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SIS Abroad

Grad Semester Programs:
UN University for Peace

N.B.: Information on this page does not apply to the dual Master's degree program, Natural Resources and Sustainable Development (NRSD). For information on the NRSD program, please see this Web site.

The UN University for Peace (UPEACE), established in 1980 by the UN General Assembly under its own charter, is the only degree-granting graduate institution in the UN family. UPEACE attracts students and faculty from around the world and is a truly global community, providing an invaluable networking resource for students who plan to pursue an international career. The campus is located near San José within a beautiful nature reserve composed of secondary forest and the last remnant of primary forest in Costa Rica. Participate in the SIS Semester Abroad Program at UPEACE for an unparalleled international experience.


AU students who participate in this enroll in regular courses alongside full-time UPEACE students. They may earn up to 9 credits toward their MA program at AU. Programs of study at UPEACE include:

  • Environmental Security and Peace
  • International Law and Human Rights
  • International Law and Dispute Settlement
  • International Peace Studies
  • Natural Resources and Peace
  • Peace Education
  • Sustainable Urban Governance and Peace
  • Responsible Management and Sustainable Economic Development
  • Gender and Peacebuilding
  • Media, Peace and Conflict Studies

N.B.: SIS graduate students in the IPCR program who wish to take UPEACE courses for the Media, Peace and Conflict Studies or Gender and Peacebuilding concentrations must declare their intention in their UPEACE application and must obtain clearance from the Graduate Academic Advisor for IPCR before applying.

Language Requirement

As UPEACE is an English-language institution, there is no Spanish language pre-requisite. However, students are encouraged to study Spanish prior to beginning the program in order to gain communication skills for daily life in Costa Rica.

Academic Calendar

Fall: August –December

Spring: January –May

Students may choose to spend one semester at UPEACE. Though the beginning and end dates of the fall and spring semesters at UPEACE are similar to that of AU, the academic calendar is otherwise quite different. Courses normally last one week per credit; for example, a three-credit course takes place over a period of three weeks. One-, two-, and three-credit courses are available. Classes are thus highly intensive with daily meetings and do not allow students to concurrently undertake internships. Students will take only one course at a time.


  1. Students are registered through the SIS Office of International Program Development for up to 9 AU-UPEACE exchange credits (SIS-609). These exchange credits cover courses at UPEACE only; research and/or internship credit is registered under normal AU guidelines.
  2. Students are required to meet with their AU advisor and obtain formal pre-approval before registering for courses at UPEACE. This ensures that all credits earned at UPEACE can be applied toward the student’s AU degree.
  3. Students register for UPEACE courses via an online portal prior to the start of the semester.  

Credit articulation: Grades and credits earned at UPEACE are articulated through the SIS Office of International Program Development upon receipt of an official transcript from UPEACE. For conversion purposes, students should expect 1 UPEACE credit to equal 1 AU credit. However, the grading scale used at UPEACE is different from that used at AU and will be explained to students prior to their departure.

Tuition and Fees

Students pay regular tuition, emergency international health insurance, and technology fees to AU. Students do not pay the student activity fee, sports center fee, or SIS fee while studying at UPEACE if they spend the entire semester at UPEACE.  

Students are responsible for any incidental costs, such as library fines and lab fees, incurred during the program. Students are responsible for all personal expenses including housing and transportation.


Students are responsible for arranging their housing and for all associated costs. UPEACE can assist students in finding accommodation near campus. Students will be asked to indicate their preference for a home-stay, furnished apartment, or independent accommodation. Rates for accommodation vary, and students pay their landlords directly. Students who wish to arrange their own accommodation (“independent accommodation”) can ask the SIS Office of International Program Development to connect them with past program participants.

Immigration and Visa Requirements

Depending on citizenship, an entry visa to Costa Rica may be needed. The Department of Academic Administration (DAA) at UPEACE assists students who need this visa in obtaining all proper documentation from the Directorate General of Immigration in Costa Rica. All students, regardless of citizenship, are also required to have legal status in Costa Rica through a student temporary student permit (STP). Once admitted to the program, students will be directed by UPEACE as to what materials they will need to obtain and bring with them to orientation in order to apply for the STP.

Students are responsible for researching the most up-to-date immigration requirements and arranging all immigration documents.

Student Orientations

During the semester prior to the start of the program, the SIS Office of International Program Development conducts a mandatory pre-departure meeting. Topics covered include administrative, logistical, security, health, and cross-cultural issues. UPEACE also holds a new student orientation at the beginning of each semester. AU students are encouraged to participate, as it can be a valuable resource for learning about the university and community.

How to Apply

Application deadline for study in Fall 2014: TBA

Complete and submit the program application to the SIS Office of International Program Development by the application deadline.

  1. After applications are processed and reviewed, students are selected by SIS for nomination to UPEACE. Once nominated, students are directed to the UPEACE website to upload supporting documents and information.
  2. UPEACE makes the final admissions decision and corresponds directly with program participants regarding course registration, orientation programs, housing, etc…

The program is competitive and application does not guarantee admission.

Contact Us!

Email: sisabroad@american.edu

Facebook: American University SIS Study Abroad

Twitter: SISStudyAbroad

Google Chats: sisstudyabroad@gmail.com

Semester Abroad General Info Session

October 2, 2014 from 4:30-6:00pm in SIS115

Application Deadline for study in Fall 2014



Academic Advisor Approval Form

Application Instructions & Checklist

Application Form

Additional Information

UPEACE Student Handbook

Cost of Living in Costa Rica

Past NRSD Student Internships

Travel Information about San José from Lonely Planet and Wikitravel

Costa Rica Consular Information Sheet from the U.S. Department of State

UPEACE Course Catalogue


Semester Abroad Blog

 Follow our students around the world.

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