As per tradition, we have welcomed our new students in September by hosting the annual retreat of the CEU Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy!
This year we went to a new place, to the Nationalpark Neusiedler See – Seewinkel.
On the first day activities revolved around team building and getting to know each other, while on the second day we had our guided tour to the National Park.
The retreat was attended by MESP, MESPOM, 1st year PhD students, faculty and staff.
Brandon Anthony, Head of Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy and MESPOM professor said:
“Over the two days, the students engaged in a number of activities to familiarize themselves with each other and faculty. This included the 'concentric circle' exercise where groups of rotating students asked each other a number of questions about their lives, passions, and dreams. A second activity, 'The Great Sustainability Challenge', brought students together in groups to identify a contemporary environmental issue, along with relevant stakeholders, drivers, and potential solutions. The new cohort also experienced the beauty of this landscape with a guided tour of the national park, where students engaged in birdwatching and learned of landscape management of this delicate social-ecological system. A hearty lunch together at a traditional Austro-Hungarian restaurant ended the excursion, which proved again to be a great start to a great year!”.
We also asked one of the new MESPOM students to tell us about herself and some insights on the retreat:
“Hi, my name is Bianca, I studied Law and I am an environmental activist and practitioner. I have evaluated and monitored around 20 socioenvironmental projects promoted by indigenous and local communities in the Peruvian Amazon. I am part of the board of directors of the Fondo Socioambiental del Perú and participated as a youth negotiator at COP 27 last year in Egypt. I decided to apply to MESPOM because of its interdisciplinary and practical knowledge approach. I am so glad I made the right decision. Our first activity as part of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy of the Central European University (CEU) was a field trip to the National Park Neusiedler See - Seewinkel two hours away from Vienna, Austria. For me was a pleasant surprise to have a retreat to a National Park with all our future colleagues and professors who would teach us during our first year at CEU, I had never had an experience like that before. What I liked the most about the two-day retreat was the joint activities between students and professors. On the first day, we played a game of questions to know ourselves and our peers better on the professional but also personal side, this was useful because the next activity was to prepare a presentation about an environmental challenge and propose solutions in a group. The presentations were diverse, and we could see how our different backgrounds gave the strongest solutions from all points of view. After that, we had an activity to know our Faculty Group. I felt that the horizontal relationship between them and us is helpful to have more confidence and approach them with our research topics and doubts about our projects. We discovered that besides all their great research qualifications and work experience, many of them are also activists, have their own urban gardens, participate in humanitarian labor and voluntary activities, and have a great sense of humor. The next day, we went on a guided tour of the National Park and had the opportunity to learn from specialists about the different birds and unique vegetation in the place. We learned how to do birdwatching, the uniqueness of the salty lake, and how some of the vegetation adapted to it, being a complex ecosystem. Overall, I found the retreat to be our first activity as an opportunity to connect with our colleagues and with our purpose as environmental defenders and professionals”.