Social Work Abroad Program (SWAP) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization committed to providing international learning opportunities for US-based social work students.

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​​​​​​​​​SWAP Costa Rica 2014

SWAP Costa Rica 2014 participant and instructor interviews (Video credit Beresford B.)

Project Summary

During the summer of 2014, eight first year MSW students from California State University Los Angeles and California State University Long Beach participated in SWAP's Costa Rica pilot. Each participant resided with a local host family and was matched to one of eight unique internship opportunities in or nearby Heredia.

Pre-departure Orientations

Participants attended three mandatory pre-departure orientations in preparation for their six-week internship experience in Costa Rica. The orientations took place on April 26, May 17, and June 28, 2014 and covered the following topics: SWAP background, team building, fundraising ideas, risk and safety, engaging with hosts, Tico culture, developing academic goals, research projects, intercultural values and dimensions, coping strategies, and logistics. Attendees had the opportunity to engage with and learn from four speakers who had previously lived in Costa Rica and spoke on Tico culture and daily life.

Internship Placement Sites

Intern responsibilities at their placements sites varied depending on the needs and expectations of their internship assignments. SWAP Costa Rica 2014 placement sites included the following: Equidad y Participacion Ciudadana, Navegacion de Pacientes, Programa Actividad Fisica, Ministerio de Educacion, Psicomotricidad Infantil, Heredia Ciudad Cultural, Programa de Atencion Integral de la Persona Adulta Mayor, and Produccion de Vainilla.


Participants enjoyed an orientation period through their initial week in Costa Rica which included a welcome lunch with host families and a meeting with officials of La UNA - Universidad Nacional Costa Rica. Interns were assigned to supervisors at each local field placement site and partook in evening seminars with SWAP's US-based social work team who facilitated meetings designed to deepen the group's learning and understanding of their experiences abroad. This team additionally provided logistical support as needed and conducted site visits at intern placements.

Accommodations and Meals

All participants resided with a host family in Heredia to learn about local norms and culture. Five pre-screened host families supported SWAP's program in 2014 and one to two participants were assigned to each home. Participants partook in both welcome and farewell celebrations with their host families.