Summer school blog in Switzerland

My name is Meg and I participated in the Summer School “Greening and Governing Global Supply Chains” hosted by ETH Zurich’s Institute of Science, Technology and Policy (ISTP). The program was held in Filzbach, Switzerland and had participants (Master’s/PhD students) from universities in the IDEA and ASPIRE leagues (ETH of Switzerland, RWTH Aachen of Germany, Politecnico di Milano of Italy, TU Delft of Netherlands, Chalmers University of Technology of Sweden, Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, and Tokyo Tech). According to the organizers, the average age of the 40 participants was around 26 and they represented 15 nationalities.

The program consisted mainly of lectures and group work. There were 12 lectures and they were all interactive and interesting. Some of the keywords and key themes included biocapacity and ecological footprint, life cycle assessment, the sustainability of mining, and resource governance mechanisms. In the group work, we as a team of five students worked on the topic of the oversupply of certified agricultural products. Agricultural products can receive a certification, e.g., the Fair-Trade certification, when they meet certain standards and be sold for a higher price than uncertified products. However, since the supply of certified products currently surpasses in amount the demand for them, a significant portion of certifiable products are being sold as uncertified products and thus without a premium. Even though farmers have spent some extra cost to be able to receive a certification, they are not benefitting from that effort. We presented a list of seven solutions and detailed explanations for two of them.

Without a doubt the best part of the summer school was getting to meet the diverse participants and spend time with them. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were two hours long each and many people stayed in the restaurant for a while after dinner, so there was enough time to meet and get to know so many of the participants. Everyone there was extremely friendly and kind. We talked about politics, career, culture, language, privilege, and travelling in addition to completely random and silly matters. Personally, I had barely met any new people (aside from colleagues in the Abe Lab) since the start of the pandemic, let alone in such an international and diverse environment and outside the safety and comfort of being in my home country, so the experience was so incredibly fun and inspiring for me.

I truly hope to be back in Europe sometime in the future, although I have no idea in what capacity. I am extremely glad and grateful that I was able to participate in this summer school and I sincerely thank Abe sensei, Tokyo Tech, and the wonderful organizers from the ISTP of ETH for allowing me to have this opportunity.