In June 2010 I traveled to Oslo’s International Summer School as one of eight Peace Scholars. It was a wonderful experience for many reasons. I was introduced to peace and conflict studies theory through coursework and was able to meet with Norwegian political and non-governmental leaders who put it into practice. I reveled in the international character of the school. I met many fascinating and friendly people from all over the globe, including my roommate, Lika, from the Republic of Georgia. In the dining hall, echos of an earlier political era were apparent in the divide between the conversational linguae francae of Russian and English. Yet political differences took a backseat to the opportunity to learn with and from the diverse student population.
While enjoying those long Norwegian summer days, I was also constantly planning my next steps. How could the opportunity to study as a Peace Scholar connect to my future endeavors? What could I do to build on this experience? I discovered an intriguing research group in Oslo exploring “textile waste as a resource” and was able to discuss with them my ambition of applying for a Fulbright scholarship to return to Norway to join their research group. After the instructor of our Peace Prize Forum course pointed me to the interaction of corporate social responsibility and peacemaking, I prepared my Nobel Peace Prize Forum presentation on the connection between Scandinavian clothing companies and positive peace efforts surrounding the Bangladeshi garment industry. At the time the movement focused on wage increases, yet today it has shifted to encouraging stricter safety measures in factories to prevent further tragedies. This provided a compelling connection between my studies as a Peace Scholar and my intention to conduct research as a Fulbrighter on the social and environmental responsibility of the textile industry.
In August 2011, I returned to Oslo to begin a year as a Fulbright Scholar working with members of the institution I had connected with as a Peace Scholar (the National Institute for Consumer Research). Not only did this experience as a Peace Scholar allow me to plan for the future, but the coursework and interaction with fellow students also provided insight that I continue to use while analyzing global current events. When should outside forces intervene? what are the effects of peacekeeping intervention? what does peace look like and how can it be attained? These questions and the conversations they inspire have continued to motivate me from my time spent in Norway and beyond.