. There is currently a waitlist for applications for classes with internships. 

Fees & Financial Aid

Deposit: A non-refundable deposit of $300 for the class and an additional deposit of $700 for an internship (if applicable)  is required to secure your spot and it is applied to the tuition charge

Tuition: The tuition charge is $1000/unit for J.D. students. LL.M. students should contact us for tuition information.

Financial Aid: US law students are typically eligible for  financial aid to cover tuition, airfare, housing, food, local travel costs and school supplies (click here for more information)


Since housing preferences vary, as do budgets, we ask that students make their own housing choices and arrangements.  Some available choices are listed here.

Home Stays: The Costa Rican Language Academy (CRLA) can arrange for home living placements for all students. Home living can run for any length of time, even for as long as the entire summer (even though the course has ended). Students will be placed in homes depending on the level of their Spanish language fluency. Those who are less fluent will be placed in homes where some English is spoken. If you speak some Spanish, this immersion is an ideal opportunity to gain practical fluency. To arrange for a home stay, you should email and fill out the registration form available on the CRLA website . Home living includes daily breakfast and dinner taken with the family. The cost is very reasonable, about $22 per day for lodging and the two meals. Home living is not required; it is merely offered as one of many options. It is particularly recommended to those seeking to absorb the culture and improve their Spanish language skills. If home living is not for you, or after a trial, students may elect from a range of convenient alternative hotels and hostels. A sample of alternatives is described below.


Hostel Casa Yoses: Very basic and inexpensive, dormitory style rooms (expect to “rough it” at $11 per night – $9 with youth hostel card), including breakfast. Tel (506) 2234-5486 or (506) 2839-2165

Toruma Youth Hostel: Inexpensive: (but we are told, ”nice”). Tel: (506) 224-4085

Bekuo Hostel (one block from classes): Tel: (506) 234-1090 E-mail

Midrange Hotels: (Some visitors have stayed in each of these and had very positive reports. About three blocks from classes. $52-67 per day with up to 15% discount for long term stay. Breakfast included).

Hotel Don Fadrique: Tel: (506) 225-8186
Hotel Le Bergerac: Tel: (506) 234-7850

Exploring The Area

Costa Rica Costa Rica is unique among Latin American countries. It has no standing army. Following the Civil War of 1948-49, the country abolished the army and concentrated its efforts on the education of its citizens. Accordingly, Costa Rica has one of the highest rates of literacy in Latin America.

With its stable, democratic government, fully evolved legal system, and relative prosperity, Costa Rica has become a thriving commercial center, as well as a popular destination for tourists and students. San Jose, the capital city, has also become the hub of human rights activity in Latin America. Located in the city is the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which serves as a host to our program. Other international institutions with headquarters or major offices in San Jose include the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, the Center for Justice and International Law, and the University for Peace, located in the nearby Ciudad Colon. The Costa Rica Language Academy which offers language classes and a cultural immersion experience to our group, attract students from around the globe.

Costa Rica’s lovely beaches, volcanoes, and rain forests have made it one of the prime eco-tourism destinations in the hemisphere. The country is about the size of the state of West Virginia. Over 11% of its land is protected parkland. One may swim in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans on the same day and visit tropical rain forests in between. Our classes allow three-day weekends so participants may enjoy the natural splendor of this beautiful country.

San Jose occupies about 18 square miles in the Central Highlands. It has a population of about 350,000 people. The city is backed by Mt. Irazu, a volcano of 11,260 feet. Due to the benign weather, small farms dot the sides of the volcano almost to its peak.

The weather, though tropical and sometimes rainy in the afternoons, is very agreeable in the Central Highlands where San Jose is located. It becomes much hotter and more humid in the coastal areas.

Travel Information

ACE Insurance/Europ Assistance Information (all students enrolled in the program are covered)
US State Department Tips for Traveling Abroad
US State Department Travel Safety Information
US Department of State Country Specific Information
US Embassies/Consulates
US Department of State: Passport Services
US Department of State Worldwide Caution
Centers for Disease Control Health Information
Costa Rica Program Map
Traveling with Disabilities in Costa Rica


Summer 2014 Student Evaluation: Overall Experience 4.8 (Scale of 1-5, 1=poor, 5=excellent)

“Words cannot describe the gratitude I have for the opportunity to have interned as a legal assistant… in Costa Rica…[My internship] in Costa Rica taught me that life is a collection of experiences that open the mind to new things, different perspectives, and one’s ability to think outside the box.” Brandon Pierce, Charlotte School of Law (2013 & 2014). Read more about Brandon’s experience – Passion in the Law: Interning in Costa Rica with an Unexpected Ending

“Best summer I have ever had.” Katherine K., SCU (2012)

“[I]t was incredible to have class not only at the Human Rights Institute in Costa Rica, but to also spend a week at the Inter American Court and hear presentations on topics relevant to the court by actual attorneys.”  Jazmin V., Albany Law (2012)

“Very interesting subject and incredibly well-taught! Having class at the court was such an amazing experience – ideal location to take International Human Rights …” Nicolet Kirkland, UC Hastings (2009)

 “Overall, this was an incredible experience facilitated by administration and faculty and invaluable to both students going into domestic and international fields.” Anonymous, SCU (2011)

“In my estimation, there is no better place on earth than Costa Rica. Learning from brilliant people about Human Rights law makes it that much better.” Anonymous, Chan College of Law, N.KY. Univ (2011)

Contact Us

Costa Rica Program Directors: Professor Francisco Rivera and Professor Claudia Josi
The Center for Global Law & Policy

Enrollment Limit: 30 students for class