Interview with Mauricio Viales, Principal of the United World College of Costa Rica.

José Ignacio Luis Miguel (Spain, AC 07-09) & Andrés Miguel Rondón Anzola (Venezuela, AC 08-10)

Mauricio Viales is probably the youngest among the Heads of the UWC movement. He worked for ten years for an international organisation which promotes education for those without economic resources. Three years ago, he was offered the chance of becoming the Principal of a new United World College in Costa Rica. He accepted the challenge.

The interview took place during dinner, on Thursday the 23rd of October. He had the kind consideration to invite me to join him while eating.

One of the first things someone can notice when talking to him is that he is a man with big ideals firmly fixed in his mind. The UWC Mission Statement symbolises, in his case, a summary of his hopes about the students in the Central American College; hopes that have often become achievements during his still short experience.

Costa Rica is probably the only country in the world which abolished its army years ago. Quoting Oscar Arias, its President, “This country has books in its hands instead of rifles on its shoulders.” Locals live in a peaceful environment where encountering the military (even in the form of police forces) is fairly unusual. Could we think of a better location for such an institution?

A new College builds its own pathway, it is free from tradition. In the same way, the community can feel an inspiring vacuum, countless opportunities for the introduction of new ideas.

He points out that students should inevitably be involved in discussion about the rules implemented and that these ought to reflect local values and customs, although health is obviously the first aspect to bear in mind.

According to Mauricio, one of the biggest challenges to face in UWCCR is connecting college services and the local community. As a new institution, it is hard to start building confidence and create strong links.

The number of students is significantly small compared to Atlantic College’s population. They are around 190. Something curious is that only 2 students in each year come from Costa Rica.

It is comforting to hear is that he was happily surprised to see how similar students in both colleges are, regardless of differences and the environment we live immersed in. In addition, they are also located in a predominantly rural area and live very close to a little town, their own Llantwitt Major.

The UWC Heads meeting in AC during the last few days contained for Mr Viales endless positive aspects. If UWC wants to be a real movement, these events provide a great opportunity to strengthen links, interchange ideas and projects and promote a feeling of unity.

Regarding the future, he appears doubtful about the opening of new Colleges. The key in order to make UWC grow is not, for him, the number of Colleges, but the knowledge that people around the world have about the organisation. The primary objective should be making the current institutions more accessible to people who now lack the opportunity to get information about them or to participate in selection processes.

The future also requires an attractive offering. As the Simon Bolivar UWC in Venezuela (the other College in Latin America) focuses on agriculture, UWCCR makes the possiblitity to study the IB Diploma in Spanish a distinctive feature. People interested in Spanish or generally in Latino culture have a very good reason to feel compelled to join such a unique place as the UWC in Coast Rica.

Mauricio’s greatest hope is that students from UWCs around the world will be able to make a difference in many possible areas, changes that can be perceived and spread, changes in service to an ever improving world. He He

– United World College Student Magazine –

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