Back to Greece, the MESPOM Lesvos semester told by Kaja

June 28, 2022

I am Kaja and, before joining the MESPOM programme, I had studied Liberal Arts and Sciences with a Major in Earth and Environmental Sciences in Freiburg, Germany. When studying abroad in Budapest during my undergraduate, I ran into some MESPOM students who had just started their studies at CEU. I was fascinated by that diverse, open and friendly group. Everyone I spoke to had interesting and yet different background and a lot of captivating stories to tell. When it was my time to apply for a Master programme, I remembered these people and their stories, and tried my luck.

With MESPOM I am able to pursue my interests in sustainability and transformation topics such as alternative forms of agriculture or sustainable urban mobility. The first semester in Vienna allowed me to deepen my previous interests in sustainable mobility, through my project on cargo bikes for the students’ conference, and discover completely new areas, such as ecological economics.

In the second semester, we were the first batch to be able to study on Lesvos island, Greece, again after the pandemic. Coming from the big city of Vienna, arriving in Mytilene on the island of Lesvos was quite a change. The Mediterranean climate with blue skies every day and the beautiful natural scenery immediately captured me. Many of us have found accommodation together and live walking distance from each other. This is quite convenient for our dinner nights or for our beach visits after class.

The courses at the University of the Aegean are strictly connected with the island and its ecosystem. In “Applied Ecology,” we studied the understory ecology of olive groves, and within the framework of the course “Sustainable Tourism,” we got to see the diverse landscapes of the island, ranging from the wetlands, forests and volcanic landscapes to picturesque villages and the famous petrified forest.

After university hours, many of us enjoy going to the gym, jogging and swimming, or taking Yoga classes. Every Thursday I organize bike trainings with “Yoga and Sports with Refugees.” This NGO brings refugees, volunteers and locals together, improving mental and physical health through sport. As someone whose main mode of mobility has always been the bicycle, I was eager to hear that they were starting a bike team and that I could help with organizing the trainings. Once a week we ride our bicycles around the island, encouraging each other when the sun hits us as we ride up the mountain, and enjoy drinking breaks at the beach. We also plan to have a bicycle repair workshop and a class where people can learn how to ride the bicycle or refresh their riding skills.

Overall, living on an island has brought us closer together as a group, and the courses truly engage with the island’s environment by incorporating field trips and outdoor assignments. After the Greece chapter, I am looking forward to my internship on an organic farm in Budapest, which was arranged with the help of a MESPOM alumnus. After that, exploring the environment and university in Lund, Sweden, which will surely be a different experience again. Maybe I’ll also find a bicycle project there.