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 2016

Project Summary

In 2016, three MSW students from California State University Los Angeles and California State University Long Beach participated in SWAP's Costa Rica program. Each participant resided with a local host family.

Pre-departure Orientations

Participants attended three mandatory pre-departure orientation in preparation for their six-week internship experience in Costa Rica. The orientations took place on April 24, May 15, and June 26, 2016 and covered the following topics: SWAP background, team building, risk and safety, intercultural dimensions, engaging with hosts, Tico culture, developing academic goals, coping strategies, and logistics. Attendees had the opportunity to engage with previous SWAP participants as well as learn from guest speakers who had previously lived in Costa Rica and spoke on Tico culture and daily life.

Internship Placement Sites

SWAP Costa Rica 2016 participants were placed at PANI (Patronato Nacional de la Infancia), the Costa Rican equivalent to Los Angeles' Department of Children and Family Services. Intern responsibilities included supporting the implementation and evaluation of PANI programs at a school site in the Heredia neighborhood of Guarari.


Participants began their stay in Costa Rica with a home stay orientation organized by La UNA - Universidad Nacional Costa Rica. Interns 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 internship placement site visits.

Accommodations and Meals

All participants resided with a host family in Heredia to learn about local norms and culture. Three host families were connected to SWAP's participants through La UNA in 2016. Participants partook in a welcome breakfast with their host families upon arrival.

Re-entry Support
On September 18, SWAP organized a reunion for participants to continue their learning following re-entry into the United States.  Participants also took part in a research focus group to offer program feedback and to speak on lessons learned from their experiences abroad.