“It was a program of intensive personal growth. In just 3 weeks, you learn to create the unfamiliar in an unfamiliar fashion, while adapting and operating in a completely unfamiliar environment. It was incredible, and it did not feel like your standard university education. It was more.”

– Anna

Design Abroad is an exciting course at OCAD University offering students a unique opportunity to work internationally with a local community to co-design solutions that have a meaningful impact. In 2019, Design Abroad took place in Costa Rica. This intensive three-week course allows students to gain an in-depth understanding of the local culture through exploration, observation, and other design tools.

Working in groups, as well as individually, students engage with organizations and members of the community to identify challenges and possible solutions. Students then integrate what they have learned through this participatory design process to develop design solutions that are innovative, appropriate, and implementable.

“I feel the course has really motivated me to consider my practice on a global scale.” – Kylie

The goal is to help shape flexible, resourceful, and independent designers and thinkers who know how to engage a community in the design process in order to create lasting solutions.


Design Abroad: Costa Rica ran from May 12 – June 1, 2019. The application period is closed.

Due to the pandemic, Design Abroad: Costa Rica is not running this year. Check back to this site in 2022 for program details and application information.

Your application for the course should include a 250-word essay describing why you want to be part of the course and how you see yourself contributing to the team of student designers and a mini-portfolio of your work. This mini-portfolio should contain 3 to 5 projects that you will feel best exemplify your ethos/point of view and abilities as a designer. Your portfolios should provide descriptions of the work shown and how it ties to your emerging design practice. You must save this as a single PDF and email it to Sarah Tranum at stranum @ faculty.ocadu.ca. Be sure that your PDF is smaller than 25MB so that it can sent as an email attachment. Portfolios and essay documents that are larger than 25MB and that are sent via Google Drive, Dropbox, or another method other than email will not be accepted. Please put your first and last name in the title of the PDF file.

Visit the FAQs page for more details about the course and application process.