By Christina Welch, Rotary Scholar to UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education
As I pedaled my newly acquired bicycle through the streets of Delft, in the Netherlands, I realized I was smiling to myself. Navigating through the cobblestone streets and over the canals felt nothing like home, yet I was so grateful to be here.
This bicycle is on loan from Paul Gompen, a fellow Rotary member. I didn’t realize being a beneficiary of the global grant meant so much more than simply a scholarship. It became immediately clear upon my arrival that I am now a part of an international network of wonderful people that are willing to help in whatever way they can, at the drop of a hat. For example, when I arrived in the Netherlands after a long international flight, it was such a relief to find Henk Jaap Kloosterman, my host counselor, waiting in the airport to ease the transition into Dutch culture.
I am among the first class of graduate students in the newly created Water Cooperation and Peace master’s program. This joint program takes place in three leading international institutions: University for Peace in Costa Rica, UNESCO-IHE in the Netherlands, and Oregon State University in Oregon, USA. The program is designed to create a new interdisciplinary field by merging hard water science with social science. The main goal is to create a broader perspective of topics related to water diplomacy, water security, and dispute mitigation.
I didn’t realize being a beneficiary of the global grant meant so much more than simply a scholarship.
Coming from an environmental science background, I am highly motivated to apply my scientific knowledge of ecosystems and climate change to tackle these issues on an international scale. Specifically, trans-boundary water mediation is arguably one of the most critical issues today in managing our water resource.
In the past six months, between the University for Peace and UNESCO-IHE, I have met students from over 60 different countries. Discussing water accessibility, political issues, and primary water security concerns with such an international group of working professionals has been one of the most enlightening experiences, and has really put into perspective how fortunate I am to be coming from a country with access to relatively safe drinking water right from the tap.
This global grant has quite literally been the opportunity of a lifetime at a pivotal time in my career. At UNESCO-IHE, I am being trained by leading professionals in the fields of water: economics, law, governance, management, and conflict mediation. The concepts and lessons I am learning here are providing building blocks for my future career. I feel so fortunate to be receiving such a high-quality education. Yet none of this would be feasible without the help of Rotary as a whole. Additionally, I would like to individually thank Rotarians Stephen Brown and Pam Russell for their tireless work on my behalf to help make my dream a reality. I have a feeling I am going to continue to smile every day as I pedal through the streets of Delft.