|John Shimkus (back row in brown shirt) and UN University for Peace students with the President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias Sanchez
Meeting the president of a country is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity many people never have. For student John Shimkus, however, not only did he meet a president, but he also engaged in a personal conversation with him.
A second-year International Peace and Conflict Resolution student, Shimkus spent the fall semester studying at Costa Rica’s United Nations University for Peace. “I chose to go to the United Nations University for Peace in Costa Rica because they offer a number of classes geared toward sustainable development and natural resources,” he says.
During his studies, he experienced some unique educational differences including overnight field trips. “Since the country is relatively small, the classes often go on overnight field trips to research existing conflicts firsthand,” he says. “My class did a field study on a local agricultural conflict in which a pineapple plantation was accused of polluting local groundwater supplies.”
One of his most remarkable experiences, however, was meeting Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez in November. Because Shimkus can speak fluent Spanish, he was invited, along with 14 other students, to a forum featuring the Costa Rican heads of state. The group met President Sanchez and other important politicians including the Minister of Education and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Some students also appeared on the local news.
The forum addressed issues of infrastructure, security, education and health in the Mora District of Costa Rica, which is where the University is located.
"The president's speech related Costa Rican concerns to those of the world at large, specifically discussing the U.S. financial crisis and how Costa Rica needs to be wary of the effects," Shimkus says. "He then acknowledged the University for Peace and how happy he is that Costa Rica is the home to such an internationally diverse learning environment such as it and how he is glad that the residents of the Mora district get the opportunity to live with and amongst the many international students that reside within the area."
Afterwards the students had a photo-op with the President and had a moment to talk to him.
"It was very cordial," says Shimkus. "He asked us in thickly accented English how we were enjoying our stay in Costa Rica and how life at the University was going, to which we all responded politely that the country is beautiful and everyone is treating us well. Short and sweet, but a great experience!"
To learn more about Arcadia’s IPCR program, visit: www.arcadia.edu/ipcr.