I walked into a very complex world, and I, myself, cannot answer all of those interesting questions. But knowing that there is a whole network of people all pursuing slightly different pathways, looking at slightly different subjects, but all trying to answer this one question, is for me the most exciting part of COUPLED. Siyu Qin (ESR 01)

This summer in July, the COUPLED PhD programme kicked off with the Summer School in Berlin. Through 10 days of interactive and thought-provoking exercises, lectures and activities, we 15 PhD fellows (or Early Stage Researchers – ESRs), engaged with the supervisors and partner institutions to begin building the consortium and creating momentum for idea generation and collaboration over the coming three years. A series of seminars, workshops and discussions provided the opportunity for participants to share their views on how to build a sustainable future in a telecoupled world. But beyond that, it was about getting to know each other and sharing experiences.

Picture:  COUPLED PhD fellows

I have met so many PhD students with so many different backgrounds. It was very interesting to hear what drives and motivates them. It has all been very inspiring and I learned a lot from exchanging ideas with all my fellows. The fact that this is such a network based project makes it so much more beneficial to all its participants. Floris Leijten (ESR 05)

One of the main benefits of the summer school was the intense interaction between the PhD fellows. Through interactive games and workshops, we quickly broke the ice and started to get to know each other’s backgrounds and interests. The positive energy and close relationship this gave substance to discussions and encouraged exchange of ideas. On the academic side, a series of lectures laid a common ground of knowledge on the current state of research of telecoupling, sustainability, and land use change. These presentations were not only extremely insightful, providing input on innovative concepts, methods and tools, but also provided a common vocabulary to discuss related issues, despite our very diverse academic fields and backgrounds.

One of the major strengths of COUPLED, and something any young researcher would appreciate, is the huge network of experts, civil society organizations, private corporations, governmental institutions and international organizations that we get plugged into. The potential channels for impact through mutual learning and collaboration are substantial. During the summer school, we had the chance to engage with presentations and panel discussions led by our partners, such as Fair Trade International, Cargill, and the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Each explained their own endeavours and interests in sustainability, and suggested a wide range of solutions. A field trip to the protected area of Spreewald, just outside of Berlin, followed by a visit to an organic farm, helped ground ideas around sustainability in a real, local context. The personal interaction between all these actors has helped generate insights into how to translate future research results into concrete impact.

Picture:  Roundtable Discussion

I love being here, with this diversity of persons. Everybody is thinking about the same issues, but each of us has so much to contribute thanks to the richness and diversity of approaches. I am really excited about collaborating and producing science in a very applicable way, by intertwining everyone’s knowledge and capacities. Tiago Reis (ESR 10)

We participated in several workshops aiming to link the individual PhD projects and identify common interests and complementary skills, but also to create a basis for working together in the future. This process started already with the reflection on work packages that focus on concepts of flows, distance and impact, where groups of five PhDs and supervisors will be thinking together on themes related to their research during the coming three years. These work packages will result into a set of deliverables to be submitted to the European Commission, and eventually into further publications to help guide future research on telecouplings and global sustainability.

Finally, the summer school was the first step of COUPLED training programme. In addition to being exposed to advanced academic knowledge, we trained different soft skills including networking, time management, literature meta-analyses, and several other key skills and practices for writing a PhD. Together with the various technical and administrative matters explained during the summer school, these sessions provided us a fantastic start to completing our PhD in the best environment.

In the end, these 10 days were most of all a time to create new friendships to grow with a great group of aspiring young researchers, providing for interesting interactions between students, professors and partners, and inspiring a new wave of ideas for future research.

Being here gave me so much freedom and so many ideas on how to deepen this initial proposal I had. I have only been on my own so far, and this exchange of ideas created so many possibilities for me to take home. Claudia Parra Paitan (ESR 07)

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