Alumni Update – Costa Rica

 My Journey to the United Nations 

Jean Pierre Mora Casasola (Costa Rica), Global UGRAD 2014-2015, Emporia State University

Jean Pierre at the UN Migration Agency

That awkward moment when you are asked to write down your goals on a piece of paper. No matter if they are short, medium or long term goals, the truth is that we do not always know where we are going. This situation will sound familiar to the alumni of U.S. Government programs, where as participants we are required to talk about our dreams and goals once the exchange ends. In my personal experience, it was hard for me to define in 5 minutes what I wanted to do, especially after one of the greatest experiences of my life.

In 2015, I spent a semester at Emporia State University thanks to the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (Global UGRAD). When I wrote my goals at the end of Global UGRAD, I knew I wanted to commit to something very ambitious: “Work for the United Nations.”

I began to see this dream as achievable after winning a regional essay contest on e-government and being hired as a consultant for the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). There I started my professional career and I learned a lot. It was also my first experience working with an international organization.

Jean Pierre with his coworkers at the UN Migration Agency

My work at the IDB has opened many doors for me. In August 2016, I was hired by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Although IOM is an intergovernmental organization, it was still not exactly the same as working for the United Nations. To my surprise, after a month working for IOM, my organization joined a new program sponsored by the United Nations. This program represents the first ever United Nations agency for the study of migrations. Since September 2016, I am proud to say that IOM has joined with the UN on its important mission to analyze migration.

It was not something that I planned. Now, I am part of the staff of the UN Migration at its regional office in San Jose, Costa Rica. The first step towards achieving my goals was losing the fear of dreaming, so I really think it is worth it to dream ambitiously.

I would have never understood it better before.

Mariela León (Costa Rica), Global UGRAD 2015-2016, University of Southern Indiana

I remember feeling heartbroken for having ¨finished¨ the Global UGRAD Program and what it entails: university life, workshops, adventures, friends that had become family away from home, places that had become home away from home, and all the memories within them: laughs, tears, coffees, study nights, movie nights, conquered fears, cultural sharing, and lots more. Little did I know that the real ¨school¨ was about to start.

Costa Rican Global UGRADs: Hugues Castro, Mariela León (myself), Cristina Umaña, and Marcela Chavarría (June 2016)

It has been more than a year since I left Evansville, Indiana, and each day since then I found myself more thankful of how being a Global UGRAD Alum keeps shaping my life. From finding yourself, to exploring skills and talents, to striving to be a change maker in your home country (and beyond).

When I came back, I literally wanted to do everything. I started learning a new language (French) and I got involved in my university´s community of entrepreneurs. In my attempt to develop a project to benefit the youth from the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica (Limón Province), I grew in self-confidence, team-work, empathy, and patience.

Though it was a tough to accept my weaknesses, it meant that I had to find encouragement in the inspirational stories of my bold and diligent Honduran friends; it meant that I had to believe in overcoming fears and having the perseverance to accomplish my dreams like my Guatemalan friends; it meant that I had to learn how to relax and enjoy life like my Paraguayan friends, regardless how stressful a class is. Meeting these Global UGRAD friends in person – some of them for first time- and reuniting with others was indescribable!

Camila Fonseca (Paraguayan), Mariela León (myself), Hugues Castro (Costa Rican), Marcela Chavarría (Costa Rican), and Teresa Paniagua (Paraguayan) during our Paraguayan friends´ scholarship program ¨Youth Encounter for Sustainability¨ in San José, Costa Rica (September 2016)

I can continue to describe the long list of people the Global UGRAD Program has brought in to my life. Their positive impact continues to help me grow as a person. The privilege of being part of this wonderful network, gave me the blessing to find another home in the warmth of Grecia’s family, and connected me to the man of my dreams and partner: Melvin.

I understood it was not a malicious plan from World Learning staff to make us go back to our countries; instead, it is the cleverest way to spread change-makers around the world. Through my Global UGRAD peers on every continent, even virtually, I am propelled by their dreams and cheered on by their important friendship.

Grecia Romero (Honduran), Mariela León (myself), Johanny Amaya (Honduran), and Melvin Cruz (Honduran) during our trip to Copan Ruins, Honduras (January 2017).

Now, I am in my last period to get my Bachelor’s degree in Physical Therapy, and in parallel, I have been developing social projects through my school, the University of Costa Rica. These projects aim to benefit the socially vulnerable populations that come from marginalized neighborhoods in the capital city. We have been developing healthy habits such as being physically active, eating well, and, of course: dancing, even when it rains!

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