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Archive for Monday, June 11, 1990

COSTA RICA EXCHANGES ENRICH KU

June 11, 1990

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"Se pueden encontrar muchas oportunidades educacionales en Costa Rica."

That sentence "many educational opportunities can be found in Costa Rica" has special meaning for many Kansas University faculty and students.

KU students who completed exchange programs Bruce Currie of Leawood, for example say their studies at the University of Costa Rica were tremendously rewarding.

"Even if you're grade-point average takes a dive, it's worth it," he said. "It broadens your view of the world so much."

Barbara Waggoner, adjunct lecturer in Latin American studies at KU, said the faculty exchange has "enlarged horizons. That's one definition of education."

KU study abroad program director Mary Debicki said a record number of students are participating in KU's Costa Rican exchange.

About 56 are in Costa Rica now, and about 40 will start course work there next month. Eighty students applied for 40 available exchange positions.

"COMPETITION for the program is really keen," Debicki said.

George Woodyard, dean of international programs, said KU's academic affiliation with the university in San Jose, initiated in 1959, has never been stronger.

KU and UCR professors continue research projects in Golfito, Costa Rica, to put the once bustling but economically ailing coastal town back on its feet.

The two universities are still attempting to secure an $8 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Jon Vincent, director of the KU Center for Latin American Studies, said: "My personal feeling is that every person in Latin American studies should go to their area of interest at least once a year."

With that thought in mind, three KU faculty Donald Chambers, Donna Luckey and Waggoner will use Fulbright grants to study this year in Costa Rica.

All of this activity, Woodyard said, represents a concentrated effort to expand the university's relationship with people of the Latin American nation.

"WE HAVE a good solid foundation in Costa Rica," he said. "But in general, we're trying to work with virtually every unit on campus to provide opportunities."

In fact, the internationalization of curriculum has spread to the department of Spanish and Portuguese.

Chairman Robert Spires said department faculty want to require all Spanish majors to spend at least one semester studying in a Spanish-speaking country.

The proposal won't likely become the rule until fall semester 1992. It would only apply to new Spanish majors.

Waggoner, one of the Fulbright recipients, is studying the history of the Confederation of Central American Universities.

"Every time I go back there I'm impressed with the quality of the University of Costa Rica," she said. "Of course, they have problems like all universities."

Waggoner strongly encourages students to stay in a foreign country for an entire academic year, because it takes a few months to grasp the language.

Paul Eckhart, a Topekan who finished a temporary job with the KU study abroad office this spring, has been offered a position with the program in San Jose.

"ANYTIME YOU spend a number of months in another country, it tends to adjust your views about how receptive you are to foreigners in your own country.

"You always tend to be a little more patient with people who perhaps don't speak English or don't speak it well. You just aren't closed off to them," he said.

Currie, who graduated from KU this spring, said that when he returned from Costa Rica two years ago he went through culture shock.

"It took a while to readjust to this culture," he said. "You see computers everywhere here. You see lines everywhere there."

Costa Rica is more politically stable than other countries in the region, Eckhart said.

"I can honestly say I never felt threatened by political aggressors. I never really felt hated in Costa Rica by anti-American factions in other countries," he said.

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