Concordia students Matthew Lillehaugen ’17 and Alexander Gray '16 spent six weeks in Norway as participants of the Peace Scholars program.
In a world so often in conflict, a program devoted to the development of peace is a breath of fresh air.
The Peace Scholars program is exactly that. Six colleges founded by Norwegian-American immigrants started the program. Twelve students from Augsburg, Augustana (Sioux Falls, S.D.), Luther, Pacific Lutheran, St. Olaf and Concordia spend six weeks in Norway studying the issues of conflict, war and peace. This year, Lillehaugen and Gray were chosen to represent Concordia.
Lillehaugen is majoring in political science and global studies. Gray is majoring in social studies education and political science. Both are excited about the opportunities the Peace Scholars program has given them.
“(In one) week alone I met world-renowned humanitarian worker Jan Egeland, toured the Nobel Peace Center and visited Oslo City Hall, where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each year,” Gray says.
During the first five days of the program, scholars were at the Nansen Academy in Lillehammer. There they participated in a dialogue with students from the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe and the Caucasus region located between the borders of Europe and Asia . When not in sessions, the groups spent much of their time together, eating meals, playing soccer and exploring the city. These everyday experiences helped them to better understand each other and deepen their friendships, Lillehaugen says. The dialogue sessions were also meaningful.
“The dialogue sessions themselves culminated with a round where we broke into three groups: Balkans, Ukrainians and Americans. We articulated the deepest questions that were gnawing at us for the other groups and then took turns answering them in front of everyone. This was a really powerful experience,” Lillehaugen says.
The rest of the program was held at Oslo International Summer School where the American students continued the Peace Scholars seminar and added another course of their choice.
Both Gray and Lillehaugen hope to use the experiences they are having this summer to impact their future careers – Gray as a teacher and Lillehaugen in international relations and diplomacy.
“The Peace Scholars program has exposed me to a wealth of information that I fully intend to relay to my future students so they may be advocates for peace and understanding, just as I am learning to do now,” says Gray.
“I hope that I will be able to use what I learned this summer to help make the world a better, more peaceful place,” says Lillehaugen.