Olivia Lewis '16 (U.K.)

January 16, 2017

"...my MESPOM experience has certainly paid off as I feel much more equipped to work professionally on environmental topics..."

I studied in MESPOM Batch 10, starting in Budapest in September 2014 and graduating in June 2016. Between then, I chose the route Budapest-Lesvos-Manchester-Switzerland-Lesvos, with a lot of side trips in between. I managed to incorporate Switzerland by spending the first two months of the final semester doing my Master's research at the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), which is located between Basel and Zurich. This turned out to be a wise choice both in terms of the semester – it turns out it's a lot easier to get your work done when you have an office to go to – and long-term, as I now have a job working at FiBL.

I was one of the few students (in batch 10) who came to MESPOM directly after finishing my bachelor's degree. One benefit of this was that I had a smooth transition into the academic coursework but more importantly that I greatly benefited from being surrounded by people with more applied experience than me. I studied International Affairs with a minor in Environmental Science at a university in the USA, so for me MESPOM was an opportunity to specialize further in environmental issues –mainly policy - and to learn more about food and agriculture from an environmental perspective.

My MESPOM experience has certainly paid off as I feel much more equipped to work professionally on environmental topics now than I did before the program, and, as previously mentioned, my thesis work led me directly to my job after graduation. I am now working on a year-long research project about urban agricultural policy in Switzerland. It is part of an interdisciplinary EU project comprising behavioral, policy, soil and biodiversity research, so I am sticking to the true MESPOM style!

The big-picture highlight of MESPOM for me was getting to meet and work with many wonderful people both inside the program and out. Even if the details of the coursework fade (I regret that I no longer remember what kind of sand is best suited to first-stage water purification, or even how to properly phrase that sentence), the perspectives introduced by professors, fellow students, and everyone else we met in all those places will stay with me. Also important in such a vast topical area, I learned about what type of knowledge, methods, and procedures exist, and how to access those when I need them. There are, of course, many “snapshot” highlights as well, such as making it through the first semester student conference, the all-important purification before visiting a waste plant, swimming into a cave in the Aegean Sea, and the organized and impromptu potluck dinners. MESPOM is an excellent community and I really feel it provides a supportive network of students, alumni, and staff – an international, interdisciplinary professional and personal community of which I count myself lucky to be a part of.