The Leadership Institute: Climate Change in Costa Rica

Explore Costa Rica’s diverse landscapes, vibrant communities, and unwavering commitment to preserving its natural treasures. Join us on this learning journey on climate change and let Costa Rica’s beauty and culture leave an unforgettable mark on your heart and soul.

Deepen your awareness and learn from local communities to take climate action back to your home communities. Participants on this program are required to participate in pre-departure virtual sessions and a post-program community action project in their home communities.

  • Community Service

  • Outdoor Activity

  • Sustainability

  • Wildlife


After your pre-program virtual workshops, embark on an amazing journey through Costa Rica, a land where nature and culture blend in perfect harmony. Your adventure begins in San Jose, the lively capital city, where you’ll explore museums, stroll through bustling markets, and join discussions about climate justice during orientation setting the stage for your eco-friendly expedition.

Explore the wonders of Costa Rica’s pristine wilderness as you travel from the Los Santos Region to the remote Osa Peninsula. Each day offers new opportunities to discover breathtaking landscapes, hike in lush national parks, and immerse yourself in the charm of local communities.

Experience the heartwarming world of Costa Rican communities during a 10-night homestay, where you’ll take part in meaningful community projects, forging bonds and making a positive impact that will linger long after you’ve left.

Hold onto your hat for thrilling adventures, from adrenaline-pumping experiences at Extreme Forest Park to exciting catamaran journeys and snorkeling. Explore the rugged beauty of Corcovado National Park and take on exhilarating canopy tours.

Discover eco-initiatives and sustainable practices, visit an Eolic Park, and witness the mesmerizing magic of sea turtle nesting. This journey is a beautiful blend of nature’s wonders, cultural exploration, and conservation efforts. During your program wrap-up, finalize your community action plan/project for your return home 

After you return home, re-connect with your group virtually after program to report out about your action plan/project.  


The Experiment’s programs are designed to build skills that will help you succeed. In Costa Rica, you will learn: 


  •  Spanish language


  • Resourcefulness  
  • Intercultural communication  
  • Time management  
  • Adaptability 
  • Relationship-building 


  • This is a very active program involving outdoor activities, ecological restoration, and conservation volunteer work. Water activities will include kayaking/canoeing, swimming, and snorkeling.  
  • The program moves throughout the country, including 2 to 5-hour bus trips. Be prepared to carry your luggage up and down stairs and to lift it into overhead storage compartments.  
  • In the summer, Costa Rica is typically hot and humid.  Rainfall varies from constant rain to severe drought – the Pacific Coast tends to be drier, whilst the Caribbean Coast can receive more rainfall. Weather can also be very unpredictable.  
  • Rice and beans, potatoes, pork, and beef are key staples in the Costa Rican cuisine. Chicken and fish are widely available, especially on the Caribbean Coast.   Vegetarians and vegans may need to plan ahead. 
  • Access to the internet is limited, and internet speeds and connectivity vary.  
  • The diverse personal and social identities of participants may, in part, shape their experience abroad. In-country partners will discuss cultural norms and the local context during orientation. Please read our approach to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for further information. All students will have a safe space within the program spaces and with the local staff and group leaders.  
  • The Experiment program structure is rooted in experiential learning and cohort-based learning. The participant group experience is a major source of learning for Experimenters and is facilitated by trained Experiment group leaders.  

Program Eligibility

To be accepted, all prospective Experimenters must have completed their 9th, 10th, 11th, or 12th-grade year but have not yet entered college or university and demonstrate the following admissions criteria through their online application and interview:

  • Motivation to participate in an Experiment program;
  • Ability to work in a group setting (in school or outside of school) with peers and adults from diverse backgrounds;
  • Proven maturity;
  • Open-mindedness and curiosity about Costa Rican life and culture; and
  • Obtain a passport that is valid through at least February 28, 2025.

Leadership Institute applicants must also have:

  • Leadership potential shown through community and/or school involvement;
  • Commitment to participating in virtual pre-program workshops and sessions and a post-program community action project; reliable internet access during the pre-and post-program components; and
  • Demonstrated interest in climate change, climate justice, or conservation and environmental work.
  • Alumni of past Experiment Abroad programs are not eligible for the Leadership Institute.

Our admissions and program staff will manage the interview and selection process. Participants will be selected through a transparent, verifiable process based on demonstrated interests and potential, reference form, and personal interviews. Interviews will focus on the applicant’s interest in and commitment to high-quality leadership, global competency, civic responsibility, community engagement, and their enthusiasm for participating and completing the follow-on programming. Leadership Institute participants who complete the program, including pre-and post-program components, will receive a digital certificate of completion.

Applicants will also be evaluated on the following characteristics:

  • Excellent social and communication skills;
  • An energetic, positive attitude;
  • Group-oriented and ability to work within a diverse team
  • Ability to implement projects that benefit the applicant’s school and/or community;
  • Demonstrated ability to reflect on learning; and
  • Demonstrated potential to follow through with projects and apply what one has learned to new projects, initiatives or plans.

How to Apply

  1. Go to
  2. On the Program Selection page, choose Costa Rica: Climate Change (Leadership Institute) for your first- and second-choice program.
  3. Select a program that is not part of The Experiment Leadership Institute for your third choice. We will consider your application for this third program if you are not accepted to The Experiment Leadership Institute.
  4. The application deadline for the competitive Leadership Institute summer 2024 has passed. We will publish the summer 2025 application deadline in early fall.

Need-Based Leadership Institute Scholarships

All Leadership Institute scholarships are need-based and range from $1,000 to full scholarships covering tuition and international airfare. To be considered for a need-based scholarship, on your online application for admission, please answer “Yes,” to the question, “Would you like to apply for a need-based scholarship?” and complete the need-based scholarship application form emailed to your financially responsible parent/guardian.


