Sofia Cavalleri '19: How I backpacked my PhD to Bangkok

November 7, 2019

Can I keep studying and travelling forever? This is the dream of every exchange student. After studying in Trento, Paris, Budapest, Lesvos, Lund, Stockholm and now in Bangkok, I think I’ve just finalized a strategy for that.

1. Plan without borders

Thailand felt FAR. Too far to even dream about it. But after MESPOM, I felt like I had the know-how, the soft skills and the inner resilience to deal with any “cultural shock”. I am now a Research Assistant at SEI Asia (working with the Policy Analysis Unit), pursuing my PhD at Chulalongkorn University (Department of Environment, Development and Sustainability) in Bangkok, Thailand. And as you can see from the pictures, we organize some cool field trips here as well!

2. Grades aren’t everything: the perks of being an intern

At the beginning of my last year of MESPOM, I started to think that, although academia was fun and I liked it, I wanted to get a taste of the “real world”. So I applied for an internship. And last February I found myself in a royal palace on a frozen lake in Stockholm, working for WWF Cities. I got the chance to go to conferences and talk to different people, greatly enhancing my professional network. As a WWF intern, I learned a new set of concrete skills, which I then used to integrate and strengthen my academic background, making my CV really stand out. But most importantly, at WWF Cities I also found Jennifer, amazing MESPOM alumna who became my thesis co-supervisor and is now my IIIEE (Lund University) mentor!

3. Build a support network

Build a support network of people that will help you get closer to the best version of yourself, and will help you achieve your personal and professional goals. A great part of my support network comes from MESPOM: classmates, professors, alumni, ... Before leaving for my PhD in Thailand, I had the chance to meet alumni back home in Padua and Rome and now I found alumni also here in Bangkok and it always feels like meeting a distant cousin! I follow alumni on social media for a constant source of inspiration and motivation. So many MESPOMers are building their amazing unique careers by doing great things for the planet. Looking up to them helps me focus on the bigger picture!”

Sofia can be contacted at: