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

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The commencement of the Masters theses

Walking away from Ljubljana - the group on a fieldtrip on
the penultimate day of our time in the Slovenian capital.
It is now mid-March and, since our last post just prior to Christmas, we have finished our short spell in Ljubljana after an intense month of many exams, many presentations and many reports. It was a tough two months, inevitably disjointed and split by the Christmas holidays. On our final day together, a field-trip was organised through the snowy Karstic region of  South West Slovenia, with the trip an opportunity to witness glorious snow-covered landscapes, dive (figuratively) head-first into some of the world's deepest and most scientifically-valued cave networks and, most importantly, to begin to say goodbye to each other and the country. In early February the day to leave Slovenia came around.

Currently, we have been within our thesis writing period for a month now. With over six months to focus on a topic, the thesis period has proved to be an opportunity for us to explore a topic of interest to us and really delve deep into an academic field. We have been given opportunities - and many of us have worked hard to create our own opportunities in new institutes - all over the world, with students spread from Denmark to the Caribbean and some of us have the opportunity to travel to Asia and beyond for fieldwork. For more information on the thesis titles, locations and a brief topic description, please visit the new 'Masters Theses' (click here) page. It's brilliant!

A suitable snapshot of FRM meets
FRM in Dresden's Neustadt.
Many of the first batch of FRM have been lucky enough to meet the second batch of students (FRM 2.0). Those four students writing their thesis in Germany were able to coincide their arrival with the last week of the 2011-14 group's stint in Dresden. Such an opportunity provided the chance for questions to be asked, stories to be shared, advice to be given and a few drinks drunk - all in the name of business... maybe. And, now, FRM 2.0 find themselves in Holland where, in-between countless lectures, assignments and essays, they have joined-up with the largest thesis contingent. The three students at UNESCO-IHE and the other three Delft-based thesis students are now able to expand the inter-generational FRM bonding that began in Dresden. And, who knows, maybe the two thesis students in Barcelona will be lucky enough to continue the trend in the first few days of FRM 2.0's time at UPC! Such bonding between the FRM community and the shared sense of purpose is a real positive of the course and I, for one, am grateful for my opportunity to have spent such time. Hopefully, future meetings can be encouraged in the next 18 months and beyond.

However, as always with such a masters, the thesis period brings with it new experiences and issues to work through. Over our year and half travelling Europe together, we have grown very accustomed to each other and I am comfortable that I speak for all of us when I say that not being surrounded by our favoured, friendly FRM faces is an odd experience that makes our final six months very different to the preceding eighteen. However, this is just a fact of this period and, if nothing else, it ensures that we are passionately anticipating our graduation ceremony at UNESCO-IHE, Delft, in September. I know that many students have already started to make arrangements for themselves and, more significantly, their families to join them for the celebrations. We know it will be a special day for us all and, if previous UNESCO-IHE organised parties are anything to go by, we are set for a brilliant evening too.

But until then, there are thesis proposals to fine-tune, research to plan and implement, tens of thousands of words to write, defence seminars to sweat through and everything in-between. It is set to be a busy six months, but with the end (surprisingly-quickly) creeping up, it's time to end it with a bang.



Richard Vause

New 'Masters Theses' page

*** A new page added to the blog! ***

To find out all about our masters theses please visit the NEW PAGE 'Masters Theses'. Here, you can find information on thesis titles, locations and brief descriptions of the topic. Click here, or navigate through the above tabs to visit the page!

We hope that you will find it useful and, if you have any questions about the topics, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Happy browsing,


Richard Vause

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Merry Christmas from FRM

Flood Risk Management Merry Christmas

T'was a week before Christmas, when all through FRM
Not a student was stirring, not even the Bangladesh men.
Our thesis topics had been sent to little Delft with care,
In hopes that our very own Biswa would allocate them there.

The students were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of published theses in peer-reviewed journals danced in their heads.
In cold Ljubljana, in more layers than Shristi were we wrapped,
We settled down for our evening siesta - or 'night-time nap'.

With a sense that, across Europe, academic keyboards had begun to clatter,
We sprang to our non-UNESCO laptops to see what was the matter.
Away to our IHE emails we went with only mild fears of horror.
Before closing our decent browser and opening Internet Explorer.

(Why, oh why does UNESCO email require the most outdated of browsers?
As comfortable to use as the Barca metro, in summer, in trousers).
And in my inbox, to my wonder, what should appear,
But a festive email from our Biswa, from whom we love to hear.