Program Availability

Deadline Passed

Program Date

Jul 2 - Jul 25



Program Fee*


(does not include airfare)
Group Airfare Cost


Departure City

Miami, FL

*Program fees may increase by
$500 -$1000 to account for changes
to lodging accommodations.

  • Lodging
  • Meals
  • All program activities
  • In-country transportation
  • Health insurance
  • Experienced group leader

Families or partner organizations are also responsible for arranging and paying for participants' domestic travel to the international departure/return airport in the U.S., whether flying, driving or by other means. By its nature, domestic airfare varies by airline, timing, destination, and availability.

This program is for someone who wants to get out of their comfort zone, learn about another country in the best way possible, and meet other people who are going to change the world. It was an amazing experience, and I am so much better for it!

Sample Itinerary

This itinerary is only a sample and is subject to change. Because of factors such as group size and availability of in-country offerings such as festivals, your experience — including sites visited and the number of days spent in each location — may differ somewhat from the one presented below.

View Itinerary Details


  • Participate in pre-program virtual workshops with your Experimenter group. 
  • Begin brainstorming your community action plan/project. 

Day 1

Program Orientation

  • Meet your Experimenter group at your departure city for program orientation with your group leaders. 

Days 2-3

Travel to Costa Rica and In-Country Orientation in San Jose

  • Begin Orientation with a City Tour, where you’ll explore the National Museum and the Gold Museum, immersing yourself in Costa Rica’s rich cultural heritage. 
  • Enjoy a visit to the vibrant local market and savor a delicious lunch. 
  • Engage in introductory discussions on Climate Justice in Costa Rica, deepening your understanding of local environmental efforts. 
  • Practice your Spanish language skills. 
  • Get to know other members of your group during orientation activities. 

During orientation, you and your group will stay at a centrally-located hotel. 

Days 4-5

Thematic Focus on San Gerardo de Dota

  • Climb inside giant trees and see the majestic of the forest from an aerial perspective. 
  • Explore a private nature reserve and learn about the economics of ecotourism in Costa Rica and the impact on people who care for its natural resources. 
  • Embark on an exciting day at the Extreme Forest Park, enjoying thrilling outdoor activities and adventures in the heart of nature. 

You and your group will stay at a guesthouse/lodge.  

Days 6-15

Homestay and Thematic Focus on La Palma (Osa Peninsula)

  • Transfer to La Palma on the Osa Peninsula, a remote and pristine destination known for its biodiversity. 
  • Enjoy a 10-night homestay experience with local families, immersing yourself in the community’s culture and daily life. Spend quality time with your host families, sharing experiences and building lasting connections. 
  • Volunteer in community engagement projects, contributing to rural development and ecological sustainability. 
  • Experience a rural cultural adventure, including a visit to Palmito, a Gold Tour, and a Trapiche Tour, offering insights into traditional Costa Rican life. 
  • Experience the enchantment of Bioluminescence as you paddle through Costa Rica’s vibrant mangrove forests under the setting sun, witnessing the mystical glow of bioluminescent organisms in the serene waters. 
  • Embark on an excursion to Corcovado National Park, specifically La Sirena, a pristine wilderness teeming with diverse wildlife. 

You and your group will stay with a homestay family. 

Days 16-17

Thematic Focus on Manuel Antonio

  • Hike on an amazing canopy tour in the lush rainforest. 
  • Set sail on a Catamaran Tour, offering snorkeling opportunities and a breathtaking sunset experience. 

You and your group will stay at a guesthouse/lodge.

Days 18-20

Thematic Focus on Ostional

  • Discover one of the beaches with the world’s largest turtle arrivals 
  • Participate in a Turtle Observation Night Tour, witnessing the magic of sea turtle nesting. 
  • Dedicate your day to sea turtle conservation projects, contributing to the protection of these magnificent creatures. 

You and your group will stay at a guesthouse/lodge.

Day 21

Program Reflection & Synthesis in San Jose

  • Reflect with your group on your experiences during program   
  • Enjoy a farewell activity, bowling with your fellow Experimenters. 
  • Plan your community action project for your return home 

You and your group will stay at a centrally-located hotel near the airport. 

Day 22



  • Implement your action plan/project in your home communities.  
  • Reconnect with your group virtually and report out on your action plan/project proposal.  

Past Group Leader

The Experiment’s group leaders go through a rigorous selection process and have extensive experience with youth education, local expertise in the country or region of their program, language abilities, knowledge in their program theme, travel logistics and management know-how, and experience with health, safety and risk management.

Nate Harding

Nate’s life is guided by the following question: How will we evolve our norms, laws, and institutions such that all people define and achieve their own flourishing while living in balance with each other and the planet? This inquiry led them to design a Bachelor’s degree in Education & Community Studies at Davidson College. After completing the degree, Nate traveled the globe as a high school study abroad program leader, where they designed, facilitated, and evaluated community-based experiential learning programs. Nate went on to serve as a consultant and coach at The Bridgespan Group, where they advised nonprofits and philanthropies to clarify their intended impact, improve operating models, strengthen executive teams, and lead organizational change. Nate currently serves as Senior Manager at Social Impact Exchange, where they support a multi-sector network of ~6,000 leaders to co-design, co-fund, and implement initiatives to transform society’s systems toward equity and justice. Nate also serves as a Board Member at Nourish International, fusing passions for youth leadership, organizational development, and systems thinking to support college students driving positive social change across the U.S. When not galivanting around the globe, you can find Nate enjoying the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area, California.