“What I Would Have Liked to Read When I Applied”

Diego Manrique, HSI 2017 
The Hansen Summer Institute -HSI- is a bridge that connects young people, cultures, minds and ideas to generate mutual understanding, friendship and international cooperation for a more sustainable and peaceful world.
Imagine a room with 25 young leaders from all over the world. Each one of them has a different background, ideas, experiences, knowledge and aspirations. Regardless of their differences, they all have a common goal: to improve the world in which we live in. To do this, they gather for three weeks In the University of San Diego in San Diego, California, one of the finest cities of the Unites States.
After a very competitive selection process, 25 of the best minds are chosen from across the globe, on its last edition more than 1,500 applications were received. To be selected as a HSI fellow is not only a privilege, it’s also an opportunity to be part of a diverse global family that fosters positive change and transformation.
During these three weeks, the HSI fellows participate in a very intense program that includes dynamic lectures, workshops, conferences, fields trips and co-creation sessions around the topics of leadership, human rights, social entrepreneurship, public speaking, negotiation and conflict resolution, just to mention a few. All of which is made while being immersed in the American culture. Since hard work has its rewards, HSI fellows also have a lot of fun. The program includes several cultural and recreational activities, such as the traditional 4th of July celebration, as well as visiting different beaches and parks around the city.
The HSI helps its fellows to put knowledge into practice and transform their ideas into reality. Fellows learn how commerce, peace and social development are very closely linked; during the three-week program, the fellows worked collaboratively on the development of different social ventures to solve social issues through innovative ideas. As fellows learn to work collaboratively in an international environment, borders disappear and international cooperation comes alive.
Each year, HSI welcomes 25 bright students from all over the world and three weeks later, 25 leaders head back home very well equipped with tools and resources and as a part of a wide network of bright leaders with great potential. Change starts in San Diego but it impacts the world as HSI alumni use the tools and knowledge gathered to their local projects and initiatives back home. 
The HSI is possible because of the support of the Fred J. Hansen Foundation and the efforts of Ronald Bee -managing director and Bonnie Lamb -program coordinator. They are all committed to the success of this program and the personal growth of each one of their fellows, 185 of them so far.

From Saadia Ahmad on HSI 2016 

Saadia Ahmad
Master’s Student in Conflict Resolution
McCormack Scholar
Dept. of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance
University of Massachusetts, Boston


When I started my Master’s program in Conflict Resolution last fall, I never could have known how much more real and relevant what I was studying would soon become. The fall of 2015 marked the beginning of an onslaught and increased awareness of Islamic violence abroad – claimed as such by both the perpetrators and the larger world – and a steady series of anti-Islamic rhetoric and violence at home. Even after 9/11, I had never felt the kind of polarization and hostility that fuels both of these trajectories that we have witnessed and experienced in the past year.

The murders of Khalid Jabara in Oklahoma and of Maulama Akonjee and Thara Uddin in New York – Muslims in America who were living their lives just the way you and I do – are just the most recent targets of this xenophobia, signifying how far we’ve fallen into these dark voids of prejudice, violence, and fear, and how far away we are from where we could be. I have sometimes hesitated to write much about these national and international affairs, in part because the particular details, greater depth, and long-term implications of what is happening surpasses what I can presently claim to speak to knowledgably. But what I can speak to is a possibility for a better world, one that is not merely void of violent conflict but is instead filled with peace and friendship in its wake – one that I am fortunate in more ways than I realize to have experienced this past summer.

The Hansen Summer Institute brings together 25 young, peace-aspiring leaders from 20 different countries to what was described to us as the world’s greatest city of San Diego, for the purpose of exploring international cooperation and leadership, studying social entrepreneurship, and – most importantly – building a unified community amid diversity.

Here, I witnessed the beautiful connections that can be forged when individuals hailing from countries in conflict with one another are roommates and choose to engage with one another with friendship, curiosity, and an open heart: when an Indian and a Pakistani playfully joke and tease with one another; when a Turkish and an Armenian spend hours late into the night talking about all that life entails and throws at them; when a Bosnian looks after and cares for his ill, Serbian roommate; when the personalities of an Estonian and a Russian resonate and equilibrate with one another so beautifully and naturally; when a Palestinian and an Israeli civilly and respectfully discuss what they agree and disagree about – and when all of them still walk onward as closer friends.

