During the summer of 2012, Peter Billerbeck (’13) was selected to take part in the National Council on U.S.- Arab Relations’ (NCUSAR) Summer Lebanon Fellowship. As part of the fellowship, he traveled to Lebanon for, as he describes it, a “direct personal experience in Lebanese culture, society and economics, as well as government priorities, concerns and needs.”
In practice, it meant a busy summer for Billerbeck, who says he spent “just under three weeks in Lebanon and visited areas including Beirut, Byblos and others. [During this time, he conducted] interviews and met with representatives from all walks of life, including local political and social movement leaders, sports, music and entertainment figures, as well as U.S. Embassy representatives, [all to gain a direct] knowledge of Lebanon’s strategic aims and requirements as they pertain to Lebanese-U.S. relations and to Lebanon’s role in regional and world affairs.”
As for why he decided to participate: “Although I have had experience studying the Arab world, minoring in Middle East studies and traveling throughout the region, I didn’t know a lot about Lebanon beyond what is talked about in the headlines. I saw this program as a good way to get first hand exposure and then share my knowledge upon returning to Georgetown.
“The experience has been a great supplement to my education at MSFS because now I am able to speak first hand, relating perspectives gained from the fellowship in Lebanon. These issues are especially germane given the ongoing crisis in Syria and spillover effects on Lebanon. MSFS also helped me bring a unique perspective to the trip, where I was able to critically analyze the movements and political dynamics we observed,” comments Billerbeck.
One part of the fellowship is organizing events to drive discussion of the issues in Lebanon, which is why Peter arranged and hosted the panel discussion “Challenges for Lebanon: Beyond the Headlines” on Thursday, October 25, which featured two noted Middle East experts: Abderrahim Foukara, Al-Jazeera’s Washington Bureau Chief, and Firas Maksad, Managing Director of Global Policy Advisors, Director of the Lebanon Renaissance Foundation and an MSFS alumnus.
“The goal of the panel discussion was to share some of the knowledge I gained from the fellowship and bring two experts in for an interactive discussion on Lebanon with Georgetown students. We were really happy with the turnout, with about 50 students attending from a number of Georgetown programs including MSFS, MA in Conflict Resolution, MA in Arab Studies, PhD in Government and BSFS. A lively discussion followed the remarks from the panelists and there was palpable enthusiasm for engagement on the topics brought up,” says Peter.
And what did students who attended come away with? According to Billerbeck, “people gained a greater understanding of the issues facing Lebanon and [he] hopes the event serves as a springboard for ongoing discussion and engagement. [He] will be continuing to work with NCUSAR on the program and will soon be publishing articles on crucial issues facing the region.”
To read more about the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations Summer Lebanon Fellowship, see the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations web site.