Who is eligible to join the Changemaker Sprint program?

This program is aimed for people taking a gap year or time off to discover themselves and their passions. While in most cases this implies students taking a year off between high school and university, participants can also be taking time off from college or simply searching for the right next step.  In simple terms, being a ‘changemaker’ is the idea that you can have a positive impact on the world while supporting yourself financially. Participants will be living in Costa Rica and learning Spanish during the experience. English language proficiency is required for this program.

What are the benefits of Changemaker Sprint?

The Changemaker Sprint experience immerses participants in the world of social entrepreneurship and allows them to take the first steps in becoming changemakers. We believe that this transformative experience involves development in the skillset and mindset of participants. The development of one’s skillset involves identifying the ‘right’ issue for you and then building a financially sustainable business or organization. The mindset is seeing yourself as someone who cares about issues facing the world and becoming the type of person who has the confidence to take action. 

How will this program prepare participants for college?

Changemaker International is dedicated to giving participants between high school and college a transformational experience. A large body of research supports the idea that students who spend time learning in an unfamiliar culture return home with a clearer sense of purpose and stronger motivation for achieving academic and career goals. They go on to earn higher grades in college and are quicker to graduate. In addition, our unique approach will give participants the tools to persevere through adversity, identify the lessons inherent in challenges, and build meaningful relationships.

How are we different?

Changemaker Sprint gives participants real-world experience with a social enterprise, and creates real agents of change by equipping participants with the necessary skill-set and mindset to establish a social enterprise and solve a meaningful social problem. Participants also earn a certification from the UPeace Centre for Executive Education (www.centre.upeace.org). 

What is the profile of a typical Changemaker Sprint participant?

Participants who embark on the Changemaker Sprint program are interested in experiencing another culture and can articulate their interest in being leaders for positive change. While reviewing applications, we  look for the qualities of empathy, open-mindedness and an interest in taking action. Participants do not need to have any specific background or skills to join. They do need to have conversational English language fluency.

What will participants accomplish by the end of the program?

By the end of the Changemaker Sprint, participants will have gained important introspective knowledge of themselves, their strengths and their deepest passions in life. Participants will be asked to complete a high level business plan for a real-life organization that they plan to develop to address the social issue they find most pressing. They will also have recorded a 60-second elevator pitch and developed a 10-minute presentation for their proposed solution.  

We think that some of the greatest impact comes from the non-academic aspects of the program. These include being exposed to a new culture and language, interacting very closely with participants from different nationalities, being inspired by stories from actual social entrepreneurs who have turned their dreams into reality, and being stimulated by our carefully chosen field visits and internships.

How many students are attending the program?

We limit the enrollment to less than 18 participants in order to ensure a personalized experience. For our weekly workshops, we are committed to keeping the student/facilitator ratio at a level that allows us to maintain a personalized level of interaction.

How is the U.N. mandated University for Peace involved?

The University for Peace’s Centre for Executive Education is the academic partner for the program. The University for Peace was established in 1980 by the United Nations and currently has students from approximately 50 countries. Participants in Changemaker Sprint will be enrolled in UPEACE’s Centre for Executive Education and will take an online course titled: Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Social Change. By successfully completing this course, participants will earn a certificate of completion from the UPEACE Centre for Executive Education.

How safe is Costa Rica?

Costa Rica was ranked the safest country in Latin America in 2011 and has a long tradition of stable democracy. The country has not had military since 1948 and prides itself on its peaceful nature. Our on the ground team has extensive experience working with international student groups in Costa Rica.

Ciudad Colon, where students will live, is a small, tranquil town. Though petty theft is still a threat and we advise students to take taxis after dark instead of walking, crime rates in the town are quite low and people are out and about in local parks and the town center well into the evening.

Why is this taking place in Costa Rica?

The program is taking place in Costa Rica because it is a model country for sustainable development, peace, and social innovation. The country has been a democracy for over 120 years and abolished its army in 1948. Additionally, adult literacy rate is over 90% and poverty has been reduced by 55% in the last 29 years. Costa Rica was also ranked safest country in Latin America in 2011. It is also the home of the United Nations-mandated University of Peace’s Centre for Executive Education, the academic partner for this program.

Where in Costa Rica will I be living?

