Making a difference with like-minded people: how our students engage with sustainability

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MISOC students Szymon, Natasza & Marlene

The importance of sustainability can be seen on alle levels and parts of Erasmus University Rotterdam: from education and research to operations, and from employee to student. How do students experience sustainability in education? Bachelor’s students Szymon, Natasza and Marlene talk about how they deal with sustainability at our university.

As Erasmus University Rotterdam, we aim to make a positive impact in society, guided by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). We do this on many levels and realise that our students have a crucial role in this as the future leaders. One of the ways we educate about sustainability is the bachelor’s programme Management of International Social Challenges (MISOC) at Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences (ESSB). Szymon Mazaraki, Natasza Ciepal and Marlene Flintrop are all second-year students in this programme, and they look at the subject of sustainability from their own perspective.

Szymon Mazaraki, second-year MISOC student 2023-2024.

Szymon Mazaraki

“In this ever-changing world where everything is money oriented and profit-oriented, companies don’t care about the long-term effect of their projects and endeavours. That will have catastrophic consequences for us common people all over the world. I think the key to success lies in being aware of the consequences of our impact and of how we can influence this. The small steps matter and the change must start from the bottom to influence the CEO’s and companies.

“That’s why I started to work at a foundation in my home country Poland two or three years ago. One of our goals is to teach youngsters small habits that have a positive impact on the environment and that they can incorporate in their everyday life. Like sorting out the bins at home and using a sustainable alternative for disposable cups.

"I think it’s important to learn about sustainability in every kind of education, regardless in which sector you will conduct a job in"

Szymon Mazaraki

Second-year MISOC student

“Our bachelor Management of International Social Challenges (MISOC) is focused on creating new policy makers and a new generation of change. That is why I think it is important that we develop broad skills related to sustainability. Not only about what you can do yourself at home – those are the basics – but how can we fight for bringing sustainability to the municipalities and into the broader discussion at the top levels.

“I think it’s important to learn about sustainability in every kind of education, regardless in which sector you will conduct a job in. Whether it’s management, psychology, sociology, or other programmes as well. Just to be able to have this discussion is very important. When people are not told about how to incorporate sustainability in everyday life in university, it’s hard to start this debate or discussion later in life.”

Natasza Ciepal, second year MISOC student 2023-2024.

Natasza Ciepal

“I am the new chair of Erasmus Sustainability Hub this year. I really see this as the environment for me to learn. At the ESH, there are so many passionate people whose interests are beyond what’s going on at the university. I would like to encourage people to know more about sustainability: come to us, we are open to talk.

“As a student association, we want to combine fun – for example organizing cooking workshops and cooking different cuisine every week – with social gatherings and networking with people. We as a hub want to establish us as a leading student association in university transitions towards green solutions.

“I am studying Social Challenges and in my opinion climate change is one of the biggest challenges that we face nowadays. I would love to follow courses that are focused on solutions, that we need to wake up now. Why I’m so involved with the topic of sustainability? I find it important to make a difference in the world and achieve something. There are so many obstacles ahead but working on this is also rewarding. I am happy that our university is organising university-wide dialogues on sustainability this autumn. I hope they end with a concrete policy plan that will takes us one step ahead.”

Marlene Flintrop, second year MISOC student 2023-2024.

Marlene Flintrop

“I signed up for this programme because I care about sustainability. When I was very young, I became a vegetarian because of the sake of the animals. Only a few years later I realized that I was also doing my part for the environment through that. I started looking at the impact of things like clothing- and plastic consumption.

"The more research I did, the more I learned and the more passionate I grew. I had to be careful not to get into a downward spiral and see everything negatively. Most of my knowledge about sustainability I got outside of the classroom. Through my involvement at the Erasmus Sustainability Hub for instance, where I met a lot of like-minded people.

Campustuin Woudestein
Students help out in the campus garden

“I think sustainability is an important topic because it concerns everyone. The impact of living a not-sustainable life – the way that the past few generations have lived, and a lot of people are still living today – is huge. We see climate change everywhere: pollution and climate refugees… Whether you choose to consume meat or use plastics: the effects will be felt by everyone. I think sustainability should be talked about more and there should be more access to learn about it as well. It would be good if there was general education about the issue that everyone receives.

“I do think that the people that care about it and are making efforts on this topic, find a lot of support from the university. I am a very big fan of the discount on vegan lunch meals on our campus that’s going on right now. It’s very much affordable and really makes it accessible for students.”

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Related links
More information about and the dates of the Sustainability Dialogue sessions in the autumn of 2023 (intranet)

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