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Higher Education Is Within Reach

You don’t need to be fluent in Spanish to get a higher education in Costa Rica. Universities here and in Nicaragua offer plenty of opportunities for adult English-speakers to earn degrees or advance their careers.

Ranging from weeklong courses to fulltime degree programs, these English-language curriculums mixed with a Latin sabor offer unique educational opportunities in international environments.

The United Nations-mandated Universityfor Peace (UPEACE, offers a range of master’s programs in forward-thinking studies such as environmental security and peace, international peace studies, and responsible management and sustainable economic development. Its campus in Ciudad Colón, southwest of San José, sits in a nature reserve that is home to abundant trees and wildlife, as well as students from around the world.

For professionals looking to advance their careers with the power of knowledge, UPEACE also offers several short courses every year.

“Educating for the 21st Century” is designed for educators of all levels. Hosted annually, this year from June 20 to 27, the course helps participants develop education strategies that maintain pace in a rapidly changing world and in a school system that has often been slow to change.

Instructors address various pedagogical approaches and challenge educators to draw from their own experiences to help enlighten their students.

Participants spend about six to eight hours in the classroom during the week and take trips to the National Biodiversity Institute (INBio) in Santo Domingo de Heredia, north of San José, where they meet with the institute’s educational director and then spend two days in Monteverde, a Quaker community and cloud forest preserve in north-central Costa Rica.

“It becomes a traveling classroom,” said UPEACE’s Mohit Mujkherjee, who designed the course. “We reflect on the changing world and then go through a process on how to react to the changes. On each trip, we address the fundamental question, ‘How does this relate back to my own teaching?’”

Participants listen to guest speakers who give workshops on topics such as traumatic problem solving. At the end of the course, each enrollee develops a mission statement to define his or her future as an educator.

On average, 15 students participate in each “Educating for the 21st Century” course.

In October, UPEACE will offer a one-week class entitled “Nonprofit Leadership: Maximizing Impact,” which will focus on strategic planning methods for activities such as managing a nonprofit organization and developing personal skills. The course also trains participants in new, innovative fundraising techniques.

For the business-minded, “Corporate Social Responsibility – Walking the Talk,” teaches students effective frameworks for implementing corporate social responsibility systems and incentives to engage stakeholders in responsible practices. The three-day course will be offered in November.

And, for the first time, UPEACE will offer a weeklong course entitled “Ecotourism: How to Start, Grow and Manage Your Own Eco-enterprise.” The class will visit successful ecotourism destinations in Costa Rica to learn ways to master the green side of the travel business. This new course is set to take place in August.

In the past, UPEACE students have met with the top coordinator for Habitat for Humanity in Costa Rica, received a talk from the CEO of Morgan Stanley and spoken with the founder of Café Britt.

“One of the benefits of studying in Costa Rica is that we have much more access to leaders,” Mujkherjee said, noting that last year a UPEACE class spent a day in the president’s office. “You can’t get this access in most countries. Can you imagine being in New York and trying to get to these top people?”

For those interested in becoming a master of the business world, the Harvard-affiliatedINCAEBusinessSchool ( offers MBA programs in English in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, requiring 15 and 21 months, respectively.

At the Nicaragua campus in Montefresco, south of Managua, the program takes place in six-week sessions and includes courses on marketing strategies, generating sales, and sustainable management and development of companies. The program begins in February each year.

In Costa Rica, MBA programs start annually during the first week of August at the campus in La Garita de Alajuela, north-west of San José. Participants can choose to concentrate on one of three areas: finance and economics, sustainable development or industry and technology.

During the second year of the Costa Rican MBA program at INCAE, some of the classes are taught in Spanish.

INCAE in Costa Rica has also paired with the Tropical Agricultural Research and HigherEducationCenter (CATIE,, in the Caribbean-slope town of Turrialba, to develop an 18-month master’s in agribusiness management.

For Spanish speakers with a passion for sustainable agriculture, CATIE and EARTHUniversity ( in Guácimo, also on the Caribbean slope, offer degrees in agricultural and environmental sciences. EARTH has a second campus, La Flor, in the northwestern Guanacaste province.


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