Some 150 sixth and seventh-​​graders packed a tiny class­room on the out­skirts of Gulu, Uganda, a war-​​ravaged country whose chil­dren have remained at the center of con­flict for more than two decades. Kids raised hands, drew pic­tures, voiced opin­ions, all of them eager to learn.

North­eastern sopho­more Kijana Rose, who com­pleted a co-​​op at two schools in the northern Ugandan town, couldn’t have been more inspired by her young students.

After returning to campus from her expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­nity in May, she expressed interest in a career as a teacher and a social worker in one of Africa’s inter­na­tional post-​​conflict zones.

It was the most amazing expe­ri­ence,” said Rose, a human ser­vices and inter­na­tional affairs com­bined major. “One stu­dent came right out of the Congo–he might have wit­nessed his family die–and had such a will­ing­ness to learn.”

Rose con­nected with Insight Collaborative’s Peace Edu­ca­tion Project to get the posi­tion with the schools, Police Pri­mary and Paicho Pri­mary. The non­profit orga­ni­za­tion is ded­i­cated to resolving con­flicts and improving rela­tion­ships around the world through con­flict man­age­ment education.

Rose trained Ugandan instruc­tors to teach Insight Collaborative’s cur­riculum, which includes units on con­flict res­o­lu­tion, peace building and the his­tory of geno­cide, with a focus on the Holocaust.

She also had the oppor­tu­nity to help lead sev­eral in-​​class dis­cus­sions and exer­cises on per­sonal iden­tity and the impor­tance of com­mu­nity, which gave stu­dents a chance to learn a little bit more about them­selves and their peers.

A lot of these kids have grown up in a war that’s been going on for 26 years,” she said. “It’s all they’ve known. They’re not often asked. ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’

We tried to open the door for them, to allow them to focus on them­selves,” she added.

By the end of her co-​​op, chil­dren were more accepting of each other and better behaved, she said. If a stu­dent acted out, another would be sure to refer to a class­room con­tract cre­ated by the stu­dents that included a list of do’s and don’ts.

Rose’s stu­dents weren’t the only ones to expe­ri­ence a trans­for­ma­tion. She did, too.

Living in a country where 12-​​year-​​old secu­rity guards carry assault rifles changed Rose’s per­spec­tive on the world.

There will never be one quick solu­tion to save the world,” she said, “but being in Gulu opened my eyes to so many new pos­si­bil­i­ties, all of which include working with children.”