Last week, we Peace Scholars started our summer journey with five days at the Nansen Academy, tucked away in the wooded, mountainous region of Lillehammer, Norway. There, we met with another 15 students and three dialogue workers. Together, the 30 of us represented 16 countries including, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Ethiopia, Uganda, Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Maldives, the US, and Norway., Up until our time in Lillehammer, we had all lived relatively different lives from each other. But a few hours, some pretty amazing food, and a little bit of aquavit got us to share our lives with each other.
I quickly learned that the 29 people in the picture above, are some of the most amazing people I have ever had the pleasure to get to know. Each of those people, are working, to create peace in their lives and their communities. Each of us are striving for a better version of the world than what we have now. We came together in Lillehammer, united under a passion for dialogue, for conversation as a tool to peace. And together, we experienced dialogue. We were coming for such different places yet we understood each other, we were able to work towards a common goal. A particularly frustrating (but effective) lesson was learned when we had to rank a list of concepts in order of importance. None of us agreed with anyone else and we definitely did not agree as a group. But somehow, we were able to come to a common understanding. We might not have agreed with the final list but we did understand each other. And that is the goal of dialogue.
Leaving Lillehammer last Friday was terrible. Partially because the food was so good at the Center and I was not excited about the cafeteria food that faced us the rest of the summer. But I mostly hated leaving because of the goodbyes I had to say; to our mentors, to our friends who were returning home, and to the comfortability of the academy, a place where I had been wholly myself for five days.
But we did not go to the Nansen center to explore what a comfortable life looked like. Conversely, we learned that pushing for peace, for transformative dialogue and for change in the world is uncomfortable. Leaving the Academy, challenged us to take our new knowledge with us, into the International Summer School in Oslo, and back into our home communities. So with a new group of amazing friends, and a passion for dialogue, we head into the International Summer School. Bring it on.