The morning started off at 8:30 where we met at the lobby of the OeAD Passivhaus. Arriving late in the evening the previous day, I slept like a brick and woke up, still tired, at 4 am. Nevertheless, I was excited to get started with the first day of the GBS summer program. At the lobby, I was introduced to the twenty-two other participants of the program along with our two mentors: Laura and Maljete. We made our way towards BOKU via the subway (u-bahn) and local bus; the trip took approximately 45 minutes and gave us an opportunity to see the surrounding area. When we arrived at BOKU we met with the co-project coordinators: Vivien and Reinhard. They introduced themselves and gave us a brief overview of the program. We participated in some introductory activities becoming familiar with our peers. This led to a game involving recalling names and a specific detail about each participant. This game turned out to more challenging than most of us had anticipated but we all helped each other along.

After a short break, we resumed our orientation with the “marshmallow challenge”. This friendly competition was designed as a team building activity which encouraged cooperation and communication within each group. My group ultimately won the challenge and ironically, we were given a bag of marshmallows for our prize. We were then given a short lecture by Martin Trebersurg who was the academic director of GBS. He introduced himself and the program, and warmly welcomed us to the city of Vienna. He suggested many interesting sites and activities that we could partake in during our three-week stay.

We were then dismissed from BOKU and were free to do as we wished. Many of us travelled to the city center to grab lunch while a few others, myself included, were a little jetlagged and/or needed to run some personal errands (such as stocking up our empty fridges).

We finished off our first day with an evening reception held at TU Wien. We once again made our way to the venue as a group. Once we arrived, we were greeted by our co-coordinators, as well as many supporting members of GBS including faculty members, industry professionals, and financial sponsors. We began to mingle with the various attendees while other participants were interviewed in front of cameras. Soon, we settled into our seats and were treated to three insightful keynotes covering related aspects of our program from environmental protection to the politics of sustainable development. Participants were then given a chance to share their vision for the future with the attendees which were all well received. Refreshments and food were then made available to us and we proceeded to once again mingle, network, and conduct open-ended discussions with the speakers and the other attendees of the night. The atmosphere was light and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. After a few hours, we left the venue and made our way to the nearest subway station. On our way, we were treated to a free tango show (or was it waltzing?) which involved locals casually dancing in an impromptu setup in the park. It was a wonderful way to end the evening for the first day of the GBS summer program.

Text: Nicholas So