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PUERTO RICO - ISEP University of Puerto Rico: Rio Piedras

A Tropical Paradise for Spanish Speakers

Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island located south of Florida and east of the Dominican Republic. It is famous for its diverse tropical landscape, beautiful beaches and coral reefs, warm Caribbean climate, salsa music, and most importantly the friendly and hospitable people. 

Trying to decide if a city is a place for you to study? Check out the University of Puerto Rico – Rio Piedras, located in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. Enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Caribbean island, alongside parks and historic landmarks; it’s hard to get around this city without walking by a piece of history. When you’re not immersing yourself in the culture of the city, you’ll be studying at the largest and oldest university in Puerto Rico, learning Spanish!

This program is best for a student that is independent.  A student must be comfortable with advocating for themselves on campus and comfortable with the local language to thrive in this location. Please be aware that there may not be the same access to internet or amenities to which you may be accustomed.  Student services and especially class registration may not be at all similar to what is done at the College and may be difficult for some students to adjust.

Learn more about the University of Puerto Rico: Rio Piedras here! Read the ISEP Country Handbook to learn more about visa requirements, educational system, and culture.

Experiences of Former Students


“The most positive thing about my experience was my extremely improved fluency in Spanish, wrapping my mind around “forgotten” vocabulary, and of course the overwhelming hospitality of Puerto Ricans. Many speak both Spanish and American English flawlessly and are willing to speak whatever you prefer - their English abilities come in handy in emergency situations where you cannot afford misunderstandings - it was perfect.” – Anders Thammawat Birkedal Pedersen, Aalborg University

To be eligible to participate in this program, students must meet the following requirements:

  • Good academic and judicial standing during time of application AND time of participation in program
  • Undergraduates must have completed at least two semesters of study at Lake Forest College AND have junior status or higher before participation. 
  • At least 18 years of age by the program’s departure date. 
  • Be able to stay at the host program for the duration of the semester, including through the exam and travel periods
  • Minimum GPA of 2.75.  
  • Language Requirement: A minimum of 4 semesters of university-level Spanish or the equivalent must be completed prior to the program. It is important to note that while most textbooks are in English, the language of instruction is Spanish.
  • The student must submit ISEP language proficiency report in the application, even if native speaker.

Students applying to ISEP must apply for an Exchange option (in any country) as a first choice but may apply to a Direct option as a back-up. Direct options may have an additional cost (see a financial section for more information).


The Rio Piedras campus is located on the outskirts of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital and one of the Caribbean’s most important cities.


Public and coeducational, the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) serves a population of 3.6 million American citizens in Puerto Rico. Founded in 1903 as a small Teacher’s College in Rio Piedras, UPR encompasses a modern system with three main campuses, two university colleges, six regional colleges and other units throughout Puerto Rico. UPR”s 55,126 students account for six percent of all Hispanics enrolled in U.S. institutions of higher learning. 

The Rio Piedras campus is Puerto Rico’s oldest and largest university campus and UPR’s main institutional unit with 36 percent of total enrollment. Its high admission standards make it the most competitive Puerto Rican university. It is also recognized as the leading and most comprehensive university in the Caribbean and one of the best in Latin America. Some campus buildings are included in the U.S. National Register of Historic Sites. In addition to the university library, other university facilities include an art collection, computer center, museum, and audiovisual foreign language libraries. There are also centers for archaeological research and educational technology.

Particularly strong academic offerings include Architecture, Environmental Design, Natural Sciences (Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics), Spanish Literature, Languages, History, Translation, Public Administration, Library Sciences, Education (TESOL), Caribbean Studies, Comparative Literature, Home Economics, Labor Relations, Art, Music, Psychology, and Cooperative.

Students typically enroll in 4-5 classes per term which average to 12-15 hours in class per week. A term runs for 15-16 weeks. The culture is similar to that in the contiguous US colleges, and students need to earn 15 credits to earn 4 Lake Forest credits.


Enrollment in courses in the following fields may be limited due to space availability: biology, chemistry, physics, business administration (accounting and computer systems), modern languages, and psychology. Enrollment in public communication is only possible on a space-available basis. Counseling and Social Work are closed to ISEP students. 

Students admitted as undergraduates do not have access to graduate courses. If approved, participants may enroll in one, three-hour graduate course per semester. This may require additional tuition costs if expenses are not covered by the outgoing participant.

Academic Environment and Teaching Style

Please understand that the academic system is quite different. Classes are usually lecture-based, instead of discussion or group work. Classes are often much larger than those found at Lake Forest College. Grades are based heavily, at times almost entirely, on one end-of-term exam, though some courses will also offer a midterm.  Professors are often more formal than those in the United States.

All courses/modules may have prerequisites.  Some departments may have limitations on numbers of courses that can be taken within or outside it.  Be aware of these limitations.


To find information on course schedules, check out the Registrar Homepage.

Course Approvals

Check to see if your department has pre-approved courses here. If not, don’t worry. You can work with your advisor.

Please review the ISEP country handbook for more information on the education system, grades, class hours, and classroom etiquette.

Student Life


During Orientation, students will be given information on the university rules and regulations, class schedules, calendar dates. They will be taught about their rights and which officials to contact for any problems that might arise. Students will be given a campus tour, which includes the health facilities and the procedure for using them.


Students arriving on the Official Arrival Date will be picked up by a representative from the university at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport.

Housing and Meals

All students are housed in double-occupancy rooms in the Campus Residence Hall, within a block of the campus, and receive a monthly meal stipend. No married student housing is available. 

Financial Information

For all approved programs for guaranteed financial aid transferability, students pay their Lake Forest College tuition plus a program fee. The program fee for a semester with the ISEP Exchange program includes orientation, on-site director, college fees, housing and a stipend to cover the equivalent of 19/meals per week.

Here is an estimated budget for the Fall 2018/Spring 2019 programs:

Budget Item


Lake Forest College Tuition


Program fee (estimated)

Note: Spring may have added cost


Total Expected Billed by Lake Forest College


ISEP Fee due on Stage 2 Application


ISEP-required health and repatriation insurance (estimated, $90/mo)

Note: Some countries require national insurance. Check ISEP


Additional Meals


Estimated Airfare

*Students placed on ISEP Exchange may be eligible for up to $750 airfare award


Estimated Personal Expenses (passport, visas, immunizations, textbooks, supplies, personal expenses, additional national insurance if required, travel insurance, additional travel etc.)


Total Expected Out-of-Pocket Expenses




Tuition rates and program fees are subject to change each year, but this information was up-to-date as of January 2018. We will notify applicants, and update this page if the program fee or other estimates change.

You can discuss with Financial Aid your specific aid package and your expected family contribution.

Keep in mind that you may spend more or less in certain areas like personal expenses, travel, meals, or airfare, depending on exchange rates and your own spending habits. Classroom or lab fees are not included in this estimate and will depend on your course registration choices.  

Don’t forget to apply for scholarships! A great listing can be found here.  

  • Contact:

    For Questions About the Initial Application Process:

    Alexandra Olson
    Coordinator of the Global Engagement Office