Thinking about our earth’s big problems at the Catholic University, Leuven, Belgium

From the 9th to the 13th of July, I was in Belgium for a doctoral summer school. Aimed at seeking solutions to some of the modern world’s biggest problems with multidisciplinary approaches, the 40 participants included PhD candidates from the social sciences, arts, humanities and the natural sciences, and from the universities constituting LERU. Part of them were two students from Edinburgh, both of whom were and will remain excellent ambassadors of our University. I was glad to meet the other student, a brilliant and outspoken young lady.

What did I like most about the programme? It is its “interdisciplinarity”. Titled “The Global Society: The Importance of Interdisciplinary Collaboration to Tackle Societal Challenges,” the 1-week programme was organised in such a way that virtually every bit of the experience (apart from the sleeping hours at night maybe) was in one way or another training us on interdisciplinary-ness and how to work effectively amidst different forms of human diversity. We were divided into about 6 teams to work on themes related to international migration, health, and climate change, which are subjects that have not received my attention in the past as much as religion, conflict, and peace. Whether it is the formal sessions where we had to listen to lectures, or the periods for teams’ activities, or the more informal conversations over meals and visits to parts of Leuven and the EU headquarters in Brussels, or even as we watched the world cup match between our host country and France, we were learning how to relate with fellow youth whose academic, socio-cultural, national and political backgrounds were different from ours. This is a skill which every youth aspiring to do great things with others for the global society should possess and I am very pleased to have been part of the programme. In my 5-member team where I worked with two political scientists, a criminologist and a biologist, we were able to overcome disagreements about some issues, such as what it means for the international community to empower a state in the Global South, and produce a paper for presentation on the 13th. With this, I have gained more skills in team work and problem solving.

I have attached a group photograph which was taken at the headquarters of the European Union. I am that young African man wearing a black pair of trousers and light blue shirt on the second row from the front. Looking for the other student from our great University? Among the three girls on the first row, she is the one wearing a wrist watch, black trousers and brown sandals, and whose finger seems to be pointing at the floor.

Many thanks to Edinburgh University’s Senate Researcher Experience Committee, the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Go Abroad Fund, for making this remarkable international experience possible for me.

Categories: Belgium, Europe, Go Abroad Fund

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