Lenika, Brown University

Peacebuilding in Colombia, 2019

Lenika, an Environmental Studies student at Brown tells us about here experiences on the 2019 Peacebuilding in Colombia course.

‘My study abroad with Red Tree Study in Bogotá, Colombia took me to a Peacebuilding course at the Universidad de los Andes. Along with other international students, I was able to learn about the people, culture and political situation of Colombia with visits varying from the United Nation Verification Mission in Colombia to the Center for Memory, Peace and Reconciliation. Taking courses and emerging myself in the city life of Bogotá I was able to learn through graffiti tours, law professors and national economists alike. 

One of the reasons I was able to so freely interact with locals, enjoy the Colombian and Venezuelan cuisine, and take morning strolls to class was due to our accomodation being so close to the university. Living in such a welcoming and central location made my stay feel more comfortable and safe. Having international and local restaurants right below our building made dinner nights a fun and easy outing. 

Going to Bogotá with little to almost no understanding of the Peace Process Colombia has been in for decades, I was astounded by the incredible work the people of Colombia have been putting in for Peace. I went in hoping to learn about how policy has affected the peace agreement, but I learned more about how people have come together against corruption, injustice and neglect by the government. 

What I learned and experienced while in Bogotá, Colombia is not only applicable to my studies at Brown University within my concentration of Latin America and the Caribbean, but also to how I engage in conversations about war, peace and peacebuilding at an individual and a collective level. After getting to speak to ex-guerilla combatants about their personal lives and their first hand experiences in a polarized society, I was touched and astounded by human resilience. 

My travel and study experience was enriching on so many levels. Through the Red Tree Study program I was able to explore my interests and passions in a country 2,622 miles away. As a young latinx woman of color who aspires to one day become a world leader, having opportunities like the Peacebuilding course in Colombia was life changing. Being able to connect with other young leaders throughout the world in Bogotá brought a new perspective to me; one that is open to the idea of peace being within oneself before it can be of the world. 

The unique curriculum I engaged with included lectures, conversations and classes from some of the most renowned professors in Latin America and abroad. One morning we could be listening to a professor from the Universidad de los Andes speak on the political economy of the Colombian armed conflict, and in the afternoon have a talk with a professor from Harvard Law School mentioning the importance of Women in the Armed Conflict and Transitional Justice. I was able to take so much information and knowledge that I’ve already seen opportunities where I can apply my learning to projects from my classes here at Brown and beyond.’