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eriana rivera-rozo (03c) in Petra, Jordan.

in the background is al-deir (the Monastery), a monument dating to the first century B.c.

a journey

through the Middle east leads to

by debbie rasure

Six years after graduating from Berry, she seemed to be on a fast-track to success: She was climbing the corporate ladder quickly, making a good living and earning the respect of her peers. But inside, she felt lost and exhausted from immersion in a culture she felt was fixated on making money. She wanted to connect with people. With her 30th birthday looming, she knew she had to refocus and find purpose in her life. And she did in spades. Rivera-Rozo might not be the only Berry graduate to stop, assess and redirect her life, but she just might have taken the most unusual journey in following her hearts desire. The Colombia-born womans path to purpose and inner peace germinated on a dusty road in Turkey and blossomed in an Israeli kibbutz. Now she is thriving at The Carter Center in Atlanta where she coordinates a forum that brings prominent members of civil society from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and the U.S. together to resolve issues without relying on government intervention. She is using lessons learned in the conflict-laden Middle East to help wage peace in South America.
World PersPective

University. She excelled at work, but each promotion drew her further away from her avocation helping people. She was deeply dissatisfied; something had to change.
Herding goats

eriana rivera-rozo (03C) began working for peace after waging a war with herself.

Rivera-Rozo developed a passion for language and culture early in life when her 18
Berry Magazine Spring 2011

father, employed by a multi-national corporation, was transferred and the family moved from their home in Colombia to Hong Kong. There she attended school with children from every part of the world, learned to speak English and discovered the joys of befriending people who were far different from herself. Subsequent moves took the family to Mexico, Canada and Spain. Rivera-Rozo had just finished high school when her father was transferred again, this time to the U.S. When the family moved, she stayed behind to complete an apprenticeship with a television station. A year later, she joined her family in Atlanta, ready to look for a college with a strong communication program. As parents often are, her mother and father were two steps ahead of her. My parents had been going to college fairs, Rivera-Rozo said, and they had information about Berry. It was close enough to home, but not too close. When I was accepted and awarded academic and communication scholarships, I felt certain that Berry was where God wanted me to be. Rivera-Rozo, who is fluent in Spanish, French and English, earned a Bachelor of Arts honor degree in international studies and communication, graduating magna cum laude. She landed a job with an international corporation and, while employed there full time, earned a masters degree in conflict management from Kennesaw State

When I was on vacation in Turkey in 2008, I was riding a bus and thinking about how Id spent my 20s being really efficient and productive, but not at all sure that I was fulfilling the desire of my heart to connect with people, Rivera-Rozo said. I felt I was losing the essence of who I was outside of my work. During that bus ride, I saw a farmer herding some goats alongside the road, and I thought, I could totally herd goats for six months. That image sparked something deep within me that I couldnt ignore. Eight months later, the memory of that simple farmer triggered an epiphany; RiveraRozo decided to quit her job and join a commune. The idea of living in a community where people around me were working hard but were not money-oriented really appealed to me, she said. Her mothers response to the news surprised her. Without skipping a beat, she asked me to consider joining a kibbutz instead, Rivera-Rozo recalled. Her mother, a physician, had learned about the communal settlements in modern Israel while participating in a medical program there 25 years earlier. Rivera-Rozo liked the idea. A quick search of the Internet led her to the Givat Haviva Institute, an organization conducting programs designed to help bridge gaps in Jewish-Arab relations and promote greater understanding among different groups in Israeli society. One of those programs, the intensive Arabic semester, would allow her to live in a kibbutz for five months while studying Arabic and Hebrew, as well as Middle Eastern and Arabic history, politics, culture, and religion. It was a perfect fit. I have always wanted to learn Arabic, Rivera-Rozo said. Very few examples of the concept of cultural tension are as salient as the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This was a fantastic opportunity for me. There is more to these cultures than what we see from the Western prospective. The Arab culture is
Berry Magazine Spring 2011


eriana rivera-rozo (03c) at the dead sea.

tHe Key to Peace?

veiled, both figuratively and literally, and I wanted to look under the veil.
neW sounds, Words and concePts