Never again can I look upon a map of the world and feel unaffected by international events, nor can I read about the politics involving these countries in the same way ever again. A fellow American participant shared how he has added these 20 countries to his personalized, daily news feed for this same reason. All of our minds and our hearts have been opened to these countries through knowing and living with one another, and I cannot envision them ever closing off even as our countries may continue to rage with one another. I do not believe it possible for any of us to envision peace for ourselves and our countries without ensuring it for the other, after all that we experienced with and through one another.

I’ve found a lifelong friendship in someone from a country that I barely knew existed and who has become a closer friend to me in less than two months than many friends I’ve known since my childhood. I recently confided to her a dilemma I’ve been struggling with, and she responded by asking, “how are we going to fix this?” Can you imagine an internationally connected world in which our leaders ask and answer this question with one another and for one another, together? In my mind, this possibility no longer feels out of reach for our world as it once felt to me. It was amid such a diverse community with each and every one of my fellow Hansen participants and amid our commitment to one another that I have felt the most free and uninhibited in being and expressing who I am, all the while knowing that their love and respect remains amid all the different pieces of myself so open and vulnerable. They are why I still have hope amid all of the international conflicts and violence plaguing our world and the subsequent, interpersonal prejudice and hostility that is born out of that.

None of this is meant to suggest that there are not real conflicts that plague these countries, that there is not significant disagreement, nor that there is not immense suffering as a result of them. Indeed, we grappled with these realities as well during our three weeks together. Rather, the implied message is that we choose how to relate and engage with one another amid those conflicts, real and painful as they are.

There are three specific items that I believe allowed this experience to play out as beautifully as it did, as it was designed and envisioned by the directors and funders. The first is that all of our needs were taken care of properly and holistically, both physical and emotional. We did not have to worry about where our food was coming from for our next meal, or whether we were safe from danger while sleeping at night. Having our physical, tangible needs met is an imperative for this kind of engagement. Second, we each entered into the program and into relationship with one another with a commitment to upholding respect and with an intention to build our community, and we remained steadfast and true to that and to one another amid conflicts and disagreements that arose. Without this, we would not have maintained the friendly, supportive contact we have still today. Third, we held a shared identity and common purpose as fellows of the Hansen Institute, not at all unlike how each of us is a global citizen of our world.

In the midst of a phase of struggling in my own Islamic faith, my fellow Hansen participants have given me a new kind of faith. Amid losing the home of my upbringing in a family tragedy, I have gained 24 new homes across the world. I suspect that I likely will not be able to visit home as often as I’d like; but home is, in part, defined by the trust that should we ever need to go home amid whatever else happens in the world and in our lives, it will remain there for us – patient, eager, and overjoyed to welcome us back.

My international Hansen family reminds me of what I stand for – a unity amid diversity – and they remind me why I stand for that: relationships like those we have – across the lines of difference that are so often incited and used to divide rather than unite – are what heals the wounds of our hearts, inspires hope for something greater and better for us all, and brings us ever closer to achieving the dream of peace within our inner worlds and the larger world we share. I am comforted, inspired, and made hopeful knowing that each of them is acting so courageously, compassionately, and beautifully in the world, and I know that our entire world will also be comforted, inspired, and made hopeful as we reach further and rise higher in our peacebuilding efforts. I often receive a mix of responses when I share with others what I study and what I aspire towards, including: “we need more of that”; “thank you for committing yourself to this”; “good luck”; “you’re going to be busy”; “you’ll never be out of a job.” Truthfully, more often than not, I feel just as uncertain and overwhelmed as those who place their hope in me, and I wish I could give more of the answers that are sought. The most I can offer here, now, is the truth and beauty of our Hansen experience that exists as a possibility for us all, and my conviction that we together validated: that how we choose to engage with those different from us – and it is a choice, always – is our own free, individual choice, but that fate is shared by us all.

From Bruno Cardozo on HSI 2015

Check out Bruno’s video about his 2015 Hansen experience, and then take a look at the PowerPoint presentation he created.



From Jayvy Gamboa’s facebook page on HSI 2015

JayvyAfter three weeks of being in the Hansen Summer Institute on Leadership and International Cooperation from June 29 to July 20, 2015 at the University of San Diego, I went back to the Philippines with a more open heart and mind on the realities of other countries. With 21 great people from 17 countries all over the world, we opened a new door towards a better understanding and appreciation of the world’s diversity.

Being immersed in a multitude of cultures is one of the missions of HSI. Learning about others’ traditions, beliefs, upbringings, and characters first hand is essential in revolutionizing one’s judgmental self. This will eventually lead in a widening of perspective on the issues which we only hear in the news, from the other sides of the world.

