This is the first in a series of blog posts written by some of the 2011 Peace Scholars, as they complete their summer program in Oslo, Norway.
On Sunday of this week, I will be leaving for a 7 week study abroad experience in Oslo, Norway as a 2011 Peace Scholar. As I begin to pack and compile a growing to-do list, I’m wondering if I should have done more to prepare for my trip. Was I supposed to check out Scandinavia for Dummies or take a crash course in the Norwegian language (of which I know none)? Well, too late. I guess I’ll just have to rely on what I did accomplish in the realm of preparation.
Several weeks ago, we were sent a book titled A Billion Lives written by Norwegian born Jan Egeland, the former United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, to help us gain a broader understanding of Norway’s commitment to international affairs. Egeland’s book describes his account of numerous missions and crises he oversaw during his time at the United Nations and how he maneuvered countless wars, disasters, and utter chaos into processes of peace and prosperity. Because I’ve taken a Model United Nations class for several years, I thought I had a pretty detailed picture of what the UN’s role was in international affairs. However, this book showed me a whole new side, down to the finite details, of what the organization’s work truly entails.
We were also asked to brainstorm global conflicts or issues surrounding global peace that we would be interested in researching as part of the peace seminar that myself and the 9 other scholarship recipients will partake in. Because of my deep interests in public policy and local governance, I may decide to examine ways in which local governments have been successfully utilized in conflict situations. As discussed in Egeland’s book, the UN recognizes the importance of local solutions to local problems. Although this has many times led to further death and corruption, I am interested in learning about instances in which a local population has mobilized and brokered their own solutions to their conflict before the international community could decide one for them.
Above all, I hope that this experience opens my eyes even wider to the fascinating world that lies outside of my often Americanized bubble. Maybe the lack of true preparation on my part will lend itself to the openness I’ll feel facing the Oslo unknown!
- Claire Bergren, Augsburg College
P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about my travels, check out my personal blog at www.claireinnorway.blogspot.com