The day I graduated from Swarthmore, I had no idea what my future would look like. I held in my hands a diploma and a plane ticket, but no solid plans as to what to do with either. Now, six months later, I am at a place in my life I never would have predicted but one that I nonetheless have come to love.
Directly following graduation, I decided to trek off to Europe with nothing but a backpack and a Eurail pass (cliche, I know, but well worth the effort). After three months of traveling across the continent and seeing so many beautiful countries and places, I moved to San Diego where I had been awarded a fellowship at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice. There I, along with three other interns, followed the news from about a dozen foreign countries and wrote and published a weekly update where we informed our readers about conflict zones, peace efforts, and social justice events that had happened in our assigned countries the week before. We were also each assigned an individual project to work on, so throughout the fall I also worked on mapping peacebuilding efforts worldwide to better understand the resources, approaches, and projects implemented in this emerging field.
While these daily assignments kept us busy, perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the internship was being involved with the different programs, symposiums, and conferences IPJ sponsored. During the first half of the term, we were able to meet and collaborate with Women PeaceMakers and PeaceWriters – international leaders who are invited to San Diego to share their stories and exchange ideas and approaches to peacemaking and social justice. This year, we were honored to meet the first woman Prime Minister of Haiti, a lawyer for Dalat rights in India, a doctor and relief organizer in Iraq, and (maybe, just maybe) the next President of Kenya. We also worked on the “Women, Media, and Revolution” public forum where journalists, filmmakers and social media citizen activists discussed the role of women in conflict and how they are using their voices against ongoing political and cultural violence, and most recently presented a lecture by Katherine Sikkink on how human rights prosecutions are changing world politics.
The IPJ is part of the University of San Diego’s graduate school of Peace Studies, so in addition to our work, we were also able to audit classes, attend lectures, and meet with faculty and professors throughout the semester. It was a great way to transition out of full-time academic life: we were able to stay involved and engaged in academic topics and issues, but weren’t required to do homework or take final exams!
I was lucky in that I was able to directly use my degree in Peace and Conflict Studies for my work at the Institute for Peace and Justice (see – they even sound similar!). Having a firm grasp on history and a clear understanding of theories and practices was completely beneficial in the general sense, and more specific things like having access to the Nonviolent Action database and a connection at the Swat-founded Genocide Prevention Network helped me with my journal articles and peacebuiling research.
My first six months as a college graduate have been such an adventure and working at the IPJ has been a great experience. While I’m not sure what the next six months hold or where this work will take me, I couldn’t be more excited to find out.