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Colombian student, Luisa Fernanda Romero Munoz graduates from Ulster University today with an MSc in International Tourism Management, with Distinction, leaving an exceptional legacy behind.

Arriving in Northern Ireland in 2018, the remarkable young woman has made a great impact on Ulster University and her peers, with the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management proudly nominating the Colombian native for the John RE Scott Convocation Post Graduate Award for her efforts in peace building, social enterprise and services to humanity.

On winning the prestigious worldwide scholarship ‘Chevening Award’, funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office scholarship, Luisa believed that Ulster University was the perfect destination for her to develop her studies and career.

The International Tourism Management programme offered the peace builder the opportunity to study a module on ‘Niche Tourism’, providing an emphasis on tourism for post conflict societies, allowing her to develop expertise and extensive knowledge on the subject.

“My main motivation to study in Northern Ireland, in particular Ulster University, was the correlation I found between Colombia and Northern Ireland’s peace building process. Ulster University was my choice due to its knowledge in peace studies but also in post conflict tourism. Professor Stephen Boyd has a lot of experience in this field and it was amazing to learn from him and from other lecturers as well.” 

Luisa has used her academic studies in NI to further build on her outstanding dedication to peace building in her home country and speaks passionately about her ongoing commitment to the work she is doing, recognising the benefits of studying at Ulster University:

“I run a non-profit organisation back home called ‘Get Up and Go Colombia’ that aims to promote tourism in the former war regions of Colombia, developing and delivering a number of key projects. The modules on the MSc gave me the opportunity to further develop ideas on Colombian enterprise and I have used the capstone module, the Business Project, to advance my ideas for a project entitled Peace & Coffee. This is an initiative created to serve as a visitor attraction for the region, a space that showcases different peacebuilding projects through the sale of drinks prepared by coffee beans of peace.”

Having been globally recognised for her exceptional commitment and hard work by organisations such as the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and AFS International, it seems there is no stopping the multiple award winner. Having recently been selected by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) as one of the participants for the program Generation Change Exchange with His Holiness The Dalai Lama Dharamsala India, Luisa’s career is going from strength to strength.

Currently employed as Youth4Peace Project Manager at Beyond Skin, a role that is supported by and funded through the Northern Ireland Executive Office, Luisa had done much to enhance the learning experience of her fellow students by sharing her unique capabilities in international tourism management in her native, post-conflict Colombia.

“I organised a crowdfunding initiative to provide the opportunity to Ulster University students to volunteer in my organisation back at home. I brought my classmate Jessica McLearn to my hometown for three weeks, working with the local community, helping with ideas to improve the activities and projects we do. Jessica used her experience in Popayan as part of her dissertation which was also recognised with a distinction. I really hope this successful experience can help us to do the same for next summer and encourage more students to take part in 2020.”

On reflection of all the young entrepreneur has achieved thus far, it appears that Luisa has big plans after graduation and hopes that the memorable relationships she made in Ulster University will remain intact:

“I will go back to Colombia and keep working with my organisation. We have received an award that will allow us to keep implementing our projects which is fantastic. I hope to be in constant contact with Ulster University as I mentioned, and I am keen to provide opportunities for students from NI to experience Colombia and exchange different perspectives and ideas about the meaning of living in a post-conflict society.”