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Ana María Arbeláez Trujillo, IBEI alumni 2017-18

Name and Last Name: Ana María Arbeláez Trujillo

Nationality: Colombian

Master studied at IBEI: Master's in Public Policy (Mundus MAPP)

Class: 2017-18

Current working company, position and city: Phd Researcher Riverhood Project, Wageningen University (Netherlands)


1. Why did you choose IBEI Master’s?

Before joining my Master's, I worked as Legal Advisor for Findeter, a development bank in Colombia. That role made me aware of the importance of combining theoretical knowledge and practical skills from different disciplines to contribute to meaningful social change.  Mundus MAPP was precisely what I wanted: a Master's with a critical and interdisciplinary approach to understanding and situating public policy problems.

From a personal perspective, I chose the ISS- IBEI track because I wanted to experience the different lifestyles in Northern and Mediterranean Europe. I was inspired not only by the academic challenge but also by the idea of spending hours riding a bike in The Netherlands and wandering around the lively streets of Barcelona. I can say that this combination was a great choice!

2. What is your experience at IBEI? 

IBEI is a unique place to share and exchange ideas. I have very good memories of our debates in and after class. People from our cohort were very active and promoted exciting initiatives such as the Argus Magazine.

Living in Barcelona and exploring it with my classmates also was a great experience. I remember our breaks for lunch at Ciutadella Park, the afternoons on the beach, and the many nights enjoying the city's cultural life. Although I spent many hours at the library, I can say that those moments with my friends were when I learned most.

3. Describe your career path since graduating from the IBEI

After graduation, I worked for two years as a Legal Consultant for Climate Focus. In this role, I advised several governments and private sector actors in their climate change mitigation and communication strategies.

From January 2022 onwards, I will be a PhD Researcher for the Riverhood project at Wageningen University. This project seeks to propose innovative transdisciplinary concepts and methodological tools to analyze and support new water justice movements' in Latin America and Europe. My case studies are the Samana River in Colombia and The Serpis River in Spain. I am glad that through my professional path, I found a way to continue working in the three countries that I have called home: Colombia, The Netherlands, and Spain.

4. How did the master programme prepare you for the work you're doing now?

I believe that academia must actively engage with the grand societal challenges of our times. Therefore, I want my academic work to contribute to a fairer society. The Mundus MAPP Program offers a unique blend of critical theory and practical skills that are key to heading in that direction.

For example, while writing my thesis, I highly benefited from the guidance of my two supervisors. While Karin Knio (ISS) guided the theoretical component focusing on international political economy, Andrea Bianculli (IBEI) helped me understand how to use those concepts in the Latinamerican context. I am very grateful for the quality of their work and their commitment to their students.

5. Is this more or less what you pictured yourself doing after the master programme?

Yes, I chose the ISS-IBEI track because I wanted to deepen my understanding of political economy and development. As a Lawyer, I have seen how many of my colleagues work in silos; they get into legal debates without considering the broader political and economic context. Thanks to the Mundus MAPP program, I have developed a more systemic understanding of the different structures underneath those legal problems.

6. What advice would you give to current students who want to follow this career path? / Some advice to future IBEI students?

I will advise current students to spend time strengthening their networks, learning from their classmates, and connecting with different organizations and movements in Barcelona. The city offers a great variety of sources of inspiration for future work. In my case, I got a lot of inspiration from getting to know the work of grassroots organizations with migrants in Raval and attending several conferences and talks.

7. What do you miss most about IBEI? 

What I miss most are life in Barcelona and the beautiful campus. I loved spending hours reading and writing at the old library. And after the long study sessions, there was nothing better than a glass of vermouth or a caña with friends.