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Has Democracy Enhanced Development in Africa? Conrad John Masabo
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Last Updated: 03/01/2011
My Life Story with UPEACE-DIPS
Sopheada Phy

It was a mixture of my dream, careful decision, endeavor, opportunity, luck, qualification, and particularly family’s inspiration, encouragement, and support that I could pursue this MA in International Peace Studies Dual Campus. As an international student studying at two completely different campuses, United Nations-mandated University for Peace, Costa Rica, and Ateneo de Manila University, the Philippines, my life has been changed and progressed a lot.

Life at Upeace, if I could express in one word, is a world-cultural life. Upeace is a unique place where Asian, African, American, European and other cultures meet, which is hard to be found elsewhere on earth. To put it in other words, it seems like a small world, where multiculturalism and globalization meet. It was a cross-cultural experience living and interacting with other students, professors, and faculty members of Upeace. I have never experienced this before in my life even though I used to participate in various multicultural environments. This was an amazing experience since I made a lot of diverse friends from every corner of the world even from the countries that I have never expected to have a chance to have them as my friends such as Belize, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, and so on. The Upeace-diverse student body bridges students from every corner on earth under the only one roof, where various nationalities get together and understand each other in a way of building network toward peace-building in the world.

Though Upeace is still young and small, I am so proud to be part of it thanks to its unique focused-peace studies programs and cultural multiplicity of the student body. All students coming to Upeace have common goal, learning, sharing and distributing peace knowledge. The words “conflict” and “peace” are always heard both in campus and outside whenever students and/or professors chat with each other regarding academic things. Even though the appearance and way of life of each continent student are different, their worldviews are commonly shared in the purpose of peace and prosperity in the whole world. Being at Upeace, based in Costa Rica, seems like being in another totally different world, where I have never dreamed of stepping my food there, from my far-distant home country, Cambodia. I could not only understand Costa Rican culture and way of life, but also fantastic diversity of students, which broaden my perspectives in viewing the world. Adding to everyday interaction among students, the cultural diversity of students can be experienced through mostly main cultural activities such as Asian Night, European Night, African Night, and American Thanks Giving Day, in which beautiful decorations, colorful performances and dynamic activities of the festivals bridged the world as one with diversity in unity. Significantly, the student friendship can be strengthened through some clubs activities, which were initiated by the students themselves. To me, I enjoyed very much with sport club as I always spend my free time to play soccer with other university-mates either inside or outside campus. In classrooms, different points of view from students of diverse continents such as Asia, Africa, America, and Europe have been peacefully shared, and debated, which make the classroom environment very dynamic and the discussion very fruitful and enjoyable. Although Upeace campus is relatively small, its beautiful and fresh environment and paradise-liked location make it very unique and unforgettable for students and those once stepping their foot there.

My Upeace off-campus life tends to be more integrated into Costa Rican society although I physically look totally different from Costa Ricans. I lived in a small town called “Ciudad Colon” closed to Upeace. It is a very friendly and peaceful town. Whenever I walk back and forth in the town from home to the bus stop to be driven to Upeace or shop something, I was always called “Chino”, a Spanish word means Chinese in English”. This is maybe I am the Chinese descendant in Cambodia, but Korean, Japanese and some other Asian students were also called the same “Chino, Chino…”. In this case, probably Costa Rican people could not specifically recognize Asian people, by only knowing Chinese in general. Costa Rican people to a larger extent are very nice and kind, especially my host family. I used to be amazed by many good people I met whenever I travel, but this time my feeling seems stronger because they seem like, if I would say, my second family besides my only beloved family. Without knowledge of Spanish, which is the barrier of communication, still the kindness of my host family makes me understandably communicate with and very closed to them. Further, what impressed me a lot and tightened my friendship more and more with other students are parties such as birthday parties, housewarming parties, end-of-the-course parties, farewell parties, and so on and so forth, collectively organized by the students almost every weekend and sometimes weekday.

Travelling to another world on earth, the Philippines, life at Ateneo de Manila University tended to be more separated from other Filipino students even though the interacting with classmates in the same program is very energetic. At Ateneo, I could only share ideas with Asian friends, not as diverse as the time I was at Upeace. However, it was also nice to be at Ateneo since the Philippines is a kind of mixture of Filipino, American and Spanish cultures thanks to legacies of colonialism.

This program is the amazing experience I have never had before, which I believe it will surely contribute to the success of my life in terms of not only academic, but also professional and personal life. I believe that to live happily is to peacefully balance our three distinctive lives—academic, professional and personal—in a globally and popularly acceptable way—in which dream, attempt, opportunity, luck, qualification, and support from the others must be involved. My life with the Dual Campus International Peace Studies Program, in a nutshell, was the real global life ever I experienced.

In memory of my father (Darin Phy, called Chhuor Eav Hai), and my mother (Sary Lim, called Lim Kim You), whose wisdom, warm hearts, and encouragement inspired me to love humanity, justice, and peace, with love and affection.

Sopheada Phy holds an MA degree in International Peace Studies.