​SWAP Costa Rica (Heredia) is not presently available.  Please visit our SWAP Costa Rica (Guanacaste) page for information about our current program!​​

​​​​​​​​​​​​​SWAP Costa Rica (Heredia)

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

Project Summary

During the summers of 2014-2016, MSW students and recent graduates from California State University Los Angeles and California State University Long Beach participated in SWAP Costa Rica. Each participant resided with a local host family and was matched 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 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 guest speakers who had previously lived in Costa Rica and spoke on Tico culture and daily life.

Internship Placement Site

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.

SWAP Costa Rica 2015 participants were placed at school internship sites. Intern responsibilities included designing and executing supplemental programs for two schools in the Heredia neighborhood of Guarari. Interns presented their program designs to La UNA - Universidad Nacional Costa Rica.

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 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. Pre-screened host families supported SWAP's program and one to two participants were assigned to each home. Participants partook in both welcome and farewell celebrations with their host families.​

Re-entry Support
Following program completion, SWAP organizes a reunion for participants to continue their learning following re-entry into the United States.  Participants have also taken part in research focus groups to offer program feedback and to speak on lessons learned from their experiences abroad.

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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.