Peace, Mediation, and Conflict Research
Pöö pöö hyvät ystävät. It has been a while. I graduated from Leiden University with bachelor degree in psychology. After summer it feels I have forgotten everything, though I do opine I have great academic literacy if nothing else. What a road. I thought I would become a psychologist, instead I am back in Finland studying peace, mediation, and conflict research (PEACE) in Åbo Akademi University? Peace studies are a multidisciplinary studies that aim to understand the causes of violence and war from many perspectives, including psychology.
Indeed, my experiences in the Netherlands made me think of other possible careers than just psychology. It would have been close-minded of me if I did not. I looked at social psychology, neuroscience, clinical psychology, human-technology interaction (HTI), user-experience design, cognitive science, health studies, and various research-focused programmes, and of course the PEACE programme. There were three things I especially looked at when weighing the programmes: curriculum content, zero tuition fee, and the most important idea that would ultimately affect my decision: If I did not have to worry about money, which career would I pursue? That way I can be sure that I am doing what I find meaningful, and not only to do it because of money. Although having enough money to sustain a decent lifestyle would be nice. No denying that.
Even though I had thirty credits worth of knowledge on neuroscience, I thought that neuroscience lacked interaction with people that I sought in my future career. I could not imagine myself studying brain cells in a windowless laboratory. But the knowledge is definitely not wasted. For example, during one the introductory courses we had to read the Seville Statement, and I learned that in the 1980s people apparently thought that there is something in the human brain that makes us biologically predisposed to violence. This is false, and this is exactly where neuroscience can prove it. In other words, I wield a “neuroscience bullshit detector”.
I applied in the first application round in winter. Second round would come later in spring. I applied to the PEACE and HTI programme. I got rejected to HTI and accepted to PEACE. When I received the rejection letter, I was not upset—I guess I was not interested in HTI then after all? Huh. In contrast, getting a letter from Åbo Akademi surprised me. Happy confusion. I then decided not to apply in the spring round to clinical psychology.
What drew me in PEACE programme was its developmental psychology-focused curriculum. It was something familiar but also something new—because this time it would be taught in a niche context: peace and war. The idea of working abroad for a good cause, peace, potentially mediating conflicts is compelling. Although, as sexy as that might sound, I might actually find myself as a low-paid grunt in the field, and later a paper pusher in a bureocratic system where nothing seems to move unless you are the one with the power and money. Anyway, I believe that even the smallest contributions to society can help us ensure a better future. If 'violence breeds violence', why cannot 'peace foster peace'? And another example is that if I smile to a person, then perhaps that person will become happier and subsequently smile to someone else. You see where I am going? Small contributions. Butterfly effect. Karma.
I do not know where PEACE will take me and it should cause anxiety in me, but I see this as an interesting turn of events. While it is not as I envisioned myself five years ago, or even one year ago, I am open to what future brings.