Journey 2020: The student’s view

Melissa Capcha is originally from Huancayo in Peru but has lived in Kiel, northern Germany, for the last two years. 

Melissa has worked in the climate space since 2012 and contributed to projects in Hungary, Costa Rica, Indonesia and Ghana. She is also president of the Perú-based NGO Centro de Innovacion Climatica y Sostenibilidad, or the Centre of Innovation for Sustainability and the Climate. Melissa is doing a Masters in Sustainability, Society, and the Environment at the University of Kiel and she participated in the Journey 2020.

Hi, Melissa! Can you tell us a bit about what brought you to the Journey programme?

I’ve known about EIT Climate-KIC for a few years, back from when I was based in Peru. I knew some people who were living in Europe and I saw many of them were participating in programmes run by the organisation, and they were developing different projects that were having an impact. 

Coming to Europe with zero network was so hard! All my background and network was in Peru. So I thought, OK, if I join a programme with EIT Climate-KIC which pursues the same vision, I’ll find a strong community. I can also develop and promote ideas and find possibilities to network and so on. 

I saw it as a way to put some of the ideas I had into practise and a way to move forward with a community behind me. So when I had the opportunity to participate I didn’t hesitate, I applied and started my Journey.

What were the best and worst things about your Journey experience?

I met so many inspiring people. The idea of getting connected and getting to know other people who are doing inspirational things in their community was very nice. I gained friends; we’re now working on a project together and hoping to make a small business out of it. 

It was hard sometimes to be online all day, especially during the summer, but we were all supporting each other and committed to working together to get the most from the experience. 

The good thing about a digital programme was that I hadn’t had the chance to learn much about creating digital working groups. This year though we used so many tools; I learned how to brainstorm virtually, how to conduct meetings, and how to create a group and work together on a specific project. It was super insightful for me and these are skills I’m now using in ‘real life’.

On that, how has the Journey contributed to your professional work and other projects?

I feel that I’ve developed so many skills I can use in my role as president of the NGO I work with. How to develop ideas, how to manage people, how to work with people in a group, how to communicate with people… and the system approach analysis was super helpful for me. I feel so much more prepared for that role.

The experience also helped me realise the topic and direction I wanted to work in for my MA thesis. I knew I wanted to do something related to the construction sector and how to reduce emissions and greenhouse gases, but after the Journey I was completely sure of what I wanted to address and it helped me mature my ideas.

Separate from my Master’s programme, I’m also developing a project called “Urban Clickwith a very talented group of people from all over Europe who I met through the programme. The project focuses on how to tackle the problem of construction and demolition waste in cities by promoting the circular economy approach. We’re now applying for funding not just from EIT Climate-KIC, but also from other places. It’s a very nice takeaway for me that I met insightful and inspiring people who share the same values and ideas as me.

Where do you see yourself professionally in five years time?

I see myself still being in Germany because I’ve found many opportunities here not only to collaborate with the European community, but also to help my country. I’m working on how to develop a network here in order to make my projects in Peru possible. For instance, if I’m doing projects about waste management in a European scenario, I’m also trying to adapt the projects and translate my ideas and the technology to a Peruvian context. This is something that is very important for me personally. 

Can you tell me a bit more about your personal takeaways from taking part in the Journey programme?

Over the past seven years I’ve been very involved in the Conference of Parties (COP) so I traveled a lot and had the opportunity to open my mind and absorb different cultures. 

But when I first arrived in Europe, I felt quite alone. I didn’t know people, and I didn’t know the organisations and institutions. I felt like I had many ideas but I couldn’t turn them into something impactful. I was super afraid and I felt like I wasn’t part of the European community. I was from Peru, with a different culture and background and so on. 

But now I have this community behind me, I feel their support all the time! I feel powerful and as though I can both create ideas and propose them. I feel like I have enough support to go forward and knock on doors and ask for help. I feel empowered.

I am also grateful for having been selected for the Journey so I can be involved in other initiatives. My individual project was recently selected to receive funding from the EIT Climate-KIC Alumni Micro-Award, so I’m working on that up until the end of the year. It’s a virtual game called “Cities are material banks” and it aims to create awareness of the problems associated with construction and demolition waste in my community of Kiel. 

I also joined the community Slack channel, which is a great way to stay across the different opportunities, and I’ll participate in the EIT Climate-KIC Alumni meeting at the end of the year. I’m looking forward to meeting more people and being involved and contributing in all kinds of ways. This makes me feel awake and alive every day.