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In this next instalment of our 'Where are they now?' alumni series, we're excited to introduce you to alumna, Lena Grobusch - class of 2016. Currently working on climate change and environment, Lena shares her experience of studying in The Netherlands, exchange in Australia, field work in Africa (Kenya and Tanzania), a traineeship in Brussels and where she is currently writing her master thesis, Lund, Sweden. Intriguing right! She is also keen on the outdoors, hiking, running, swimming. She's passionate about youth involvement and active in the European Student Think Tank. And she shares with us some basics on what we can do contribute towards creating sustainable food practices. Read on ...

 

Lena, we are thrilled to talk to you and learn about your ISH life and beyond! Firstly, in a nutshell can you share your story with us ...

"I was born in Berlin, but grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. In 2010 my family moved to The Netherlands where I entered the ISH and finished my high school education. Afterwards, I studied my bachelors degree in The Netherlands, with an exchange to The University of Sydney in Australia and a 3-month field course in East Africa (Tanzania and Kenya). My masters degree is taking place in Vienna, Austria and Lund, Sweden. At the moment I am living in Lund, finishing the second year of my masters degree." 

During your undergraduate studies it certainly sounds like you had a magnificently diverse and facinating variety of experiences. Can you talk us through your undergraduate degree ... 

"I stayed in NL for my bachelors degree, in which I focused on environmental sciences with a minor in international development studies. I had the opportunity to study and live in Sydney for half a year, and spent 3 months in Kenya and Tanzania for a critical development field course and internship at an NGO in Nairobi which works on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). After I graduated from my bachelor degree, I worked for a year: I moved to Brussels for a traineeship with the ENVI Committee of the European Parliament, which works on the topics of Environment, Health and Food Safety. This was an incredibly exciting opportunity to gain insights into environmental policymaking at the European level. I also worked on a circular economy consultancy project in Manila, the Philippines." 

Wo-ah! Amazing experiences. You've moved a lot for your studies. Australia's a long way from Europe. Did you enjoy your time there? What were some of the highlights or lowlights!? Would you recommend students consider an exchange as part of their degree?

"That’s true! I enjoyed my time in Australia a lot. I studied my bachelor’s degree in Utrecht, and the university has great exchange opportunities abroad. I was able to move to Sydney for half a year, which had been a dream of mine for a long time. Here, I followed different environment-related courses at the University of Sydney, such as environmental politics, conservation, and environmental impact assessment. It was eye-opening to learn about the prominent environmental issues in the region from local experts.

Outside of university, it was also a fascinating experience to live in Sydney. The weather was fantastic, and the city has so much to offer. Endless amounts of beautiful sand beaches, hiking routes, cafés, and cultural events such as concerts at the Sydney Opera House. In spring the Jacaranda trees bloom pink and purple, which is a sight for itself. Sydney is also great for all outdoor- and nature lovers because there are multiple nature reserves and national parks just outside of the city. I think the main lowlight was that the exchange only lasted half a year… haha. I would have loved to stay longer!

I would definitely recommend students to consider an exchange as part of their degree! Wherever you go, I am sure that it will be a valuable experience and that you will meet lots of other exchange students from across the globe."

It sure sounds like you truly lived that experience! Enjoying everything Sydney has on offer. Those Jacarandas though! 💜 💜 💜

 

Can you tell us a little about the process you undertook to obtain your internship in Brussels? Was this something offered through your course or that you sought out for yourself?

"After I graduated from my bachelor’s degree, I was looking for internship opportunities to gain work experience. Brussels is home to many of the Institutions of the European Union, such as the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council of the European Union. A lot of the EU-level policymaking happens here, which is why I was looking for environmental policy internship opportunities in Brussels. Via their respective websites, I learned about the traineeship programmes at the European Commission (‘Bluebook traineeship’) and at the European Parliament (‘Schuman traineeship’). Both traineeship programmes are paid! I would highly recommend checking out these traineeship programmes, as they offer interesting insights into the work of the EU institutions. This work is quite multifaceted, so the chances are high that there are some traineeship positions in units that work on a topic that you are interested in. I, for example found a traineeship within the Environment Committee of the European Parliament."

