Lauren Othon '10 (USA)

Lauren Othon '10 (USA)

One of the most beautiful aspects of experiencing MESPOM was the exercise in family-building it provided. Over time, through common experiences and the sheer physical proximity you have with one another, the people you encounter first as unknowns from various corners of the world, become lifelong friends, inextricably linked to your personal growth, your memories, your future and your past. I could not have imagined the importance my MESPOM relationships would carry years after graduation. And yet, after years apart, I can think of no group of people with whom I share this kind of bond. There is a common understanding among and within us – a language only comprehensible to us that reflects our learning, our interpretations of what we were taught, our time together and our individual tendencies as members of a group.

Ask a MESPOM Batch 4 student what comes to mind when they hear the term ‘packaging’ and the answer may be wildly different than that from another Batch. Or, perhaps not. Perhaps the moments in which we found levity and the places that stoked our creativity are similar across MESPOM generations. Perhaps our experiences as a cohort were not unique to our particular Batch, but rather unique to the experience of MESPOM – that is, the experience of 30-some grown humans from all over the world, living, learning, playing and growing together over the course of two years.

I can state with confidence, that when I find myself in a room with the friends I gained during MESPOM, I feel what can only be described as ‘love’ – unmistakable, difficult, categorical, love. The kind of love that comrades feel for one another in perpetuity. The kind that is forgotten as easily as it is recalled. This may not be a universal experience; not everyone is as emotionally inclined as I tend to be. 

But then what other than love would compel so many of us to trek across the globe to see one of our own get married? What, other than love, would drive us to stay in touch after all these years, and bring joy to our eyes when we finally see one another again?

We don’t often get the opportunity to share these experiences with other cohorts. Our geographic separation and personal lives limit our ability to reconnect with each other, let alone those who experience MESPOM after us. And yet, from time to time, the stars align (or someone gets married in Budapest) and the perfect opportunity for cohorts, old and new, to meet and compare notes arises.

This was the case when members of Batch 4 met up with Batch 10, on April 12th at Ellátó kert in Budapest, for an evening of socializing and story sharing. Spread out across a long table, we swapped tales about CEU and the relationships we built with students in other departments. We talked about our research interests, our theses – past and future – and the places that life had led us Batch 4 people after MESPOM. We talked about the intensity of the first academic year at CEU, the long days and early evenings spent on the sixth and seventh floor, the library, Kerepesi, the relief found in Budapest’s many parks, pubs, and public spaces, and the value of our friendships. We talked about Greece. We spent a lot of time talking about Greece. 

I learned that some students had formed a CEU Fossil Fuel Divestment campaign and were working on a divestment toolkit explaining the how and why of divestment, and a plan of action for achieving a sustainable future. I listened to students talk about their interests in renewable energy, environmental management, environmental social movements and environmental justice, climate change and bicycling. It was great to see how MESPOM continues to grow and develop, and how as a program it remains in step with the important contemporary environmental movements of our day.

Most of all, I learned that Batch 10 is much like Batch 4. They, like us, come from all over the world. They, like us, enjoy many and vast differences in interests, background, aspirations, learning styles, languages, and on and on. They, like us, are probably not yet 100% certain if they made the right decision regarding Lund or Manchester. They, like we did five years ago, just endured the first 10 months of what can be categorized as one of the most challenging, exhausting, interesting and rewarding experiences a human could ever have.

And now they are preparing to board a plane and reap the sunny, Aegean rewards of a year spent well and with purpose. I could think of no better advice than to care for one another, respect the work ahead, and make time for cycling trips, exploring the island, getting to know new people, and above all, to watch out for sea urchins