Welcome to your Spanish Immersion Program!!!

Welcome to your Spanish Immersion Program!!!

We are so excited for your once-in-a-lifetime journey. This is your program hub and where you can find all the important documents. Bookmark this page; it will be updated frequently as we get closer to departure.

Watch this short video for quick instructions:

What are my next steps? 👣

Mark your calendars with these important dates!
  1. Complete registration form and pre-departure paperwork 1 month after making your deposit.
  2. Dec. 1st – Payment # 1 Due (6 months before departure)
  3. March 1st – Payment # 2 Due (90 days before departure)
  4. May 1st – Final payment due (45 days before departure)
Check your email!

Check your email and read your official welcome email with next steps! If you did not receive this email, email Leslie at [email protected]

Follow the timeline below to complete your pre-departure tasks!

Click on the links below and submit your paperwork! This is imperative for us to have in order to reserve your host family, spot on excursions, purchase your national park tickets and more!

What is the timeline for preparation?

Follow these steps to get ready to launch into immersion. Bookmark this page & check back frequently! Please do not put this off! The absolute latest date to complete the things below is April 1st!


Complete these action items within a month of registering!
  1. Passport: Check your passport and make sure it has 6 months of validity.
  2. Registration form complete
  3. Pre-departure paperwork: Read, sign, and submit
  4. IMPORTANT! Your program includes basic travel medical insurance with trip interruption, delays, lost bags, etc. If you have any uncertainties about your upcoming adventure, it’s a good idea to consider additional travel insurance coverage .If you’re looking for a Cancel for Any Reason policy, we suggest you shop for it here and act quickly as it is often has to be purchased within two weeks of your initial deposit.


(Nov.- Jan.)
  1. Travelers Health: Read what the Center for Disease Control says about traveling to Costa Rica & Ecuador. Make an appointment with your primary care physician if necessary.
  2. Submit 1 character reference letter
  3. Book your flights! Check with Leslie Foster if interested in a group flight. Airport codes are:
    – UIO (Quito, Ecuador)
    -SJO (San Jose, Costa Rica)
  4. Payment # 1 DUE – Dec. 1st


AND FINALLY…do these!!!
(Feb. – May)
  1. Complete your pre-departure course. This is a required, online course and will set you up for success! –Costa Rica Pre-Departure Course(opens in Jan.)Ecuador Pre-Departure Course(opens in Jan.)
  2. Placement Exam: Submit in March (or earlier)
    – Exam for Ecuador participants
    – Exam for Costa Rica participants
  3. Payment # 2 DUE Mar. 1st
  4. Attend 3 online meetings with your trip leaders and participants. April – June
  5. Final Payment DUE – May 1st
  6. Optional activities: Register by June 1st (see info. in pre-departure course)

Download this checklist – hang it on your fridge!

Before You Depart:

  1. Bank: Inform your bank about the card you will be using out of the country to avoid a “card freeze”
  2. Passport: Make 2 copies of your passport. Keep 1 in your backpack and 1 in your main baggage
  3. Flight Itinerary: Print out a paper copy of your flight itinerary, some immigration officials ask to see the paper proof of your return back to the USA
  4. Travel Insurance: Carry a copy of your travel insurance policy with you.
    Ecuador participants: have a copy of your American Alpine Club Global Membership card
  5. Cell phone: inquire about an international data and calling plan from your wireless provider
  6. COVID-19 Test: CGI may require (TBD) you to submit a negative covid test 72 hrs. before departure to [email protected] (It can be an at home test with a witness, a PCR, etc.)
  7. Join the WhatsApp Groups for all Trip communication (you will get the link via email 1 week before departure)
  8. Pack your bags:
    Download Costa Rica Packing List
    -Download Ecuador Packing List

Super Important Program Links (all in ONE place)

Program FAQs

What are the travel health considerations / requirements for Ecuador and Costa Rica?

Costa Rica: Please refer to the CDC’s Travelers Health Recommendations
Ecuador: Please refer to the CDC’s Travelers Health Recommendations
Combo Program: If you’re flying from Ecuador to Costa Rica you DO need a yellow fever vaccine.
CGI COVID requirements: Covid vaccine is recommended by the CDC for international travel, but not required by Common Ground International.

Are host families vaccinated?

Ecuador: yes, all families are vaccinated.
Costa Rica: most families are vaccinated, you can ask to be placed in a vaccinated household.

Does fully vaccinated mean boosted?


Can you sign up for optional excursions before the program begins?

Yes, in fact if it’s an overnight excursion we actually need you to be registered within 30 days of the trip so that we can properly reserve your hotel space.

Where can I find the pre-departure course?

All of the important program links are found here on the welcome page (the page you’re on now).

For weekday optional excursions, do those interfere with our classes?

No, we will be back in time for your afternoon classes.

Do we submit all paperwork via the pre-departure course or can we email it to someone?

You can email your information to Samanta at: [email protected]

Do we need cash before the trip or is it ok with just our credit card?

You don’t need to take a bunch of local currency with you as you travel. Our suggestion is to have some USD on you and to have both a debit card (for ATM use) and a credit card for everyday expenses.
Be sure to check with your banks about international transaction fees so that you’re aware of your costs to use your cards abroad.

Are we going to have WiFi?

Yes, you’ll have regular access to the internet at language school and in most host homes.

When will I know who my host family is?

We usually send out host family info 1-2 weeks before your trip

When is the best day to buy flights?

There may or may not be a “best day” to buy flights but when you search for flights, try using an incognito browser and/or clearing your browser cache. Some airlines have cookies that adjust pricing based on your activity searching.
Use google flights to track pricing and get historical pricing trends.

What happens / can I come in a day early or a day late?

Yes absolutely you can come in early or late. We just need to know your flight details so that we can plan accordingly with your host family.

What type of clothes should I pack?

We cover clothing pretty well in the packing list info of your pre-departure course but here is a brief summary:
Ecuador: Pack in layers. Pants, long sleeves, bring a backpack with you. It usually gets colder at night. 
Costa Rica: prepare for rain in the afternoon, not that many layers, something to keep you dry.
For both countries you’ll want business casual clothing for our volunteer work projects.

Can we bring school supplies as donations?

Yes, absolutely! Local schools and families benefit greatly from school supplies.

What is the laundry situation?

Host families will do laundry for you. You only need around a week worth of clothes cause you’ll be able to wash them.

How buggy is it where we’ll be traveling?

The general rule is that the higher the elevation, the fewer bugs you’ll encounter.
Ecuador: we’re at around 8,000 feet, so the bugs aren’t bad at all.
Costa Rica: we’re at around 4,000 feet and the bugs aren’t bad either.
Your biggest concern is mosquitos, be sure to have bug repellent and proper long sleeves and long pants for dawn and dusk hours in lower elevations (beach, etc).

Has the date for the Isla tortuga day trip been decided? It says TBD.

Isla Tortuga is a one day trip that can easily be scheduled for any day during your visit. 

Is it possible to get a street map of the area where we’ll be in Costa Rica?

You can google “Santo Domingo de Herdia, Costa Rica” in your browser and click on maps and it’ll give you a rough idea of where we will be.

Where do I sign up for excursions and what is the deadline?

We need you to be registered within 30 days of the trip so that we can properly reserve your hotel space. You can find them here: https://commongroundinternational.com/trips/

Are rooms shared during excursions?

Yes, usually rooms are either double or triple (each person has their own bed). 

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