Negotiating the Peace Process: insights from a summer spent in Colombia

By Teddie Levenfiche

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  Teddie Levenfiche (left) with former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe (center) and the Congressman Federico Hoyos (right)

Teddie Levenfiche (left) with former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe (center) and the Congressman Federico Hoyos (right)

This was the answer to my first task as an intern in Congress of the Republic of Colombia - to find out how many boxes of hidden weapons the FARC rebels were suspected to be in possession of.

This summer, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work in Congress’ Second Commission and in the office of Congressman Federico Hoyos Salazar, one of Colombia’s youngest and most talented politicians, a man not just willing to embrace change, but someone motivated to forge it. The Second Commission dealt with all things related to international relations, including national security issues and trade deals. This involved working alongside top army generals, economists and lawyers, and being exposed to the complex issues of a country unfortunately still plagued with twin evils of corruption and war.

Being involved in the strategizing of negotiation and dispute settlement methods to end the war with the FARC rebels, exposed me to problem-solving at the most crucial level. Immersing myself in the details of Colombia’s Peace Process revealed to me a polarized political environment where my views were constantly challenged. Colombia’s war with guerilla forces and militias is one that has affected the lives of most, and continues to hinder the economic and social progress of a country with filled such decent, generous, talented and welcoming people. Nevertheless, I am certain that Colombia has a bright future, and the end to a torturous peace process is near. I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with a team of talented and passionate professionals that dedicate each and every day working to improve the lives of the Colombian people.

Having the opportunity to tour ‘Casa de Nariño’, Colombia’s presidential palace, while the President was actually working upstairs, was definitely a highlight of my summer. Furthermore, I was able to get involved in the many activities that Bogotá had to offer, as well travel to many of the other regions within Colombia. This included visiting coffee plantations, taking salsa classes, horseback riding, scuba diving, and much more.

I embraced and grew from the challenge of adapting to different values and customs that form the foundations of a happy and vibrant Colombian culture. Having never been to South America before this summer, and not knowing anyone else in Colombia before I arrived, I was definitely nervous to accept this opportunity. However, reflecting on my experience, spending my summer in Colombia was definitely one of my best decisions yet, and an experience that has significantly contributed to my personal and professional development.

Colombia is a country that will forever hold a special place in my heart. This summer, I made lifelong friends, memories, and held a dream internship in Colombia’s highest office. I am incredibly grateful for the support from Career Services that I received in funding this experience, and to my inspirational colleagues from whom I learnt so much.

Teddie Levenfiche is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania where he studies International Relations and Spanish