Finding Peace in Sydney

Today marked the beginning of my fourth week working as a research intern at the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). The IEP is a global think tank dedicated to developing metrics for peace and quantifying its economic value. The IEP is extremely well known for its Peace Indices, including the Global Peace Index and the Mexico Peace Index.

This summer, I’m working as a part of the research team and helping to produce two state-level Peace Indices for the Mexican states of Nuevo León and Sinaloa. These reports analyze the current state of positive and negative peace, as well as the economic impact of violence in both states. The IEP draws from a vast pool of data in order to determine a peace score for various indicators. So far, my role has been to write preliminary drafts of both reports in combination with qualitative and quantitative research/analysis.

The the view from the IEP- you can see the Sydney skyline and Harbor Bridge from their fourth floor office

One of the most challenging parts of this summer has been adjusting to a full-time, 9–5 work schedule plus a 40-minute commute each way. To be completely honest, it’s exhausting and difficult to imagine doing this for years on end. Experiencing “office life” has been challenging and has forced me to think about what I’d like to pursue in the future and how I want to structure my time and work life in a meaningful way.

The Sydney Opera House lit up during the Vivid Sydney Festival

Sydney as a city is beautiful; it’s very modern and the harbor is a picturesque backdrop at any time of day. Unfortunately, it’s currently winter in the southern hemisphere so the whole “surf and sun” Sydney stereotype is more like “wind and sometimes sun.” Finding a balance between working, resting, and experiencing Sydney is challenging and the winter season makes it somewhat difficult to explore the city during the week after work, as the sun usually sets around 5 PM. However, there’s still quite a bit to do and I’ve had the chance to experience quite a bit so far. Some of my favorite out-of-the-office experiences and memories have been…

1) Seeing the last night of the Vivid Sydney festival, which is a huge light, music, and idea festival that takes place from May-June. There were tons of light art installations around the city; my favorites were the projections on the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

2) Taking a ferry to Manly, a nearby beach town, and exploring for the afternoon

3) Seeing a show at the Sydney Opera House

4) Accidentally going to an Australian hip-hop showcase

5) Visiting the Blue Mountains National Park and riding in one of the highest cable cars in the southern hemisphere, as well as on the steepest railway in the world

6) Watching the sun set from the Sydney Observatory

7) Dinner at a Three Chefs Hat-restaurant overlooking the Harbor and Opera House

Me featuring a lot of wind in the Blue Mountains

Even though it’s only the fourth week, it feels like the time is flying by. I’m looking forward to taking more time to myself to really slow down to appreciate where I am, to process the things that I’m learning, and to continue to explore more of Australia.


Written by Catalina Ramirez-Saenz ’18, international relations major at Stanford University. Catalina is a FSI Global Policy Intern at the Institute for Economics in Peace in Sydney, Australia.

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