Two months ago, the Kaldor Centre welcomed 30 mentees and 15 mentors from 22 countries and 20 academic institutions to join the 2024 Displaced Scholars Peer Mentoring Program.

They follow successful alumni of the Centre’s 2021 pilot and 2023 mentoring programs. This year, the program has evolved, incorporating a learning element and discussion spaces through a Moodle learning platform.

The mentees, each with their unique experiences and perspectives, embark on a six-month learning journey. They set research goals, develop writing skills, improve productivity, learn more about publishing, and gain a better understanding of careers in academia. Every month, they come together online to reflect on the various topics related to their development.

During the first session, mentees shared their background and their motivation to pursue research, including how their lived experience of displacement shaped their interest in and approach to research. It is so powerful to hear these inspiring yet difficult stories, to hear people transform their difficult experience of forced displacement into an engine for growth, resistance and determination, and to understand the similarities in our forced displacement yet the uniqueness of each journey.

One of the many stories that have stayed with me came from a participant who shared that her research was inspired by wanting “to understand why others treated me differently and couldn't relate to my own situation, and why I have to do much more than everyone to be enough."

This is an experience many of us forcibly displaced people can relate to; we, too, feel that we need to prove ourselves to gain acceptance in the economic, social and political systems in our host countries. 

Another participant sparked our thinking when they shared concerns about “what counts as knowledge in academia, [and] what 'typical' research often assumes is 'bad research' (e.g., autoethnography).” As someone who is using a methodology very similar to autoethnography, I have always heard that our lived experience is valued, but I always felt that using my lived experience is perceived as bad research when publishing.

There is still a lot to learn from the mentees and mentors. Every month is a new learning opportunity for a lot of us – to learn from each other, from our unique perspectives and from these powerful encounters where we feel we are not alone in the displacement journey.

Oudai Tozan is a doctoral candidate, tutor and researcher at the University of Cambridge. He is the Project Coordinator of the Kaldor Centre’s Displaced Scholars Peer Mentoring Program.

A mentee in the 2023 Kaldor Centre's Displaced Scholar Peer Mentoring Program, Oudai Tozan is Program Coordinator in 2024. Here, he shares what he had hoped the program would offer – and what it delivered for him.

For more information, contact the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law.