Simple steps to get enrolled into immersion

Adult Immersion Participants -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 1 month after making your deposit
  2. Complete pre-departure paperwork 1 month after making your deposit.
  3. Payment # 1 winter participants DUE OCt. 27. Summer participants DUE March 15th.
  4. Payment # 2 Winter participants DUE Nov 27. Summer participants DUE April 15.
  5. Final payment due (30 days before departure): Dec 27 for Winter participants, May 15 for summer participants.
Check your email!

Check your email and read your official welcome email with next steps! If you did not receive this email send us a message to [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, Spanish classes, volunteer work, 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!


Complete these action items within a month of registering!
  1. Passport: Check your passport and make sure it have 6 months of validity.
  2. Registration form complete: – Teacher Immersion.
    Medical Immersion.
    Adult Immersion.
    Family Immersion.
  3. Pre-departure paperwork: Read, sign, and submit: –Paperwork for medical, teacher, and adult participants.
    Paperwork for Family participants.
  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.


  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. Book your flights! Check with Leslie Foster if interested in a group flight. Airport codes are:
    – UIO (Quito, Ecuador)
    -SJO (San Jose, Costa Rica) and send your flight info to [email protected] along with a copy of your passport.
  3. Payment # 1 DUE (3 months before departure): Oct 27 for Winter participants, March 15 for Summer participants


AND FINALLY…do these!!!
  1. Complete your pre-departure course. This is a required, online course and will set you up for success! –
    Medical Immersion
    Teacher Immersion
    Adult Immersion
    Family Immersion
  2. Placement Exam: Submit 45 days before departure (or earlier) –Exam for Ecuador participants – Exam for Costa Rica participants
  3. Payment # 2 (60 days before departure): Nov 27 for Winter participants, April 15 for Ecuador participants, and April 29 for Costa Rica participants.
  4. Attend 3 online meetings with your trip leaders and participants. Winter Immersion Participant Meetings:
    • Nov. 15
    • Dec. 13
    • Jan. 17
  5. Final Payment DUE – (30 days before departure): Dec 27 for Winter participants, May 15 for summer participants
  6. Optional activities: See info in pre-departure course)

Download this checklist – hang it on your fridge!

Winter Program Checklist

Summer Program Checklist

Flight Information

Ecuador Flight Info

  • Our programs are held in Cuenca, Ecuador, 8 hours south by bus of the capital city Quito.
  • Our recommendation is to fly into Quito (UIO) and avoid Guayaquil.
  • Once you get into Quito (UIO) you have two options…

Option 1: Arrive on Thursday, June 13th for an optional weekend excursion starting off in Quito and travel by private bus with Rory and Leslie down to Cuenca.

On this excursion we will:

  • Friday: Quito City Tour and visit Mitad del Mundo (night in hotel)
  • Saturday: Hop on bus and drive from Quito to Baños de Agua Santa- the gateway to the Amazon basin. View the beautiful and active Tungurahua volcano and soak in the natural hot springs. Several waterfalls to hike. (night in hotel)
  • Sunday: View the impresionante “Pailón del Diablo” waterfall and continue bus ride to Cuenca on the famous Ruta de las Cascadas- a valley with 7 incredible waterfalls
  • Afternoon arrive to Cuenca and meet host families
  • Price of the excursion: TBD

Option 2: Arrive to Quito on Saturday and take a domestic flight to Cuenca (flight is 45 min.) Saturday afternoon meet up with your host family.

Costa Rica Flight Info

  • Our programs are held in Santo Domingo de Heredia. The closest international airport is Juan Santa Maria (SJO), just outside the capital city of San Jose
  • Arrive on a Saturday- your host family will pick you up from the airport
  • If you wish to participate on an optional weekend excursion before your program begins, please arrive into country the Friday before the weekend.
  • We will have an orientation and town tour on your first Sunday of program.

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.
  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 vaccine requirements for Ecuador and Costa Rica?

COVID-19 vaccine is highly recommended by the CDC for international travel, but not required by Common Ground International.
Ecuador – Costa Rica Combo Program: If you’re flying from Ecuador to Costa Rica you DO need a yellow fever vaccine.

Are host families vaccinated?

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 the per person optional excursion costs apply to everyone traveling with me in my family?

Yes, these are per person costs.

Do my children need to take the placement test?

The younger ones, especially if they don’t have any Spanish experience are ok to skip the test.
All teens and adults need to take the test.

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]

On our Saturday arrival, what time do we need to arrive by?

Please try to find a flight that arrives to the airport by or before 9p so that you’re able to get settled into your host family at a decent hour. If you get in too late, we’ll ask you to get a hotel the first night.

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 is transportation back to the airport at the conclusion of my program?

Ecuador: we’ll have some bus trips to take you to the airport.
Costa Rica: you can take an uber or taxi.

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?

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

When should I arrive in Costa Rica?

Home stay weeks run from Saturday to Saturday, but if you want to join us on the weekend excursions you’ll want to check the dates of the excursions and arrive earlier on Friday (we leave on Saturdays for excursions), or leave (late)Monday or Tuesday (we come back from the trips on Monday morning. )

How far in advance do we have to let the host family know if we want an extra day?

As soon as possible. At least 30 days in advance before your trip if possible.

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:

Are rooms shared during excursions?

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

If we aren’t doing an excursion over the weekend, can we hang out at our host family’s house?

For sure!

How many CE or CME credits can we get?

The Medical Immersion program is 20 CME credits. For Nursing it can be as much as 20 CE credits per week.

What is covered in the included travel insurance policy?

This standard policy included in your program covers: emergency and sickness medical expenses, lost baggage, delayed baggage, emergency medical evacuation, accidental death and repatriation of remains. See an example description of coverage here.

How many people are placed in a host family?

The standard rooming arrangement in Costa Rica is 1 person per host family.
The standard rooming arrangement in Ecuador is 2 people per host family.

Are families picking us up and dropping us off at the airport?

The standard arrangement is for your host family to pick you up upon arrival, and then you’ll find your own way back to the airport for your departure.

If we want / need to extend our stay for flight arrangements, can we stay with our host family?

Yes of course, but you should let us know ASAP about your extended stay. Please add the # of additional days here on the Host Family Extra Nights product

How far should I expect to walk each day to and from my host family?

Most host families are within a 20-30min walk to and from our daily meetup points.

How much cash should we carry?

You don’t need a lot of cash day to day, but it’s a good idea to have around $50 equivalent cash on you at all times just in case. Most of your expenses you can take care of with your credit / debit card.

What hotels do you recommend near the airport?

There are some good hotel options near the airports we fly into and out of. Email us for more details and specific suggestions for your program.

Appropriate dress for women-do shoulders need to be covered?

Not necessarily. We have a list of packing and clothing suggestions in the pre-departure course. 

When should we have our name on a volunteer activity?

As soon as possible.

I see optional Aguas Termales for Ecuador but didn’t see that in the sign up. Do we sign up for that later?


Is the first week in Ecuador casual or do I need to dress up? 

For the sight visit it will be professional “work” clothes (nicer pants and a shirt). 

What happens in the evenings?

In Costa Rica we usually have the Spanish lessons in the afternoons (1-5pm). In Ecuador we might have some other activities or optional excursions.

If someone signed up for a volunteer slot, can I add my name under? Or is it one per person?

Yes you can. It’s groups of 2 (or more).

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