Costa Rica is a great place to study abroad. It is home to many schools including a United Nation-mandated University for Peace (UPEACE).
In 2015, more U.S. students studied in Costa Rica compared with any other Latin American country. According to the Institute of International Eduction (IIE) the number of students 9,305 increased 8.5% from 2014 to 2015 according to its survey. Some of the reasons they chose Costa Rica as a destination include its unique ecosystems, animal diversity and rich cultural history. Furthermore Costa Rica is a world leader in renewable energy and has no military (besides a few highly trained snipers). Another factor is that Costa Rica has quality educational institutions which focus on key issues including the environment, sustainable development, and peace and conflict studies.
For example, “The University for Peace is one of the leading teaching centres in the field of Peace and Conflict Resolution” said Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General. This school also known as UPEACE was established in December 1980 as a Treaty Organization by the UN General Assembly.
Located about 30 minutes from San Jose and just outside Ciudad Colon UPEACE is situated on 303 hectares, which represents one of the last remnants of primary forest in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. It was founded by Rodrigo Carazo, former President of Costa Rica who said “If you want peace, prepare for peace.”
UPEACE Students & Faculty
One of the best parts about studying abroad is the people one meets. Besides business connections, social relationships also develop while meeting like-minded individuals. UPEACE has almost 2,000 alumni from more than 100 countries. UPEACE offers undergraduate courses but the student must be in their final year at their undergraduate university in order to enroll. The post-graduate departments include Environment, Development and Peace, Peace and Conflict Studies, and International Law and Human Rights.
According to UPEACE most of their graduates work for non-governmental organizations but many also go on to work within the United Nations. Some now teach at Universities or work for governmental organizations in international affairs, electoral tribunals, and environmental policy. For example the First Lady of Costa Rica Mercedes PeÑas Domingo is a member of the UPEACE council and a UPEACE alumna. Another notable UPEACE graduate is General Ibim Morrison Lawson who is Nigeria`s Defense Adviser. UPEACE faculty members are from Costa Rica, Germany, Ecuador, Israel, India, Chile, Canada, Venezuela, Nepal, and Brazil.
UPEACE has dual-degree programs where the student studies at another University as well. These other schools include Ateneo de Manila University, International University of Monaco, American University, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Oregon State University, Brandeis University, and Pontificia Universidad Javeriana.
The UPEACE Centre for Executive Education has diplomas in social innovation. These courses are on-site as well as online and are designed for leaders at all levels. The price of the course is $2,395. The Centre has partnered with Harvard University, San Jose State University, Chapman University, Instituto Tecnologico de Monterrey, and Saint Leo University.
Choosing the Right School
The right school for one student might not be a good space for another. That is why it is important to get in touch with the faculty or visit the school before you make a decision. There are many great schools in Costa Rica. The author of this article chose UPEACE to visit first since it specializes in climate change policy. The United Nations and its International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the main driver behind international climate change policy so what better place to learn about it than at its source?
Another factor which weighed heavy was interacting with positive change makers from all around the world. For example one student named Fatma was from Sudan and was studying water cooperation and peace. She said the media reports showing Sudan as a dry wasteland were misleading. While waiting at the bus stop the next day we were picked up by a UPEACE professor who studied drug trafficking. This provided a great opportunity to talk about drug legalization. The next person I talked to was a journalist from Ghana. He was studying media, peace and conflict studies. We talked about how dangerous it was to be a good journalist. We discussed protection for journalists through anonymity, licensing and tenure.
Why UN Chose Costa Rica
Other journalists who visited and wrote about UPEACE gushed about its idyllic setting and weather. We of course felt the same way after visiting. We left UPEACE surprised that this school founded and backed by a mega power was so unassuming. UPEACE has none of the grandeur compared to an Ivy League school in terms of a sprawling campus with monolithic buildings. Also, Google searches of UPEACE produced little in terms of media coverage, especially outside Costa Rica. Still, the strength of UPEACE comes from its history, mission statement, and ability to attract and influence those who might be in power a few years from now. Whereas most U.S. universities got its major funding from dual purpose military programs especially after World War II perhaps UPEACE is furthering a different model.
AUTHOR: Jason Thompson
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