Even though I have so far only written about fun and adventurous things to do in Pokhara, we have, if there was any doubt, also quite a bit of schoolwork that must be done during our stay here in Nepal. The study programme is divided into three parts: self-study, group exam and individual exam. In this blog post I’ll write about my experience with all the three parts of the programme as well as some tips I gathered throughout the course.
Prior to our arrival in Nepal we had a self-study period where we read some articles with a total of approx. 300 pages and wrote an 1800-word paper. This time was meant for us to gain some general knowledge within Peace and Conflict studies as well as practising some soon-to-be-very-relevant university study skills. Personally, I stayed at home in Norway during this time to combine it with work. What I found very helpful during this time was to read a bit every day, or at least spread throughout the whole self-study period. In that way I avoided any last-minute stress. Just remember to take notes along the way!
We started having lectures as soon as we arrived in Nepal. That was the time it felt like we were ‘real’ students. During the first seven weeks of the programme we had lectures from 9.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. These lectures were divided into three modules with the topics ‘Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies’, ‘Peace and Conflict in South Asia’ and ‘Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding’ respectively. The aim of these first weeks was to understand the context and importance of Peace and Conflict as an academic field as well as learning about central theories and scholars in the context of contemporary conflicts, peace building projects primarily in the South Asian region but also other parts of the world.
The three last weeks of the program was dedicated to write the group paper. This is an academic paper consisting of approximately 9000 words and is written by groups of 4-5 people. For this paper we came with suggestions for topics for the group paper which could be anything from a specific peace building process, a war, a refugee crisis, conflict and war in media and other topics related to the subject that was related to South Asia. My group wrote about the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar/Bangladesh, but others wrote about the Kashmir War between Pakistan and India, the Green Revolution and Peace/War journalism.
Here are some tips and tricks for a successful group paper process:
- Communication!! You always want to be on the same page as your group members. If you communicate well from the very beginning, you minimise the chances of having to redo a whole lot of writing because you misunderstood each other.
- Discuss the expectations you have for each other as well as for the paper.
- Create google docs! In that way you are always up to date with what the others have written.
- Ask for help. Help your group members. A group consist of people with different skills – make use of it!
- Don’t get sick. Just don’t.
- Don’t take feedback personally.
- Give constructive feedback.
- Discuss the structure and criteria for the paper as a group and as a whole class.
- Read the study guide.
These points might seem obvious and easy, but it’s nice to have a list sometimes to remind yourself and your group members about where the focus should be. Lastly, I want to suggest choosing a work group based on the topic and not the people. We chose our group partners quite early in the programme when we didn’t know each other too well. All I want to say is that people can surprise you.
After the lectures and the ‘official’ programme in Nepal had ended, the last remaining thing to do was to write the individual home exam which we had to get done within three weeks. We wrote the exam based on one task chosen from a list of four tasks. We were then required to give a 4400 answer to the self-chosen task. These tasks were centred around specific conflicts, peace processes, social issues, violence and non-violence, to mention a few, in the South Asian region. Even though the questions were specific, we were given a lot of freedom to choose our own topics and focuses within the limitations of the questions. I personally wrote about the civil war in Nepal and learnt a whole lot about the country I had stayed in for 3 months.
Personally, I stayed in Pokhara for the whole exam period together with four others from my class, but we were free to write the exam anywhere in the world. Other people in our class travelled or went home to write their exams.
Here are some general tips for writing the home exam:
- Choose a topic you are interested in and want to know more about
- Choose a topic you find sufficient information on through the school’s online library or Google scholar
- Plan your days with included study breaks, food breaks and some physical activity
- Find yourself some good writing buddies who will force you to write
- Set deadlines for yourself for when you will submit an outline and a draft to yourself
- Find your spot that you can concentrate to write. We used the café Ayurvedico a lot. We got there in the mornings, had breakfast, worked, got lunch, procrastinated a bit before we worked a bit more. Pokhara is filled with lovely and cute cafés with perfect working environment, so find your own spot that works for you!
- You got 3 weeks to write 4400 words which should be enough time to write. Don’t stress, lean back, get your cup of coffee and enjoy writing. After all, this is something you chose all by yourself to write about!
Kulturstudier’s course in Nepal is a challenging and exciting programme where the learning curve is, at least in my case, very steep. It is suitable for anyone interested in international law, international studies/relations, politics and anthropology to mention a few. The students in my class had all sorts of reasons to be there, some had already finished their master’s degree, others included the course in their bachelor’s degree, some used it to find a suitable university course whilst others did it simply because they were interested in peace and conflict studies or South Asia. The most important thing is that you go with an open-minded spirit and a soul eager to soak up everything the course and Nepal has to offer!