In the following email seconds later, this time remembering the attachment (!),
We nervously anticipated the thesis news we presume had been sent. 
With CC's flying before our eyes,
Biswa called the faithful lectures, who on our theses will advise.

"Now, Katya! Now, Bernhofer! Now, Leo and Dimitri!
On, Schalk! On, Allen! On, Vicente and Brilly!
We must inform our chosen thesis students - send out your call!
Now mail away, mail away, mail away all!

With Biswa's rousing speech, we heard staff keyboards tinkle
"Oh, I hope for an Uncertainty-heavy topic" dreamt Nilay " - more than a sprinkle!"
But little could our dreaming minds truly know,
Which topic would, to our inboxes, flow!

We woke to the sound Patricia always hears and always likes:
Fiesta? Siesta? No, of course it was Skype.
"Hello student, your pal Biswa here:
The thesis! It's sorted! See you in the New Year!

We spoke not a word, as we were over the moon.
The perfect thesis awarded - oh, February 10th, please come soon!
It may have felt a long, arduous and tricky road,
But Biswa had delivered, despite the vast workload.

And as we next lay our heads to enter for-once worry-free slumber,
I swear I heard Biswa, his words I could name to a number:
"Merry Thesis to all, I look forward to the wonders that you write.
 Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night"

Photograph from Shristi

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Welcome to Ljubljana

As well experienced country hoppers, the next move of the Flood Risk Management crew to Ljubljana, Slovenia, was the smoothest move yet. Enthusiasm for new adventures may have weaned a little as we bid farewell to beautiful Barcelona, but, as we settle into life in Ljubljana, there is a brimming anticipation of the new experiences we will gain.

In our 'woollies' enjoying Ljubljana's festivities
Given the short time we will spend here - a mere two months - housing was an initial concern, with the fear of living in a hostel loomed large. However, the good landlords of Ljubljana came to the rescue and within a few days the whole class had managed to find decent accommodation. We were definitely off to a good start!

The first word on everyone’s lips was how freezing cold Ljubljana was. Brrr... We had grown used to balmy evenings at the tapas bars in Barcelona and were rudely awaken with snow and sub-zero temperatures in Ljubljana. Time to resurrect those Dresden winter woollies!

Our stay in Ljubljana will be the shortest yet with a semester of only 2 months. Factor in some hard-earned Christmas holidays and time will truly fly. With that in mind, we made the decision to “hit the ground running” and quickly establish ourselves in the Slovenian capital. With the essentials of internet, yet another new SIM card sorted and getting to grips with the city buses, it was time to turn our attention to our studies in Slovenia.

The University of Ljubljana will be our new base as we settle into classes on socio-economic assessment and spatial planning for flood protection. Ljubljana’s focus is more on the social aspects of flood risk management and the classes should prove interesting as we study a new dimension of our discipline. So far, three days into our classes, the university has proved to be impressively organised, with our “hit the ground running” attitude evident here too. Classes will be taken by several lecturers from across the social sciences and will be assessed with a mixture of written examinations and group project work. Hopefully the teamwork skills we developed in Barcelona will stand us in good stead.

The Ljuljanica river in all of  it's festive glory
But what of the other aspects of our new home? Surely there is more than just our studies? As the welcome words from our new head of department encouraged us, it was time to to make the most of the festive spirit in Ljubljana. The city’s centre is a winter-wonderland of Christmas lights, snow covered bridges and delicious kuhano vino (cooked wine) keeping the swarms of locals and tourists warm. Three of the class have landed an amazing apartment overlooking the picturesque city centre; undoubtedly this will be the new FRM hang-out house: Maria, Nilay and Ryanne prepare for lots of visitors!

We are also hoping to integrate into Ljubljana student life by getting involved in University sports and joining the local Erasmus network. With the great friendships made on our travels so far, we are eager to continue this trend on our final leg. Also, despite time being short, it would be nice to see some of the region - no doubt, our international high-flyer Duc will lead the way!

As the taught part of the course reaches its final months, the quest to find a suitable thesis topic is looming large. Given the great diversity of the student backgrounds and the number of universities involved, finding thesis topics to satisfy everyone was always going to be a complex task. Very fortunately, the universities have granted us great freedom and support in pursuing theses with other institutions and organisations. As the negotiation process continues, we all look forward to confirming our both our thesis topics and partners before getting stuck into some research.

Regardless, Ljubljana is set to be significantly different to anything we have experienced so far in terms of culture, climate and academic focus. Time is short and we have lots to learn, but we enjoy a challenge. So far, so good. Ljubljana bring it on!


Anthony Grady