November 5, 2012
My Year in St Andrews
During my year at the University of St Andrews, I obtained an M.Litt. (equivalent to a Master's Degree) in Peace and Conflict Studies. This program is part of the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews, and included both a two semester taught program as well as a final dissertation. In particular, my dissertation sought to add to the field of peace and conflict studies in regard to the role of education in post-conflict transformation. The academic exercise of writing this dissertation was especially challenging, but it was also extremely rewarding. The complexities and difficulties of post-conflict transformation are very relevant for our world today, and I can only hope that my small contribution adds to our collective knowledge as well as helps to improve the futures of children across the globe.
Not only did this M.Litt. program help me to grow through extensive research and thoughtful analysis, but the fieldwork included in this program also gave me a unique opportunity to see post-conflict peacebuilding in action. In March of this year, my class travelled to Sarajevo and met with several local peace NGOs in order to better understand what peacebuilding looks like in practice. In short, post-conflict transformation and peacebuilding is far from easy or straightforward. Peacebuilding requires intense patience, courage, and--interestingly--creativity. Understanding and recognizing local people's experiences is perhaps one of the most important aspects of sustainable peacebuilding, and this often requires thinking outside of the standard checkboxes of development.
During this year, I also served as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. This scholarships opportunity has truly been one of the most wonderful gifts in my life. During my year as a Rotary Scholar, I found that being an ambassador of goodwill did not necessarily mean completely revolutionizing the entire world all at once. Instead, being an ambassador of goodwill often means really listening to people who have had different lives than you--sharing stories and engaging with each other's thoughts and beliefs in a generous and thoughtful way. Whether it was chatting over a meal at a Rotary Club or speaking with Scottish locals at various Rotary fundraisers, there were many opportunities for me to talk about what I have learned and build unique friendships with people from across Scotland and the world.
As the University of St Andrews is such a global university, I found myself in many conversations with people from across the planet. With friends from Norway, Canada, Kosovo, Romania, Germany, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Mexico, China, and others, I often found myself in the midst of conversations in which we shared our own unique stories and listened to each other's varied beliefs and opinions. Not only do many of us plan to keep in touch as we continue on our separate paths, but I cannot help but think that such international friendships are a small part of what Rotary is all about. They may not instantly create world peace, but such friendships are perhaps a key to the doorway of meaningful and lasting global understanding.
In all, this past year has given me so much more than simply a degree. It has grown me as a person on so many levels, which I hope to take with me in the future. Specifically, I plan on spending a few years doing some type of humanitarian work in the context of a non-profit organization for a few years. This program has greatly impressed upon me the need for meaningful contextualization in regard to peacebuilding, so I hope to spend a few years learning what this means by serving on the ground in a peacebuilding process. It is my hope that by working for a peacebuilding NGO, I will be able to put much of what I have learned at Baylor and St Andrews to work and serve my global community in a small, but hopefully meaningful, way.
For more information on St. Andrews, please visit http://www.baylor.edu/study_abroad/index.php?id=52854
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