And it seems you're continuing to travel in your postgraduate career study life. Where in the world is your study taking you now?

 

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"I am now studying a two-year Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters Degree in Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management. The first year took place in Vienna, and I am currently living and studying in Lund, Sweden, where I am finishing the second year and writing my master thesis at the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics at Lund University. In my free time, I am exploring Sweden and going hiking. Extracurricularly, I am active as the deputy-head of the Working Group on the Environment at the European Student Think Tank, a youth organization. My Working Group and I attended and spoke at the European Youth Event in Strasbourg and the 16th United Nations Climate Change Conference of Youth in Glasgow in October 2021, which preceded the COP26 conference. In Glasgow, we organized a workshop for youth delegates from around the world. We spoke and exchanged about the European Green Deal and also touched upon the topic of climate justice, which was an incredible experience. I am passionate about youth involvement and participation in environmental policy and climate action, and the event was very inspiring." 

Incredible! And gladly, we were recently priviledged to be able to benefit from your passion for youth involvement when you came back to ISH, (virtually), to speak with our DP geography class. For our students who are passionate about climate justice what advice would you give them?

 

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"It was a pleasure! It was also great to hear that a lot of the students are involved in the climate change committee. To the students who are passionate about climate justice: keep doing what you are doing! Continue spreading the word about climate change and motivate others to get involved in climate justice initiatives. Tackling climate change has to be a team effort!"

We too are super proud of our Sustainability Committee who continue to raise awareness, build skills and create policy within our school under their motto of  'Making Your Education Greener'.  In fact, as we release this article the committee is about to undertake the 3rd ISH Annual Sustainability Day! 

 

Let's go back to your time at ISH. Were their any teachers who stood out for you?

"I would like to thank:

Mr. Knoppert for taking us to MUN conferences such as HMUN and MUNISH, which exposed me to the UN processes for the first time and helped me to discover my passion for environmental policy.

Mr. van Arkel for always fostering a sense of community in the PE classes and taking us to running events (running is my favorite sport), where he would challenge us to beat his 10km road race record (still working on it haha).

Mr. Jones for his enthusiasm."

And it seems these teachers remember you clearly and had these words to share with you ...

"My recollection of Lena is centered around responsibility. Ask Lena to do a task? It would get done, because she understood that you wouldn’t ask without a reason. Ask Lena to organize something? It would be smooth sailing, because she understood which moving pieces needed to fit together and how. In many cases, you wouldn’t need to ask Lena to do things, however: she would have already identified what she could do, out of an innate sense of responsibility. It doesn’t surprise me that Lena has gone down the path that she has, because it again strongly links to what I remember as being one of her defining characteristics: responsibility."- Mr. Knoppert  

"Lena was always a motivated student who had a gift for bringing out the best in herself and others without telling them what to do. She would lead by example and people would naturally follow her authentic and charismatic actions." 

For a student running cross country (and on the track long distance) is not the most obvious choice but it was the choice Lena made indeed. We would always make fun around the time of the city run and talk about her races in the winter season. 

My wish for her is to continue to walk her own path and to surround herself with people that recognize her for what she is: A person who cares for others, stands up for what is right and who is willing to put in a real effort to achieve her goals." - Mr. van Arkel 

 

"I remember Lena as this bright positive person, who chose to smile instead of frown and see the upside of a situation rather than it's potential flaws. She was great company and fun to talk to, yet clearly very intelligent and as sharp as a nail. It was lovely to connect with her recently after the COP26 conference and have her link up with our students online. I look forward to seeing her in person again this summer." - Mr. Jones  

You’ve packed so much into your study and career so far! Who are your role models? What inspires you?

 

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"What drives me is the fact that anthropogenic climate change is an urgent crisis that is threatening life on earth. It is a crisis that isn’t taken nearly as seriously as it should be. The recently published 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is testimony to this.

