Marianella Jara

I was born and raised in a Catholic Christian family in Costa Rica. I learned to love God since I was a young. However, my life was very difficult as a child because my mother was very sick and died when I was young. I struggled understanding why God took my mother away. However, I could see and feel that God never left me. To compensate for my mother's illness and absence, God gave me a wonderful father who has shown me with his actions and kindness to love and serve the Lord. At 19, I was blessed with an amazing Fulbright scholarship that changed my life. With this scholarship I was able to come to the U.S.A. to study at Louisiana State University as an undergraduate student. It was a real miracle; everything was paid for. However, adjusting to American culture in the world of academia was a real challenge and another test from God. Learning a new language and trying to fit in a new culture is probably one of the most difficult challenges in life. It was hard to find time for God. I felt overwhelmed and I got depressed because I felt very lost in a strange world. Many professors were self-proclaimed atheist and for a short period of time I struggled with my faith. One day I encountered a beautiful soul in my French class, a classmate who seemed too cool to want to be my friend. She was for sure an angel sent from heaven. She invited me to a Campus Crusade for Christ meeting and a retreat. I was very hesitant but God steered me to trust her and I went. It was a true calling from God. I felt at home with these students who accepted me with my strange accent and took me in as one of them. From there it was a trip back to the Lord. There were more trials and doubts along my adult life but after periods of self-doubt and questioning I can say with an open heart that I believe with all my being in God and can see how he has worked miracle after miracle in my life. Deciding what to do for a living and where to live after finishing graduate school was also difficult. After trying different jobs and moving to different locations in and out of the U.S. I feel that God led me to UNCW for a reason. At UNCW I have found many beautiful people that have helped me stay close to God and find the meaning of true friendship. I love getting to know my students and to share with them at a more personal level when we travel to study abroad. I have been fortunate to create and lead many study abroad programs. Each study abroad program has been a blessing and a way to get closer to God and my students. Teaching allows me to see God through my students and it is a constant reminder to stay young and to show kindness. I feel that teaching languages has allowed me to learn and communicate a message of acceptance and love for all people regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or anything else. As I continue to grow as a Christian, I pray for opportunities to share my faith and love for God with others. 

My Life

Favorite Quote

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better" Maya Angelou

Friends describe me

As a positive, kind, energetic, hard working and a good listener.

My hobbies

Reading novels, traveling, cooking, jogging, riding bikes and many outdoor activities.

Fantasy dinner guests

Mother Mary, the Holy Spirit and President Obama.

Best advice I ever received

Live each day as your last day, do not lie and do everything with love because every little task is important.

My undergrad alma mater

Louisiana State University

My worst subject in school


In college I drove

Did not have a car, just a bike

If I weren't a professor, I would

Be a writer

Favorite books

The Bible, The Alchemist, Tuesdays with Morrie, To Kill a Mockingbird, Fried Green Tomatoes, The Hundred-Foot Journey, The Secret Life of Bees, Paula, Dr. Sleep, The Dead Zone, The Outsider, The Dead Key, The Buried Book, The Women’s Murder Club, The Bones Series and many more.

Favorite movies

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, The Ultimate Gift, Motorcycle Diaries, Forest Gump, The War Room, That Thing you do, Avatar, Mama Mia , The Family Stone and Christmas with the Kranks.

Favorite city

Barcelona, Spain.

Favorite coffee

Americano solo

Nobody knows I

I have visited 25 countries. I am OCD and love cleaning and organizing.

My latest accomplishment

Read 10 books this summer and I am close to reading 200 novels.

Current Research

Clean energy sources and ecotourism in Costa Rica.