On a lighter note, I had a list of firsts because of HSI. First airplane ride, out-of-the-country trip, and horse ride, among others. Moreover, classes in negotiation, mediation, public speaking, and social entrepreneurship contributed in the success of this experience.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be with them, in person, and knowing their stories, as we share in writing our common story for three weeks. This shall forever be weaved in our personal stories.

Words cannot contain the happiness that I am feeling about this experience. It is only our hearts and shared consciousness which can truly comprehend the essence of this program. At the moment of farewell, our tears justify how we value each other as a family from different nations, housed in 5th floor Maher Hall, USD, which we consider home.

Now, I hope to successfully share the experience and skills to my fellow Filipinos, in hopes oReception 2015f ending discrimination and unreasonable judgments to our fellow humans. For every person to whom I share my story, I hope to revolutionize his/her perspective towards other nationalities.

To HSI 2015 Fellows, I fervently pray to see you again.
To the Filipino youth, I am prepared to share my story and the stories of the other Fellows.
To the Philippines, my hope for the future has never been this strong.
To God, thank You for leading me.


From Alberto Matus’ blog on HSI 2014

albertoWhile still feeling inspired one of the things I wanted to take upon was to start blogging. Blogging not just for the sake of blogging, but to share interesting tips, facts, articles and stories.

Exactly one month ago I was back home to my usual tasks, but with a sense of inspiration and pride. A feeling that still burns deeply, and will linger for quite some time. As I wrote on the group’s facebook page while feeling melancholic at San Diego’s airport “If there are things in life which you can call life changing, I can without a doubt say that this experience was. Never imagined I’d have that feeling which you get when you can’t let go of something, but leaving was! Each and everyone of you will always have a place in my heart and mind.” This is how I felt after being part of the Hansen Summer Institute 2014 fellowship programme.


The Hansen Summer Institute on International Leadership and Cooperationprogramme was held at the University of San Diego, and brought inspiring people from different continents. The participants came from a total of 16 different countries: Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nepal, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Israel, Egypt, Malawi, United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, and of course my very own awesome country Belize. We also had two amazing assistants in the programme, one from France/Cameroon and Mexico, which added another blend to the mix. These participants were chosen because they were the best of over 900 applications, they showed that burning desire that leads to change for the betterment of our countries. They were inspirational, motivational, aspiring, and true leaders who wanted more than just the little that is presented before us. They aspire to inspire, and inspire to aspire. We had one goal and that was bringing the world towards world peace.

You may ask how can a small group of people from very few countries bring world peace? I answer to all those who have asked that question before, I alone cannot change the world but by sparkling a change in each one of you to want a better tomorrow is a start. A start to want better, a start to want change, a start to want world peace. If each one of us was able to see the different worlds we live in and understand the different hardships people from different places go through, you would want to make it different. Each one of us has our own battles, and our own struggles but because we want a change for a better tomorrow we strive to make it better. Change doesn’t start from the top, it starts at home, it starts in the community you live, your country, and until you keep on spreading it like wildfire. Thus, I’m more than a hundred percent sure that each person who participated has a stronger drive for change.

The overall package that the Hansen Summer Institute brings is infinitely invaluable, no words, no actions can express how truly amazing the entire programme is. It heavily involved lectures by amazing professors, seminars, workshops by re-known people, and exclusive opportunities to have some of the most amazing time. These brought the best in each and every participant, from humorous jokes together with the group to some of the most personal stories which brought tears to our eyes. At first we may have been complete strangers to one another, but day by day we built a stronger bond. A bond that allowed us to express ourselves as an individual and our personal stories; it’s not everyday someone is able to express some of our deepest stories that touches others. But strong mentors, and teachers allow us to do that.

I could have not asked for a better birthday present this year, did I mention I flew in to San Diego right on my birthday? Thanks to Bonnie, Ron and the group there was plenty of delicious cake to have around like for a week until Anya finished it all :D I could go on writing a million words about how awesome the entire experience was, but If I had to some it up all it’s that the Hansen Summer Institute 2014 fellows, including Bonnie, Ron, and all those who had an impact are my new family. Memories cemented, lessons learned, and experiences to remember. I now look to venture in my social entrepreurship project this upcoming month which was also one of the many merits of the programme.

Hansen Summer Institute

USA, Azerbaijan, Russian, Georgia – “Love, Peace, International Relations”. :) Every other week I’ll be posting a video or the participants overall reaction of the programme towards the end. Now I say as I kept telling Grecia “Imagine what would happen if we all stuck for a year…” :)

A huge thanks goes to Bonnie, Ron, and all the organizers of the programme, without them this experience would never be possible!!