Berry Magazine Spring 2011

Deborah Hakes

Although Rivera-Rozo traveled to Israel to experience life in a entry on erianas travel kibbutz, she found little blog, Peacing Out: time to actually get to today i had my first know her neighbors. The hebrew lesson, and it language program fully was a committed lesson lived up to its intensive in the art of humility. moniker, dominating her im so glad that i can time and requiring her to roll my rs and make a adjust in unexpected mean, throaty gargle ways. sound. Because Fridays and Saturdays in Israel are reserved for the Shabbat or Sabbath for example, Rivera-Rozos week started on Sunday and consisted of seven hours of classroom work each day. One day a week was devoted to volunteering at a childrens school in a nearby Arab village, and one weekend a month, she visited her Arab host family in the village. She also spent time with a Jewish family in the kibbutz. For Rivera-Rozo, the experience was like going back to college. I felt really young because everyone in the program was younger than me and I was able to hang out with them and do things I never did in college, she said. But at the same time, I also felt really old because learning Hebrew and Arabic was much more difficult than I thought it would be. Im pretty good with languages, but this was a really humbling experience.

Rivera-Rozo stayed in Kibbutz Barkai, located just south of Haifa in an area populated mostly entry on erianas travel by Arab Israelis. blog, Peacing Out: Living among two i believe that what i cultures that have will do will matter long been in because conflicts are conflict offered her made up of people, and a better underall people want hope. standing of their i dont believe that challenges and the military will ever introduced her to stop being involved, an issue she hadnt but hopefully pursuing known existed. common ground, rather When most than solely fighting over people think about it, can help everyone the dichotomy of remember that we are the Middle East, all people at heart and they think of that life deserves to be Palestinian and lived. Israeli tensions, Rivera-Rozo said. They have no idea about the Arab-Israeli citizens. These people live in Israel yet are fully Arabic. They speak Arabic, and most speak Hebrew. Arab-Israelis are living between a rock and a hard place. The Palestinians feel that the Arabs are too Israeli to fit into their culture, and the Israeli-Jews feel that the Arabs are too Palestinian and Muslim to fit into theirs. Arabs and Israelis do co-exist, but there is a lot of mistrust and fear. Adding to the difficulties, she believes, is that fact that schools in Israel are segregated, with students in Jewish schools learning a different curriculum than students in Arab schools. If she could change one thing to help the two peoples get along, Rivera-Rozo said she would make studying Arabic compulsory for Jewish public school students at all grade levels, just as Hebrew is mandatory for all students in Arab schools. Currently, Arabic is compulsory for Jewish students only from 7th through 9th grades. As a result, few Jewish students graduate with strong Arabic language skills. Why not give your people the ability to understand their neighbors? Rivera-Rozo wondered. If you dont know what people are saying, it is a huge barrier, a cultural division and an emotional estrangement.

Although she admits that the issues are complex, she firmly believes that tension would ease if Israeli children fully understood the language of their neighbors. If they could understand how the others think, how they communicate and how they frame their perceptions, then the people would feel less isolated and afraid, she asserted. Israel may be starting to take steps in that direction. The New York Times reported last fall that a pilot program making Arabic compulsory for fifth-grade students in Jewish public schools had been launched in Northern Israel.
Waging Peace closer to HoMe

As her Israeli adventure drew to a close, Rivera-Rozo reflected on all she had learned about herself, her love of entry on erianas travel culture, her desire to blog, Peacing Out: connect with people and i am daily her new-found awareness encouraged by the fact of the importance of that all cultures are, in sometimes simply letting fact, made up of people life happen. Then she set a who feel love, joy, new course for her future, sadness, excitement one that seemed to satisfy and such. i don`t know all her prerequisites: work that international peace with an international is imminently possible, nonprofit organization. but meeting people Within a month of where they are returning to the U.S., definitely is Rivera-Rozo was hired by The Carter Center to coordinate the Andean-U.S. Dialogue Forum. Regardless of my task, Rivera-Rozo said, my work at The Carter Center allows me to feel that Im not just working for the bottom line, but that I am doing something tangible to help resolve conflict somewhere in the world. B

Following her journey in the Middle east, eriana rivera-rozo joined the carter center in atlanta.