Reflecting on the past three weeks, there are many lessons I have learned, both academically and emotionally. There is no doubt that for anyone in the field of peacebuilding, human rights, or social justice, a great deal of emotional strength has to be cultivated. These are difficult issues to deal with and the task of working alongside people from very different backgrounds, disciplines and mindsets is challenging. This program introduced us to a diverse sample of professionals who had so much to offer intellectually and personally, but more than anything it taught me the importance of being honest, upholding integrity and working hard through every challenge. Many people told us that to be in this field, one has to develop a “thick skin.” While I agree that it is important to be able to manage emotions and maintain composure in the face of adversity, for me personally I think the minute you close yourself to really feeling what you do, you lose what lies at the heart of peacebuilding itself. While you must not crumble under stress, I think there is a lot of merit to allowing yourself to be vulnerable, to be unafraid of showing that vulnerability, and really channeling it to keep bettering yourself. The process of learning never stops – regardless of your age, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, and so on. I am grateful to have met and befriended so many different people on this program; creating such strong bonds across all our differences is truly what made this program incredible.

PS: I also love that everyone we talked to could not resist recommending books and films and media and organizations that are doing incredible work, and I made it a point to note down each one. If there’s anything we have learned it’s that knowledge must be shared – so hear it is for anyone that’s interested (attached as a picture)!