Week of the International Student: Paul Preaux
During the Week of the International Student, we interview international students and alumni of Erasmus University Rotterdam and ask them about their journey. Although many international students travel from all around the world to enrol at Erasmus University Rotterdam, Paul Préaux only had to cross the border.
However, that short journey from Brussels would have a profound impact on his life. Studying for a Master of Science in Urban Management and Development has been an important step in the development of his career towards setting up a company to turn green waste into renewable energy.
Paul is pleased he chose Erasmus University Rotterdam for his studies. Although he had two postgraduate options, he opted for Rotterdam over Stockholm because this was a one-year programme, instead of a two-year course, and he was keen to complete his studies and start to put theories into practice.
On arrival, he was delighted to find most of his fellow students were also international: “Out of a hundred of us, only four came from Europe and I was one of the youngest. During classes, they shared their experiences, often giving new insights into the worldwide case studies we examined. Some had actually worked on those projects.”
“Every month we held cultural nights, there would be music and food and drink from different countries and sometimes people would even read poems. That was definitely a highlight of my degree and something I will never forget, especially as the arrival of Covid-19 forced the university to close and forced us to put an end to such social activities.”
You don’t need to travel the world
Paul strives to make a difference at home, using innovative solutions to address local challenges: “Brussels is an international city, the home of the European Union, NATO and many other international organisations, bringing together people from over 180 nationalities. Growing up here you realise you don’t need to travel the world to meet people from many countries, as they are already here.”
“Brussels is transitioning away from being a car-centred city towards being a city promoting sustainable transport. This topic is what I decided to analyse for my thesis: how people are being encouraged to consider alternatives to cars and lorries. This has become controversial and has even provoked demonstrations. While there are plenty of logical arguments in favour of the change, like cutting air pollution and saving fuel, it can be hard to explain them to a furniture salesman who wants his customers to be able to load up their purchases outside his store and drive them away.”
Through his research, Paul started talking to policymakers about transportation issues. Today, he is continuing these conversations on broader subjects: “Brussels is a melting pot of cultures and identities, yet Belgium is often divided between its French and Flemish speakers. Ahead of the national elections held in 2024, I interview senior politicians to promote more inclusive policies that bring together these diverse identities and cultures.
The key to sustainable development
Following graduation, Paul started work as a project engineer for a major consultancy in infrastructure development but soon realised it wasn’t the right role for him. At the same time, he was becoming interested in renewable energy. Together with his friend turned business associate, he launched his start-up, BioFlux, helping industries reduce their CO2 emissions by generating energy using pyrolysis reactors and bio-based waste streams.
“Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has forced the world to pay attention to the global energy crisis and I’m confident that new technologies hold the key. People started getting in touch with us as there is new interest in energy independence,” Paul explains.
“We need to be ambitious about finding solutions and not just seek alternative sources of fossil fuels, this is something we need to be doing and I’m optimistic about the future. Decarbonisation is essential. It’s not a ‘nice-to-have’, it’s the key to sustainable development.”
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