What inspires me is the hope to make a small contribution to tackling the impacts of climate change and the social inequalities that it exacerbates even further, by pursuing a career in the field of climate change adaptation.

I am also inspired by all the exciting things that are happening in the climate and environment domain these days. It’s a privilege to have gotten to study, and I get a lot of joy out of applying and sharing this knowledge ‘in the real world’. The most exciting opportunity to do so until now has been to host a workshop at the United Nations Climate Change Conference of Youth in Glasgow, which preceded the ‘real’ COP26 conference. Together with an international team, we spoke about climate justice and about different avenues for youth to get involved in climate and environmental policy. I was inspired by the discussion that we had with international youth delegates, who are all determined to contribute their bit to tackling the climate crisis.

Wangari Maathai was a truly inspiring woman. She was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, which she was awarded for funding the Green Belt Movement. Under this movement, more than 45 million trees have been planted in Kenya, which combats deforestation and contributes to land conservation which is critical for local livelihoods. Moreover, to date, a lot of the higher-level decision-making on climate and the environment is still predominantly done by men. This is problematic because climate change and gender (in)equality are closely intertwined. I am inspired by women who are pushing for more climate action and science-based climate policy at the highest policy levels, such as Patricia Espinosa, Christiana Figueres, and Annalena Baerbock. At the same time, I think that many young climate activists, from Luisa Neubauer from Fridays for Future to Anniek Moonen from the Dutch ‘Jonge Klimaatbeweging’, are doing a very important job by asking many of the urgent questions that politicians are not asking and pushing for more climate action."

We are beyond certain that you will make an incredible impact in your work in the field of climate change adaption and we look forward to following and being inspired by your career! 

 

Alongside your academic career what interests and hobbies would we find you pursuing?

"Whe""""I love the outdoors and really enjoy running, hiking, long walks, swimming in the ocean. I am currently exploring Sweden, there are many well-marked hiking trails. I really enjoy traveling, exploring new cultures, and meeting new people, which is also why I have always taken the possible opportunities to go abroad in and for my studies. I am active in the European Student Think Tank because I think that youth involvement in issues that disproportionately affect youth (such as climate change) is important; and am also interested in environmental justice issues. I am also increasingly interested in sustainable food systems and how they can help to fight climate change and improve biodiversity while combating issues such as malnutrition and food waste. One of the topics I am most passionate about is climate change adaptation and its nexus with sustainable development.

It is inspiring just how active and engaged you are in your study, passions, and life … a genuine question, how do you fit everything in?

"Thanks a lot! I would say that there is quite some overlap between my study and my passions, which certainly helps to fit everything in. The fact that I am able to study- and work on topics that I am passionate about gives me a lot of energy. I also find it motivating to spend time with like-minded people who are genuinely passionate about what they do as well."

One last question! You talk about your interest in sustainable food systems, at its most basic,  please share with us ... what can we do?

"We can reduce our meat consumption, reduce food waste as much as possible, try to eat seasonally (especially veggies and fruit), and shop regional produce rather than produce that has been imported from overseas. Moreover, budget allowing, one can buy organic food. We should also be conscious about the amount of plastic wrapping and other packaging around food. Additionally, we can make the trip to the supermarket by bike or foot to save emissions. Don’t forget your reusable shopping bag(s)!"

All things most of us can do more of! For sure. 

As we leave our chat here Lena we want to thank you for sharing your story with us! If this is what 6 years after is looks like for you we can hardly imagine what 10 years will look like. We are sure our chat with you will starts many conversations for others from climate conversation to creating your own experiences and just how diverse an academic career can be. Stay in touch! 

 

 

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To read more on the esteemed company Lena is in, please check out previously featured ISH alumni, in our 'Where are they now?' series ... 

Where are they now? Defne Gencler (Entrepreneur, Comedian, TikTok sensation).

Where are they now? Marieke Bigg (Writer).

Where are they now? Abbie Wiggins (Author).

 

Are you an alumni who would like to be featured? Do you know an alumni with a story we should get in contact with? Email: fcleven@atscholen.nl