Isaac Guzman Estrada '16 (Mexico)

Isaac Guzman Estrada '16 (Mexico)

" Overall, my whole MESPOM experience – as a student and later as an intern – lead me to pursue a path to connect my passion about urban areas, the ways to make them less carbon-intensive, and the people who actively do something to pursue sustainable human cities."


Budapest is a thriving, dynamic, never-resting city. That description can be used to explain the social-party scene in a tourism brochure too. However, I refer to the diverse grassroots organizations that are working in different fields and sectors with a common goal – to try to improve the livelihood of Budapest citizens in a sustainable way. I had the opportunity to go back to Budapest after finalizing the MESPOM program for an internship. A three months’ field-research to explore, contact – even sometimes volunteer – and interview different projects and initiatives.

But, how did all this happen and why I was so eager to go back to Budapest?

Well, in a short word: MESPOM.

MESPOM was an “opening doors” experience for me. It opened doors to other cultures, to other work-minds, to different environmental methodologies. It is in fact that Central European University is one of the most international universities in the world, and for sure MESPOM is one of the most international surroundings which I have experienced. The big advantage to have that characteristic is the diverse minds, backgrounds, contexts and experiences which converge and can create an interesting dialogue among the students, inside and outside of the classrooms.

Before joining the MESPOM program I was a climate change public policy analyst with World Resource Institute Mexico – before EMBARQ Mexico – with a focus on transport and urban development. That triggered my interest in cities, and how try to advance to sustainable cities. One of my biggest lessons there, and then reaffirmed through one specific course, ‘NEXUS thinking’, was that major sectors in the cities – like transport, energy, water or food – are interwoven in a complex dynamic system.

However, with a background in International Relations, my environmental knowledge on other sectors was somehow limited. Therefore, I sought to pursue a Master’s degree which allowed me to explore through different sectors, but at the same time allowed me to focus on my own interest: urban environmental governance.

MESPOM grants the opportunity to explore and dive into subjects of our own interest. Hence, whenever I could, I centered my work and assignments on cities, and the different sectors within the topic. At the same time I was learning about different sectors such as water, energy, air quality, or different environmental approaches like life cycle, environmental impact assessment, circular economy, and so on. To sum it up, MESPOM grants an array of tools where the students can choose and mold to their own interest.

My final experiment, to call it in some way, was my thesis. Thanks to MESPOM professor Dr. Laszlo Pinter, my thesis advisor, I engaged in a full new, yet exciting, topic for me, community-based indicators in urban food security. My thesis was a full learning process, where I realized the importance of urban food systems and the meaning of connecting bottom-up information that leads to informed-decision-making. 

In my opinion MESPOM is not only about the curricula and subjects one can choose, or the universities where we can go, either Manchester, Lund, Greece or any other partner university (although of course, that is one of the biggest assets of the program). However, the people, the alumni and personal connections one can create is another important feature of the program. Logan Strenchock, a MESPOM alumni of MESPOM and current Environmental and Sustainability Officer, is someone who I admire for his capacity to blend and work within the dynamic civic society in Budapest. Through different activities he tries to bridge the CEU academic class sphere to the bottom-up multi-diverse civic organization world in Budapest.

As mentioned before, the community-based work in Budapest is dynamic, creative and committed, these aspects reflect the importance and active participation of grassroots organizations to fill the gaps that governments leave unresolved. Either it is through an IT to connect within the neighbors in a certain area to relate among them and have some circle economy basis as sharing tools, sharing food, sharing knowledge, or Community Supportive Agriculture projects to bring local food products from the farms to the city, or save the unsold food in the markets to feed homeless people. Every each of the initiatives are driven for the sole purpose to contribute to their surroundings and to create better cities.

Photo below: In summer 2016, the Szabadsag hid (bridge) was closed to car traffic and the tram, due the rail tracks maintenance. Before work started, this gave the people of the city an opportunity to occupy the bridge for pedestrian use and cyclist use. It didn't stop there - it was transformed into an extension of the public space and used like a park, a gathering place, a location for open and organized picnics, playing music and enjoying the beautiful view of the Danube.

Overall, my whole MESPOM experience – as a student and later as an intern – lead me to pursue a path to connect my passion about urban areas, the ways to make them less carbon-intensive, and the people who actively do something to pursue sustainable human cities.

The next list shows the organizations that I had the opportunity to interview and interact, however it is not limited to a bigger scope of organizations:

Food oriented:

IT oriented:


Education, traineeship, building capacities, DiY


Photos of Budapest

(all photos by: Isaac Guzman Estrada)


Photo below: A view of the Budapest Parliament 















Photo below: Vegetables from the food cooperative Szatyor Bolt. Szatyor sources local produce from around the Budapest region, and delivers veggie boxes to people around the city and also runs a shop.

























Photo below: The Cargonomia collective runs a collective which helps Budapest residents use bikes for their various transportation needs around the city. For example, their bikes help deliver the produce boxes from the farm Zsamboki Biokert. This photo shows bread ready for delivery.