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Ambassador of Costa Rica visits Queen Mary

Diplomatic ties between Costa Rica and Queen Mary University of London were strengthened through a visit by the Ambassador of Costa Rica on Thursday 17 May, who delivered a speech on the importance of languages in diplomatic professions.


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Dr Mar Encinas-Puente, Professor John London, His Excellency the Ambassador José Castillo Barrantes and Vice-Principal (International), Professor Colin Grant
Dr Mar Encinas-Puente, Professor John London, His Excellency the Ambassador José Castillo Barrantes and Vice-Principal (International), Professor Colin Grant

The event, which was hosted by Queen Mary’s School of Languages Linguistics and Film, was attended by language students at the university and secondary school students from four partner schools.

“Language is accessing another world”

Professor Colin Grant, Vice-Principal (International) at Queen Mary, introduced the afternoon with a talk that focused on why language has proved “fundamental” for his career. He said: “Language is accessing another reality, society, culture and set of beliefs, and being able to translate across different beliefs and values is an incredible asset to any career.” He encouraged the audience to "keep an open spirit" because learning languages "will translate in a metaphorical and literal sense across cultures and set you in a very good stance to be citizens and leaders of the world.”

His Excellency José Enrique Castillo Barrantes gave a speech that highlighted the importance of languages in culture, business and politics, and he urged the secondary school pupils to continue with their language learning. He also spoke about his background and outlined possible career paths for the Queen Mary languages students. “Wherever you go, language is the key to understanding that country and its culture; it is the tool to express that culture”, Mr Barrantes said.

Lucia Rafferty, who now teaches languages at Stewards Academy in Harlow and graduated from Queen Mary with a degree in Hispanic Studies in 2014, also gave a brief talk about her time at Queen Mary and year abroad in Madrid, which formed part of her studies. She said: “Studying a language has connected me to people from many different walks of life. I deeply admired the knowledge and passion of my teachers at Queen Mary, and I always felt fully supported during my year abroad. My degree also gave me a solid understanding of a variety of subjects that I wouldn’t have even thought about before going to university. I hope that, one day, you can enjoy these experiences too.”

Following the talk, SLLF students and pupils danced to Latin music played by a live band. Mr Barrantes joined students and staff in a festive celebration of the end of the academic year. Ms Rafferty commented on the day: "The whole day was well organised and planned, and our careers advisor commented that he had never been on a trip where everyone was so friendly. The atmosphere of the whole day was superb."

Americas Strategy

Queen Mary currently has seven students enrolled from Costa Rica, the majority of whom are undertaking postgraduate taught degrees. Between 2015 and 2017, the university co-authored 12 publications with the Universidad de Costa Rica. Key research areas included medicine, genetics, immunology, microbiology and environmental science. The previous President of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solís, visited Queen Mary in 2016 to learn more about its Life Sciences Initiative.

Last month, academics from Queen Mary’s School of Law visited Latin America, as part of the university’s plans to develop its emerging Americas Strategy. The Strategy will involve increased engagement with alumni, higher education institutions, industry and policy-makers.

Queen Mary’s School of Languages Linguistics and Film was ranked first in the United Kingdom with 100 per cent Overall Student Satisfaction for Spanish, Portuguese and Catalan at Queen Mary (National Student Survey, 2017).

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