UWC Costa Rica: Creating Young Agents of Change Through World-Class Education
UWC Costa Rica | the education magazine

To educate a diverse group of young men and women to become happy, healthy and committed individuals, capable through their leadership and engagement, of fostering positive change in their communities in order to contribute to achieving a more sustainable and peaceful world.

Established in 2006, UWC Costa Rica (UWCCR) evolved from pre-existing SOS International College Hermann Gmeiner and is accredited by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) and recognized by the Ministry of Education of Costa Rica. It is a non-profit foundation offering a two-year residential pre-university program which focus  on experiential learning. UWCCR is proud to be the only United World College in Latin America that meets the task of offering its’ dynamic and unique bilingual program with unrelenting fervor. Its educational program encompasses three main areas: Academics (International Baccalaureate Diploma), Co-Curricular and Residence Life. All the activities and learning opportunities incorporate one or more of UWC Costa Rica´s six competencies: social responsibility, diversity, conflict transformation, sustainability, leadership, and healthy lifestyle.

Located in San José, a major metropolitan the college enjoys the benefits of national forests, volcanoes, beaches.. With its modern history of regional diplomacy, environmental protection, and the lack of a military army makes UCWCCR an ideal location for the school. As the only UWC in Latin America, it offers a bilingual program, opportunities to learn more about the social, political, and cultural history of the region, and options to explore Costa Rica.

Today, UWCCR, being an international school, houses 204 students from a variety of academic, socioeconomic, cultural and language background marking 70 countries. UWC Costa Rica is socioeconomically diverse. More than 36% of students attend on a full scholarship and another 43% on a partial scholarship.

Housing students of 70 countries render in myriads of exotic food, new languages, and stories to share. The college has taken under its wing a campus that is nestled within the friendly neighborhood and  within an extremely safe and caring community, welcoming the students and providing many opportunities to interact educationally but also through creating a secure environment that is a dynamic place for the students to study and live.

The Seasoned and Dedicated Leader

Mauricio Viales has over 25 years of experience in the non-profit sector.  Having an undergraduate degree in Finance and Economics, he was the founding head UWC Costa Rica in the year 2006. The UWC Costa Rica campus was previously home to the former Hermann Gmeiner SOS International College Costa Rica where Mr. Viales acted as its Executive Director for two years. Later, he was elected as the Chair of the UWC Heads Committee for the 2013 – 2015 periods, during which he was also a member of the UWC International Board.

Moreover, he is also a founding member of the IB Schools Association of Costa Rica (ASOBITICO) and has contributed as a Board Member. It was his skillful leadership and initiative of ASOBITICO that Costa Rica has more public schools offering the IB program than private schools which is a unique experience in Latin America.

Viales also served as both Deputy Director and Regional Financial Advisor to SOS Children’s Villages International (Regional Office for Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean). He formed part of the Boards of Children´s Villages Associations in different countries throughout the region.

During his time as a university student, as a volunteer, Viales worked as National Marketing Director and later on as National President of AIESEC Costa Rica (International Association of Students in Economics and Business). He currently serves on the Advisory Board for AIESEC at the University of Costa Rica.

About the Academic Programs

Bilingual Campus

As the UWCCR is a bilingual school, the students can opt to pursue the International Baccalaureate Diploma in English and others can register for the bilingual diploma. In the Class of 2018, 80% of students received an IB Diploma and 31% a bilingual IB Diploma.

IB Courses Offered for Class 2019:

Group 1

[Language & Literature]

English A Language & Literature (SL/HL); English A Literature (HL); Spanish A Language & Literature (SL/HL); Language A Literature self-taught (SL)

Group 2

[Language Acquisition]:

English B (SL/HL); Spanish B (SL/HL); Spanish ab initio (SL); French B (SL/HL); French ab initio (SL)

Group 3

[Individuals and Societies]

Economics (SL/HL); Environmental Systems and Societies* (SL); Global Politics (SL/HL); History*

(HL); Psychology (SL/HL); Social and Cultural Anthropology (HL)

Group 4


Biology (HL); Chemistry (SL/HL); Environmental Systems and Societies* (SL); Physics (SL/HL

Group 5


Mathematics (SL/HL); Mathematical Studies (SL)

Group 6

[The Arts]

Theatre (SL/HL); Visual Arts (SL/HL)

International Baccalaureate Diploma

Before enrolling at UWCCR, all students begin high school studies in their home country. Once enrolled, all students complete the IB Diploma Program. Students are generally limited to three subjects at Higher Level (HL) and three subjects at Standard Level (SL). All students write a 4000-word Extended Essay (EE) on a research topic of their interest and enroll in the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course, which is offered in both English and Spanish.

Residential Life at UWCCR

The school is a two-year residential experience and all students live on campus and are fully evolved in academic, residential, and co-curricular life. Living among the students of a variety of cultures and backgrounds highlights the best feature of the school. The school offers rich co-curricular programs that reflect the commitment to balancing creativity, action, and service (CAS). Its service expectations go well beyond IB CAS requirements. Key co-curricular programs include “Getting to Know Costa Rica” trips, Service Project Week, Global Issues lectures, Cultural Weeks, Mediation, Recycling and Composting, Dance, and Athletics.

Bearing the Fruits of Success

Graduates of UWCCR become leaders in their communities in a way that promotes peace, international understanding, and environmental sustainability. Students work, volunteer, travel, and fulfill national service obligations before enrolling for universities or colleges.  The graduates have been awarded:

  • Morehead-Cain Scholarship at University
  • of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • International Leader of Tomorrow Award
  • at University of British Columbia
  • UWC Scholarship at York University
  • Loran Scholarship of Canada
  • Ko Annan Scholarship
  • at Malacaster College
  • UWC Bursary at
  • University College London
  • NYU-Abu Dhabi Scholarship

Alumni Stories

Bachir is a UWC Costa Rica alumnus (2011-2013), who grew up in a refugee camp called Smara, in the Tindouf province of Algeria. Smara camp, as the other refugee camps in the Tindouf province, is dependent on Algerian and foreign aid, with food, water and other materials brought in by car and plane. After graduating from UWCCR, which he joined after being selected by UWC Western Sahara, Bachir has been studying engineering at Brown University and he is about to complete his degree. He has also been volunteering as a board member of the UWC Western Sahara National Committee.

-Bachir Ahmed- Algeria, UWC Costa Rica Class of 2011

Danny comes from a small rural town in Guanacaste, a province on the northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica. He first heard about UWC from two older friends who attended the college. Their experiences lit a desire in Danny to become part of this educational movement that, as he says, “Isn’t about two years- it’s about all of life. We can make a global impact!”Thanks to the scholarship, as a first-year student, Danny explains that he finally feels part of something Costa Rica UWCCR Class of 2018 bigger than himself. His desire is to go from UWCCR to a university where he can continue studying computer science with an emphasis on security systems.

– Danny Mendez, Costa Rica, UWC Costa Rica Class of 2018

Kevin has given his triple to the UWCCR i.e. time, talent, and treasure. At a very young age of 26, he is the first UWCCR alum to be on the board of Trustees and is continuing for three years. He is about to attain his Ph.D. in Applied Developmental and Educational Psychology from Boston College.

Having experienced multiple educational settings, Kevin describes UWCCR as “the most democratic environment he has ever been in. It creates a space where every voice of student, staff, and teacher is heard and everyone is cared for. It aspires to create a community that centers the wellbeing of all of its member”.

-Kevin Ferreira- the USA, UWC Costa Rica Class of 2009

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