Greetings! I am Nikunj Mangukiya, Ph.D. candidate from the Department of Hydrology at the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee (IITR). This blog describes my first international travel and learning experience.

It was all started in April 2022 when I received an email to apply for the “Co-PREPARE Academic Grant (CAG)” to attend the Potsdam Summer School 2022 organized by the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), the Helmholtz-Centre Potsdam – GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), and the University of Potsdam. With support and motivation from my Ph.D. supervisor, Dr. Ashutosh Sharma, and Research Committee Member, Dr. Ankit Agarwal, I was excited with my application as it would provide me the opportunity to gain knowledge and insights from the experts, stakeholders, and guest lecturers from high level national and international institutes and organizations. Also, it would be my first international learning experience in a foreign land. After a month, in May 2022, I received my selection letter from the Co-PREPARE team for the CAG to attend Potsdam Summer School 2022 from Aug 22-Aug 31, 2022. Immediately after my selection, I started receiving emails about the briefing and pre-reading materials for the summer school and was assigned to Working Group 1 (WG1) for brainstorming discussion on “Thinking Climate, Biodiversity and People together” with facilitator Dr. Kirsten Thonicke from PIK.

I was all set to catch my first international flight on August 20, 2022, due to immense support from the Co-PREPARE team (especially Dr. Ankit Agarwal and Dr. Jürgen Mey) and the summer school organizing committee (Dr. Angela Borowski).


Being habituated to heavy traffic and the hot climate in India, Potsdam city felt calm with almost empty streets. The cool weather (25°C during the day and 15°C at night; this is summer in Germany) was overwhelming with lush green sceneries. The food items include mostly boiled vegetables and salads, but there are Indian, Turkish, Vietnamese, and Thai restaurants if you like spicy food.


Figure 1: The empty streets of Potsdam – Germany, with an amazing atmosphere


The first day of the summer school was hosted by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS). It was mesmerizing to sit with 40 other participants from different countries and to greet them with smiles even though we didn’t know each other yet. But somewhere, we knew we would end up with new lifelong friends during the ten days of the summer school journey. The program started with a cup of coffee, and we used to put tape on the coffee mug with our names so that we could use the same mug throughout the day (Save Water!). We were welcomed and briefed by the program coordinator, Dr. Angela Borowski, and the Scientific Director of IASS, Dr. Ortwin Renn. The first day was the ‘Day of Introduction,’ in which we did a few group activities, and that was the beginning of my friendship with fellow participants. We listened to many interesting lectures for two days on important topics such as Anthropocene, Tipping elements, Climate change, and conflicts. On the third day, we were hosted by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and had a guided tour around Telegraph Hill by Dr. Eva Rahner (PIK) and Dr. Ulrike Sylla (GFZ). During this tour, we came across many historic buildings and their scientific importance. The Einstein Tower (Einsteinturm in German) amazed me as it was built to house a solar telescope that supports experiments and observation to validate the well-known Albert Einstein’s Relativity Theory. On the fourth day, we were hosted by Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) for the lectures on Green Hydrogen and Geothermal Energy. The remaining days of the summer school were again hosted by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS). Within the ten days of summer school, we listened to many inspiring lectures on issues and ways to move towards a sustainable transformation around climate, energy, and nature.


Figure 2: Attending Potsdam Summer School with my Ph.D. colleagues, Mr. Ravikumar Guntu, Mr. Subhankar Das, and Ms. Sujata Kulkarni at IASS and PIK.


During the summer school weekend, we were supposed to go on an excursion to WALD.BERLIN.KLIMA, but due to unavoidable reasons, the excursion was canceled. Well, that allowed us to plan our trip to Berlin with fellow participants. I was happy to be hosted by Christine (a fellow participant), who showed us the places around Berlin, including the famous Brandenburg Tor and Reichstag. It was fun to get along with new friends from diverse backgrounds and discuss random topics out of nowhere. These two days trip was unforgettable and made us bond with each other. At the end of summer school, the farewell party was hosted at IASS, where we thanked the program coordinator, Dr. Angela Borowski, and the student coordinator, Ms. Gina-Maria Auer, with a small gift for their prompt and friendly support throughout the program. On the first day, Dr. Angela taught me that in German, ‘Danke’ means ‘Thank you’ and ‘Danke Sehr’ means ‘Thank you very much,’ and by the end of summer school, I was able to teach her that in Hindi, ‘Dhanyavaad’ means ‘Thank you.’ In the end, we said the last goodbye to each other with a hug and promised each other to keep in contact.


Figure 3: Weekend in Berlin with fellow participants – at Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor in German) and Reichstag (Deutscher Bundestag: the lower house of Germany’s parliament)

Indeed, this was a great learning experience in a new culture, and it was made unforgettable by my fellow participants, whom I wouldn’t forget ever. Special thanks to Dr. Angela Borowski, Gina-Maria Auer, Leen Noltes, Edmund Boabang, Paula Schoberlein, Stefanie I. Korswagen, Jeff Cegan, Fieke Rader, Mauricio Barriga, Sophia Giovanett, Adeline Gueret, Monika Giri, Christine Lutzkendorf, Anna Lensch, Sejal Patel, Kelsey Stoddard, and my Ph.D. colleague Subhankar, Ravi and Sujata, for making this memorable.

Cheers and Danke Sehr!