Journey 2020: The student’s view

Soham Wrick Datta was a participant in this year’s Journey. Originally from India, he has lived, studied and worked in China, Hong Kong, Sweden and Ireland, and has a background in medicine.

We caught up with Soham to ask him how he found the first ever digital Journey, what he was most looking forward to about this year’s Journey Summit, and his hopes for the future.

Hi, Soham. Can you tell us what led you to participating in the Journey?

My Bachelor’s was in clinical medicine, but I made the shift from clinical practice to clinical research and my Master’s was in immunology, neuromuscular diseases and global health. I then did a PhD in Oncology where I had the opportunity to move from Ireland to Hong Kong for a project. I was working in lung cancer, and that was one of the first times I realised there’s a huge gap between medicine and global health and climate change. Both entities know and acknowledge the presence of the other, and everyone knows climate change is happening and the effects that it has, but there are very few efforts to bridge the two. That is one of the motivations that I had.

Also I was involved with Climathon 2019, and I thought it was a wonderful initiative. My team worked on an insulation project and we were one of the finalists in Lund, and that got me very interested in the work that EIT Climate-KIC does. I really liked being able to meet people from a range of different disciplines in Europe who are working on sustainable projects.

How was your experience of the first digital Journey?

I have to say, I had my doubts at the beginning! It feels like the hours in front of the computer keep getting longer, and I’m a very outdoorsy kind of person. But I didn’t expect a digital platform to be able to connect so many people. That really changed my whole perspective. It can feel like the digital medium is not enough, especially when you are meeting new people and you don’t know about their work ethics, or how they approach cultural differences, or whether someone is operational, or a visionary, or cohesive, all those things you need in a team. But I think the Journey showed it can be done, and will be done more in the future. We all had our own sustainability journeys but the destination looked kind of similar, and that was great. Also we could be as efficient, despite long hours in front of the computer.

“I was working in lung cancer, and that was one of the first times I realised there’s a huge gap between medicine and global health and climate change.”

I think one of the downsides was it could feel at times like we were in another university lecture, as we were missing that level of interactivity you get from an in-person workshop. But we fed that back and improved in the second week. I think also we were less able to chat about our different projects out of hours, so there might have been some inconsistencies in the different experiences; some more technical, some more free flowing. Normally we might have talked over a coffee, but most of us were ready to close our screens and run into the forest when we were done!

What were the biggest takeaways for you?

I think one of the biggest takeaways for me is climate communication. I really feel better equipped to talk about climate to people. I think the Journey has left me better able to take the conversation to the people around me and definitely be more patient. I think there has to be a balanced approach where we know and acknowledge there is a problem, but we also empower people to make those little changes. Often those conversations can go a bit haywire, it feels like zero or one, but actually it’s not that binary, it can be a step by step process.

The Journey has also definitely proven that it’s possible to build your network, develop partnerships and do projects digitally, even if you’re not meeting people in person.

What are you most looking forward to about this year’s Community Summit?

I’m looking forward to the Summit as, along with a few other Journey students, we started the Journey Visions podcast. The aim is to capture the different visions and inspirations of our guests and their projects. We’ll be hosting a lab session at the Summit talking about how you can take an idea and turn it into a tangible project in quite a short period of time, which I’m looking forward to!

“The Journey has also definitely proven that it’s possible to build your network, develop partnerships and do projects digitally.”

I’m also looking forward to hearing how other people’s projects are coming along and about some of the challenges they are facing, as I expect those to be similar. Our project is called On Cloud Wine, and the goal is to strengthen the connection between wine enthusiasts, consumers and tourists, and small to medium scale wine producers. We want to promote renewable energy and a shift from luxury tourism to ecotourism hubs around the old historic towns close to the vineyards of southern France, and also in similar ecosystems in Portugal and Spain. The eventual goal is to move towards a carbon-neutral resilient viniculture/wine production system by 2040. We are currently working through some financing and stakeholder outreach challenges, so it’d be great to hear how other projects are tackling some of these problems, as it’s only through interdisciplinary challenges and collaboration that you can overcome those challenges.

What do you see yourself doing next?

In the future, I’d love to still be working in medicine and cancer research, but ideally the Journey Vision podcast will have grown into something bigger where we talk about sustainability from multiple perspectives, including health.

As well as some other ongoing projects I’m working on, I’d also like to see our wine project to develop and grow. There’s a lot of great research in this area, but there’s a gap between that and implementation. Wine is here to stay! It would be great to support farmers and specialists in making that change.