KPU Country Spotlight Series introduces students to different cultures

The event series brought representation of other cultures and countries to campus

A waterfall, bird, and empanadas from Costa Rica highlight the country's rich culture. (submitted)

A waterfall, a scarlet macaw bird , and empanadas fritas from Costa Rica. (submitted)


It was International Focus Week at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and this year’s theme was “Prepare For Boarding.” During the week’s final days, KPU International hosted a Country Spotlight Series showcasing three different countries’ cultures, food, and language, one of them being Costa Rica.

From Nov. 15 to 19, the international department hosted activities like the Airport Lounge, inviting students to “lounge around and do some internationally-minded, COVID-19-safe activities at [their] own time and space.” Their other activity was Thursday Layover, which brought students together online to “chill with other KPU students and students from [other] partner schools internationally over games and trivia.”

The Country Spotlight Series was their last online event for the week and featured KPU International partners from Vietnam, Germany, and Costa Rica. Over the last three days, they showcased the countries’ cultures, places to visit, language, food, and drinks.  

As guests entered the virtual room for the Costa Rican Country Spotlight event, they were welcomed by the sound of maracas, soft guitar, trumpets, and congas from the song “Canela Y Miel” by Malpaís, a Costa Rican band.

The event concluded with a delicious Costa Rican recipe of empanadas fritas, a fried cornmeal dough stuffed with shredded cheese, and a recipe for coconut balls made from condensed milk, shredded coconut, Maria cookies, and butter.

“In terms of Latin America, we decided to focus on Costa Rica this year because we launched a new virtual internship program in that area. And Vietnam, because we are starting up a new in-person exchange with a new partner institution … and lastly, Germany because we actually have a whole bunch of students from our exchange partners,” says Ada Lee, who works in the office of global engagement for KPU International.

In the last few years, KPU International has given students the chance to have virtual internships, virtual semesters abroad, and virtual extracurricular course programming. With Costa Rica, KPU students have the chance to do an eight-week virtual mentorship program starting in January.

To make the virtual internship possible, the international department is partnering with Costa Rica Global Learning Programs, which has been working with KPU since February of this year and acts as the middleman between KPU International and Costa Rican employers.

“We connect [students] with one local business here in Costa Rica, based on their interests. We send the KPU International department a list of all of the companies that we’re working with here in Costa Rica for the placements,” says Alexis Wren, president and director of programming at Costa Rica Global Learning Programs.

Afterwards, KPU International will sit down with the student to determine which position or company is best for them, based on their studies and interests.

“We do an onboarding process where we first introduce them to Costa Rica and the virtual internship experience. Then we set the business and the student up together. From there, the student is really in their hands, except for when they do Spanish classes with us, which are optional. And they also have weekly cultural or career workshops that they can also do with us optionally,” says Wren.

To do the eight-week virtual internships, students will need to pay $800 USD, around $1,030 CA. The fee goes towards the administration, language and cultural lessons, and mentorship. But students can apply for funding and scholarship awards to cover these fees.

“Since January 2021 until now, we have 80 per cent of our students receive up to 100 per cent of the funding for these programs,” says Lee.

“It’s about widening that representation of countries and cultures on campus. To get students more interested and excited to learn about these different cultures.”