SOU students to study Blue Zone in Costa Rica

SOU offers study-abroad opportunity to Costa Rican “Blue Zone”

Southern Oregon University will offer an innovative study-abroad opportunity in Costa Rica this summer that explores the intersection of health, longevity, culture and the environment. The program focuses on the Central American country’s “Blue Zone” on the Nicoya Peninsula – one of a handful of locations worldwide where residents’ life expectancy is highest.

Students who participate in the trip, from July 21 through Aug. 18, will be eligible to earn a total of six academic credits in two core courses – Health and Longevity (HE 399) and Environmental Health (HE 331). They will study the factors that contribute to healthy aging – from diet to community engagement – and also will engage with local communities, visit historical sites and experience Costa Rica’s rich cultural heritage.

The application deadline for the Costa Rica program, which will cost $4,725 for SOU students, is April 15.

SOU classes offer Blue Zone exploration in Costa RicaThe trip is being coordinated through SOU’s Study Abroad program and is offered in partnership with Academic Programs International, an independent study abroad provider that offers academic opportunities in more than 20 countries worldwide.

Financial aid options, including scholarships totaling $4,000 from Academic Programs International, are intended to make the program accessible to students from diverse backgrounds. Non-degree-seeking students and those from other universities are also eligible to participate.

The trip will include excursions to the 11,000-foot Volcán Irazú, Costa Rica’s highest volcano; the famous Monteverde cloud forest; and several days on the Nicoya Peninsula and National Park Reserve. There will also be opportunities for city walking tours, a visit to an organic farm, a local dance class, surf lessons and a cooking class.

Students will immerse themselves in Costa Rican culture through host-families, while exploring Costa Rica as a living classroom with a strong global reputation for health, happiness and environmental protection. Participants will practice experiential and service-based learning, and will learn evidence-based practices in health and wellness as they study the Nicoya Peninsula’s Blue Zone.

The original five Blue Zones – in Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California – identified populations that are among the healthiest and longest-living in the world. The practices of inhabitants have been studied to find common keys to healthy aging, including a sense of community, culture, diet, lifestyle, activity, religion and agriculture.

Most centenarians on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, for example, have a strong sense of purpose, focus on their families, maintain their social networks, continue to practice physical chores and remain relatively free of stress by embracing their common traditions. They enjoy light dinners – typically of squash, corn and beans – early in the evening, take in vitamin D through sensible sun exposure and drink water that is high in calcium.

Those who are interested in the Costa Rica program are encouraged to contact Crystal Stroud, an SOU adjunct instructor in Health, Physical Education and Leadership, at