Sunday, 5 January 2014

The Graduation! – and the last reunion of 2011/13 students…

It all started back in two years ago: the first batch students of FloodRisk Master met for the first time in early autumn days of beautiful Dresden in September, 2011. 18 students from 14 different countries all around the world came together to gain a broad and cross-boundary scientific knowledge on flood risk management. Certainly, our (FRM) adventure was full of unknowns. However, these big unknowns turned into sweet tastes making life more fun during these two years. 6 months in Dresden (Germany), 5 months in Delft (the Netherlands), 3 months in Barcelona (Spain), and 2 months in Ljubljana (Slovenia) passed very quickly. Studying together various aspects of flood risk management (from hydrologic modeling to socio-economic effects of floods) in these four countries, we had a comprehensive knowledge base and understanding of the current theory and practice related to flooding and flood management at the end of 1.5 years. At the final stage, each of us conducted a thesis research on a topic of interest to us in different institutes.

In this last 6-months period of the master, we specialized in a particular subject more academically. We all admit that working on our theses was not the easiest part of the master not only in an academic context but also in all aspects of life – for instance we discovered our patience limits and learned how to find fresh sources of hope and strength during the most desperate times... Spending the summer days in front of our laptops sitting on our comfy (!) chairs, we were lucky enough to hand in a proper draft version of our thesis document in early August. Following a little bit of relaxation period lasting less than two weeks, we submitted our theses and started waiting for the comments of our thesis supervisors. By the graduation day, we all defended our theses successfully – such a relief! It was only after that moment that we realized that our adventure was about to end very soon! Some of us were busy with arranging their travel from their thesis locations to Delft, where the Graduation Ceremony was to be held.

All our faces locked upon the graduation ceremony
Being the main coordinator partner of the programme, UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education was responsible for all the arrangements regarding the diploma awarding ceremony. This included a mini-symposium on Flood Risk Management in which all FRM students presented their MSc research briefly. Followed by the opening talk by Prof. Stefan Uhlenbrook (UNESCO-IHE, Vice Rector), there were four keynote presentations from Dr Alexandros Makarigakis (UNESCO, Paris), Dr. Henrik Madsen (Danish Hydraulic Institute), Prof. Matthijs Kok (TU Delft, and Director of HKV Consultants) and Ms Jana Stetkova (EACEA, European Commission). When the time for awarding of diplomas arrived, everybody was excited. Prof. Christian Bernhofer from TU Dresden, Prof. Allen Bateman from UPC, and Prof. Mitja  Brilly from University of Ljubljana donning traditional graduation clothing. The ceremony was well-attended by the family members as well. After the talk of the Rector of UNESCO-IHE, Prof. András Szöllösi-Nagy, it was finally time to be awarded with our Masters diplomas as part of a presentation ceremony. This was shortly followed by a brief speech from Richard Vause, providing a student perspective of the past 24 months.

The Graduation Ceremony can be still seen here.

Following the ceremony, all the students and the professors gathered in front of UNESCO-IHE building for a group photo – a wonderful picture which can surely enable us to cherish this unforgettable moment years after that day. This was also a moment of fame as there were a quite number of cameras competing to make the best picture!


FRM 1 after the graduation ceremony
Thanks to the reception held we were still all together. Of course, we were all curious to know what will happen next in each others’ lives. Talking with our friends (well maybe from now on also “colleagues”) and professors about our future plans made us realize once more that we were about to open a completely white page in our lives as the first generation of flood risk managers. During the reception, we also met with our dearest friends’ families. 

While everybody was enjoying their drinks and the music, a sweet surprise by Richard took all the attention suddenly. He was kind and generous enough to prepare a presentation of the course in pictures, which was successfully capable of giving an impression and nostalgic review of the programme (the slideshow can be seen here). It was such a lovely surprise; thanks Richard! Another surprise was our specially designed FLOODRisk Master shirts given next to our diplomas. Being lucky with the weather – it was one of those exceptionally hot days in Delft at this time of the year; we decided have another group picture (with the shirts on us) in the beautiful garden of IHE building. Check out the picture below to see our happy faces :)
Free T-shirts: the easiest path to happiness.
The ceremony came to an end… But not the day! With participation of the academic staff and the families, we had dinner all together - tired but happy people. There was a little bit of sadness as well. I remember our first group dinner at Restaurant de la Nilay in Dresden, and the last dinner now in a Chinese Restaurant in Delft... Time to say goodbye has arrived! 

As Jacob Bronowski says, knowledge is an unending adventure at the end of uncertainty and this master programme is a great opportunity to live this adventure to be able to understand floods – a major natural hazard which seems to become more frequent and severe in the last century – from different perspectives in order to alleviate its consequences.

Our dream of becoming a flood risk professional has come true at the end of 2 years we spent in Europe… We would like to thank especially to Dr Biswa Bhattacharya, Prof Dimitri Solomatine, and Ms Ineke Melis from UNESCO-IHE for the invaluable guidance they provided. We also thank all the professors, lecturers, and assistants in TU Dresden, UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) and University of Ljubljana. And of course many thanks to our families and friends for their love, support, and understanding throughout this period.

I believe that FLOODRisk master gave us the opportunity to be a part of a brilliant group of determined and adventurous people. Despite the challenges, we enjoyed every single day of our FRM adventure. I wish all the best to each member of my FRM family in their prospective life and career wherever in the world. Just a small request - please don’t lose your strength and patience to follow your dreams! See you soon!

Written by Nilay Dogulu

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