Peace Scholar Post: Building Bridges: Learning Outside of the Classroom

This is part of a series of blog posts written by the 2014 Peace Scholars as they experience their summer program in Norway. This post was written by Amy Delo from Pacific Lutheran University. 

With exams just around the corner, we Peace Scholars are buckling down and spending our afternoons in the library. As our studies here are coming to a close we have been doing a lot of reflecting on our experiences in Norway. This exercise was formally led by Steinar Bryn when he visited us earlier this week. He came to hear the thoughts of the Peace Scholars and Young Friends (the students from the Balkans who were with us at the Nansen School in Lillehammer earlier this summer) regarding our experiences at the International Summer School in Oslo (ISS). In this meeting, there seemed to be a consensus among our group: our biggest takeaway will be the relationships we have built with each other over the summer.

While the International Summer School is well respected for its academics, what I have valued the most about this summer is the opportunity to meet fellow students and learn from them through our interactions. ISS is unique because there are students here from around all over the world, of different nationalities, religions, and ages. This provides an incredible opportunity to gain knowledge about the world and the realities of these individuals over breakfast, hanging out in the lounge, or playing soccer – all this in addition to the learning done in the classroom.

Amy1In response to our reflections on relationships, Steinar told us a story, as is his style. His story was about a man who has a dream of creating a museum showcasing famous bridges from around the world. Steinar is convinced it is just a matter of time until this man succeeds in his quest for a bridge museum because of the imposing beauty of literal bridges and the metaphorical significance of building figurative bridges. And building bridges really is what we’ve been doing here in Norway. We are creating links with others who care about the world, care about building peace, fuel each other to be more optimistic, work harder, and experience more. 

Building bridges is a crucial part of sustaining peace. In 1910 the International Peace Bureau was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “acting as a link between the peace societies of the various countries”. The International Peace Bureau was founded in 1891 as an organization to coordinate and direct campaigns related to building peace through disarmament, mediation, and arbitration. Through their work IPB builds bridges between other peace organizations and individuals to make peace building efforts more successful. This organization’s entire purpose is to build bridges between those who promote peace! Perhaps that is why the IPB and 13 of its members have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize over the years. 

Amy2At the end of the summer, I’m convinced it goes right back to where we started in Lillehammer. Dialogue is building bridges. It’s meeting people, getting to know them, seeing them for who they are instead of what they are, and feeling connected to them. So next time you think a bridge is just a structure designed to  cross over – take a second look.

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