Such an interesting and dynamic course! The coordinators had even adapted our timetable to account for real time developments in the peace process. To be learning about a history that is still unfolding, in the country that it is happening, is to really experience what Colombia is living.
I feel humbled to have been taught by experts on the subject: professors, heads of government institutions, heads of NGOs, ex-combatants, the President’s communications team, victims of the conflict; all of whom have had a substantive role in shaping how the peace agreement was formed and how it will be implemented. Many of the Los Andes professors have been closely involved in the negotiation process and policy reform.
Equally, the course never felt inaccessible, or that too much prior knowledge was expected. Even the experts who have worked on this process for years were happy to explain the rudimentary aspects of the conflict.
For me the most interesting part of the programme was the opportunity to talk to people who have experienced the conflict first-hand. We spoke with two MA students who were previously members of two opposing armed groups, and “despite their differences”, are now friends. It was fascinating to understand what compelled them to join these groups, what compelled them to leave, and even what their mundane day-to-day lives were like while members.
The approach to learning is also unique in that we only ever spent half the day in the classroom. For the second half of the day we spoke with the multitude of organisations and individuals who focus on one specific aspect of the implementation, which gives insight into the complexity of a successful peace process.
One trip involved going to a demilitirsed zone where the FARC members had handed in their weapons only days earlier. We spoke to UN employees who explained the demobilisation process, and then had the opportunity to chat to several members of the FARC. I don´t know of any other academic course that offers so many different perspectives on one subject.
Finally, I think it´s important to add that the other students on the course make it particularly stimulating. Everyone is there because they have a real interest in the Colombian peace process, and as a result, there was always a lot of energy and inquisitiveness in the classes. It was a really amazing experience!