All U of M students are welcome to apply!

  • What: Two-week work-study 
  • Where: Rural Costa Rica
  • When: Winter break
  • Who: Any University of Minnesota student 
  • Counts toward: Talk with your advisor to find out whether this experience will apply to any of your credit requirements. 
  • Apply: The application period will open late August/early September 


Apply Here (link active early fall semester)

What is Pura Vida?

The ubiquitous Costa Rican mantra "pura vida" suggests that, here, we live the "good life."

The Pura Vida Learning Abroad experience happens during winter break in San Ramon and Palmares, Costa Rica. Students and faculty from a variety of disciplines take on a community project while exploring the corners and culture of this fascinating blue-collar regional center in Alejuela province.

We'll pursue our academic projects by day, share our learning at night, and together take in the cultural immersion that is uniquely Costa Rica: the rain forest, salsa dancing, coffee, and Manuel San Antonio Park on the Pacific coast.

Visit the Pura Vida website (link active fall semester) for details and to apply to the program.

Pura vida!

Students Share Their Pura Vida Experience

A Brief History

Program leader and Construction Management faculty director Peter Hilger has been leading the Pura Vida Learning Abroad group since its inception in 2014:

"At the suggestion of a CMGT alumnus, Dustin Dresser (CCE '08), who lived and worked in San Ramon (and subsequently married a tica), I started the program in 2014 with six construction management students. Dustin had started an agency, CostaRicaFrika, connecting international students with local cultural immersion programs and had connections to potential organizations we could serve. We worked with a small, local rural development agency developing a proposal (design/cost/schedule) for converting an abandoned police station into a center for computer training for local residents of Piedades Norte. Though the project was never built, the success of that initiative for both the student experience and the benefit to agencies of need became the model for subsequent programs. 

In fact, in 2015, we made a proposal for a local orphanage to expand—in local currency, in metric, and in Spanish. The proposal was subsequently submitted to a state agency that placed it into the lottery system for development funds, and our proposal was accepted and subsequently built, nearly identically to our proposal.

Over the years, we hosted 117 students, completing proposals for a medical clinic, the local senior citizens' home, a men's shelter, a women's cancer recovery center, and a disability services provider, as well as providing field experiences for Integrated Behavioral Health graduate students. We continue to this day to find local projects for agencies of need and, with a team of interdisciplinary students, developing comprehensive proposals for the organizations while assisting local agencies with behavioral health interns."

Pura Vida 2024

Video: Fabián Trejos, General Manager of AGECO - Asociación Gerontológica de Costa Rica (Costa Rican Gerontological Association), speaks about the experience of working with the University of Minnesota Pura Vida Learning Abroad program.
The interdisciplinary group of students included majors in construction management, health services management, multidisciplinary studies, kinesiology and Carlson school of management. Their task: to address identified problem areas to assure continued service delivery as well as propose innovative ideas for new offerings and revenue generation as AGECO looks to the future.
The board and management of AGECO were very pleased with the presentation and expressed their heartfelt gratitude to the faculty and team for the opportunity to receive such a detailed, innovative, mission centered, and professional consult. 
The group was mentored by University of Minnesota instructors Peter Hilger, faculty director of the Construction Management program, and Frances Fernandez, faculty director of the Health Services Management program, who couldn’t be prouder of the caliber of work, passion, and professionalism presented by the students in just a short two weeks!
English translation:
Fabián Trejos: At AGECO we really feel very satisfied with the work carried out by this team of (students) professionals from the University of Minnesota, who have made a very valuable contribution to our organization. They managed to address many issues in a very short time and with very detailed and appropriate proposals to the issues that we are facing. These will be very useful to improve the performance of the organization and ensure that AGECO can provide a better service to the adult and aging populations of Costa Rica. They were able to address issues with our infrastructure, physical therapy business venture, marketing recommendations, web and social media accessibility for our clients, among others. Their proposals were very detailed including costs and we're very pleased."
Peter Hilger : I am so proud of them, for them to accomplish as much as they did in two weeks is absolutely incredible. This was a particularly cohesive team and they were able to work very closely together to accomplish the goals. And maybe we bring another team again next year, who knows? We've got other problems we can solve.
Frances Fernandez : I feel very fortunate and proud to have had the opportunity to be here as an instructor, to be with the students and the beautiful people of AGECO and the Ticos (this is what Costa Rican people are called) who are so friendly, with so much human warmth. I am with Pura Vida!  (which translates to simple/pure life - which is much more than just a saying in Costa Rica, it is a way of enjoying living - more importantly it is their way of life).

AGECO also added the following message:

On behalf of the Costa Rican Gerontological Association (AGECO), its board of directors and populations served, we thank each student once again for the work carried out during these two weeks, as the determination and dedication with which they addressed each topic has been evident. Based on the proposals made, AGECO will continue working for dignified and active aging for the country's older adults.  
AGECO is a non profit organization focused on providing social services for adults 45+ as well as specialty services for 65+.  AGECO 's mission centers on sensitivity and dignity on aging to promote an active, productive and quality filled aging experience as well as defend the human rights of the elderly population.  Founded in 1980 and providing (mostly free) in person as well as online services for their aging clients, AGECO has locations in Liberia, Alajuela and main offices located in San José.