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Peace Lab took place for the first time on-site in Rwanda in January 2023. Due to the impact of the pandemic, the previous two editions were forced to take place entirely online. Under the guidance of Dr. Anne de Graaf and AUC alumni Dieudonné Gakire and Merijn Tax, AUC students visited Rwanda on a 10-day field trip to learn about post-conflict reconstruction and state-building first-hand through visits and meetings with organisations such as the UN, NGOs, youth peacebuilders, women’s groups, and local residents.

Learning through experience

Conceived and organised by Dr. Anne de Graaf, Peace Lab is a qualitative research methods class that focuses on peace-building fieldwork and learning through direct interactions with individuals, institutions and organisations working in post-conflict regions. Starting in 2015, the course is well-known in the AUC community as exemplary of experiential learning that brings students to Kosovo each June and Rwanda each January. With the first half of the course dedicated to researching, reading and understanding the current situation in the country of study, the second half of the course includes a 10-day field trip that allows students to meet with local residents and experience the daily realities of life in these regions. The students document their experience through multi-media blog entries and a final project which leads to a presentation based on an original, independent research topic.

Peace Lab Rwanda taking place on-site for the first time

Due to restrictions caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus and subsequent pandemic, the previous two editions of Peace Lab Rwanda were only able to take place virtually. In January 2023, students were finally able to arrive on-site, in person. Over the course of 10 days, the students met with diverse organisations and initiatives, from think tanks working on effective ways to facilitate debate and dialogue to those focused on increasing female representation in government and civil society, to NGOs supporting individuals with HIV/AIDS and youth outreach movements for empathy and unity.

Addressing genocide, reconciliation and peace-building

Peace Lab Rwanda begins by examining aspects of the Rwandan Civil War and Rwandan genocide as a starting point to comprehend the complexity of peace-building processes. By meeting with survivors, authors, activists, governmental institutions and NGOs, their stories, experiences and first-hand accounts offer a holistic understanding of what happened in 1994. The course also looks at how Rwanda has used this painful moment in history to spark change in society. The varied approach that allows Peace Lab takes allows participating students to delve into the many perspectives involved in creating contemporary Rwanda by acknowledging, confronting and understanding its past.

Read their blog to learn about their experience and reflections

While participating in the Peace Lab course, students documented and reflected on their activities, experiences and interactions via their blog. You can read their thoughts via the link below.