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My first trip overseas

Traveling will open you up to a new way of living and being. The experience of new connections with people, places, and different cultures helps widen our perspective. Traveling leads to so much learning and personal growth.

I would happily share one such experience during my first trip overseas to attend a summer school in Potsdam, Germany. I wholeheartedly thank COPREPARE for this opportunity and generous funding to cover my travel expenses and registration fees.

On 24th April, my advisor, Prof Ankit Agarwal, gave me a lifetime opportunity to attend Potsdam Summer school 2022 in Potsdam, Germany, from 22nd to 31st August; my joy knew no bounds. I was over-excited at the same time; I was nervous. However, the fact that I will be accompanied by two of my friends, Subhankar Das and Nikunj Mangukiya, made me feel better.

My preparation began with a never-ending flow of ridiculous questions to my friends who had been to Germany before. Also, my advisor was patient enough to clear my doubts and help me with my travel plans.

With my friends, I started collecting the required documents for the visa and booked our appointment on 24th June 2022 at VFS Global, New Delhi. We were hoping for a smooth procedure at New Delhi. Still, due to some discrepancies in the documents, our visa could not be processed, and we had to return empty-handed. This was the first challenge we encountered in route to Germany. After repeated attempts, we received a walk-in appointment on 1st July, and on 14th July, I received my visa. That was a sigh of relief.

Time flew very fast. We gathered all our belongings and were excited to start our journey. Then came the day of travel, 19th August 2022. I had mixed excitement for the trip onboard and fear of going beyond my comfort zone.

We bid farewell and headed towards Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. We boarded our flight to Munich. I was lucky enough to have Dhruv, a 6-year kid, as my co-passenger, who made my journey memorable. We spent time checking flight details, the distance traveled, and the location of our aircraft, apart from playing games onboard.

After landing, I thanked my co-passenger, bid him farewell, and hurried to board my next flight to Berlin. We reached Berlin at 10 am. We had planned to stay in a hotel in berlin for a day and go to Potsdam the next day. Accordingly, I booked Industriepalast hostel at Warschauer Straße 43. I was a new bee in berlin with no idea of public transport. Reaching the hotel from the airport was an adventure in itself. Thanks to my friend Praveen for informing me about some useful apps required for traveling, supermarkets, and tourist spots.

In the evening, I set out to explore nearby places in Berlin. Berlin is a beautiful city greeting people with many architectural marvels and cultural goings-on.
The following day, I started towards hotel Dorint in Potsdam, where the summer school participants were provided accommodation. It was a very well build the huge building with high-class amenities. I was delighted to receive a warm welcome from Dr. Angela Borowski. She was coordinating the summer school with utmost enthusiasm.

The next day, i.e., the 22nd August was the first day of summer school. The sessions for the day were held at Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS). All the participants were instructed to assemble in front of the hotel after breakfast. Fifteen minutes’ walk through lovely gardens along beautiful lakes was refreshing. We had sessions by IASS fellows Prof. Louis Kotze and Ingeborg Reichle on socio-ecological transformations and art in the Anthropocene, followed by interesting discussions. The wonderful buffet dinner was arranged at the IASS rooftop in the evenings. Judith Pape very nicely coordinated a session on “Introduction to Participants”. All 41 participants played some innovative games to get to know each other and their perspective on science policy and governance. Later we were introduced to the facilitators of our respective working groups. I was a part of the Science communication and sustainability group moderated by Prof. Matthias Tang.

The 24th and 25th August sessions were held at the Potsdam Institute of climate impact research and Alfred Wegener institute located at Telegrafenberg. We had an exciting campus tour guided by Eva Rahner and Ulrike Sylla. We also visited Helmert Tower, Einstein Tower, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ), and the Great Refractor.

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With tightly scheduled weekdays, we only had weekends at our leisure to explore Potsdam and Berlin. I visited the famous Sanssouci palace and other grand palaces built by German kings amidst beautiful, eye-soothing greenery. I also visited Alexanderplatz, Wannsee, Berlin Wall, and Potsdamer Platz, among popular tourist attractions.

31st August was the last day of our summer school scheduled at the University of Potsdam. We presented our learnings from the summer school in a skit highlighting the importance of effective science communication and some ways to achieve it. The most exciting and enriching summer school journey ended with a grand farewell party at the IASS rooftop.

After summer school, I stayed in Potsdam to carry out work related to my doctoral thesis under the supervision of Prof. Juergen Kurths and Dr. Norbert Marwan till 17th September. I also got to meet Dr.Ugur Ozturk, a collaborator who is very humble in helping me with my research.

A month-long trip to Germany was one of the most memorable and life-changing experiences. I returned to India on 18th September feeling more confident and refreshed.