In Costa Rica you will be living with a host family identified by our staff as being warm, welcoming and representative of the local culture. Your Costa Rican family will be located in the town of Ciudad Colon, within 7 km from the UPEACE university campus, which is about a 30-minute drive from San Jose International Airport.

How do the homestays work ?

Your homestay family will host you for the duration of the Changemaker Sprint program. You will have your own bedroom and will be provided two meals per day. All our homestays are within walking distance from the town of Ciudad Colon, which is about 7 km from the University for Peace.

The host families we work with have been selected carefully. Our host families They know what our students expect from their home-stays and are families that mirror the famous hospitality of Costa Ricans. Participants and their hosts will learn a lot by living together.

Host families will offer breakfast and dinner daily, and in some cases there may be more than one exchange student living in the household.

What if I have food restrictions?

If you have any special dietary restrictions, please let us know and we will make sure you’re assigned to a family that is aware of your dietary restrictions. In addition, Costa Rica offers many local options to eat out, and supermarkets where you’ll find a wide variety of foods. 

How much does the program cost?

The 8-week Changemaker Sprint programs costs $6,950. It includes Spanish lessons, the internship placement, weekend trips, weekly workshops, and the online course with the UPEACE Centre for Executive Education. Lodging with a local family and two meals/day are also included in this cost.

Is there any financial aid?

Changemaker International offers a limited number of $500 scholarships. You can apply for financial aid at the same time that you complete your program application here

Students are encouraged to look for other sources of financial aid. The American Gap Year Asssociation http://www.americangap.org/financial-aid.php publishes some inspiring examples of ways students can fund their experience.

How are the internships designed?

Changemaker International has hand-picked social enterprises that offer meaningful work experience for our target audience. In most cases we have met with the founders of these organizations to develop the internship options carefully.  Our team will work closely with participants to ensure that their social enterprise internship is a meaningful experience. See internship examples here.

What happens if I fall sick?

There is a medical doctor and a nurse on the campus of the University for Peace. If a student becomes ill, the program manager, host families, and parents will be informed and necessary medical attention will be given. In case of severe illness, a student’s medical insurance will be utilized and appropriate solutions implemented. CIMA, one of the best private hospitals in Costa Rica, is located just a 15-minute drive from Ciudad Colon. Students will also be given the phone number of a 24-hour doctor in Ciudad Colon in case of an emergency.

Do I need personal spending money?

We recommend each student bring USD 300-500 spending money per month in order to cover extra expenses related to meals (students are responsible for their lunch each day), evening and weekend outings, extra transport, toiletries etc.

What if I don’t speak Spanish?

Knowledge of the Spanish language is not a requirement. The program is administered in English, though you will learn Spanish as part of your experience. During the first week of your stay, the orientation week language placement tests will be organized in order to make sure everybody can fully benefit from the right level of language instruction.

What if I already speak Spanish?

If participants already speak Spanish, their knowledge of the local language and national idioms of Costa Rica will help them considerably in their integration and cultural immersion in the country. The participants will be able to enroll in French and/or Portuguese language classes instead of Spanish.  

What if I have never left my home country?

Leaving home for the first time is a brave endeavor. Once you arrive, you will be greeted by several other students in your same situation. By the end of the program, we’re confident that Costa Rica will feel like a ‘second home’ to you. 

How will my days be structured?

A typical week in the Changemaker Sprint program is shown below. For more information on the elements of the program, click here.


What can I do for fun?

Costa Rica offers a wide variety of rural and cultural tourism, but also eco and adventure attractions. During both short and long term programs, weekend trips are planned for participants.

Some options include: Visiting the Monteverde Cloud forest, Volcano Irazu, Manuel Antonio National Park, and Nacientes Palmichal.  Sports and dance classes can also be taken independently in Ciudad Colón, where you will be living. 

How do I get around in Costa Rica?

Transportation in Costa Rica is quite easy . Frequent, inexpensive and safe buses can lead you from one place to another.  Local taxis are also available, and are very safe. 

How do we measure success?

We think of success at several levels. The first is the social innovation mindset participants will gain from the program, including the confidence to tackle a real-world problem with a thoughtful approach. Participants will be inspired by stories from actual social entrepreneurs who have turned their dreams into a reality. Second, they will have learned first-hand from participating in an internship at a social enterprise. They will also gain a global mindset from being exposed to a new culture, and interacting very closely with their host families and participants of different nationalities.

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