The REWATERGY experience (part 2)

The REWATERGY experience (part 2)

Raffaella Pizzichetti


first moved out from my comfort zone at the age of 16, when I dipped myself in an exciting and strong experience of 10 months abroad, in the USA, very far from home. I grew up enormously in this adventure. I met amazing people that will always occupy an important place in my heart, no matter the distance. I learned to live in a completely different environment, with different habits and traditions, and communicate in a language that was unknown to me at the beginning. My second journey started right after high school, at the age of 18, when I moved to Turin for my studies. This time the emotions were even more intense. I was moving away from home for an unknown time, and I was starting a new chapter of my life with no pillars supporting me, far from family and friends. It was my new challenge. Starting from zero in an estranged house with unknown people, but soon I was already surrounded by new friends and joyful events. There were tough moments, of course, but the juice was worth the squeeze. A new adventure started when I won the scholarship for the Double Degree Master Programme between the Polytechnic of Turin and the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm in Chemical and Sustainable Processes Engineering.

This time new challenges to face, a third language to learn, another culture to embrace, and intense weather conditions to live in. Nevertheless, it was another amazing experience. The broad international environment around me was the key to my personal and educational growth. It made me more creative and open-minded and helped my promptness and flexibility. As this last journey was coming to an end, I was not ready to go back home yet. I was curious and ready to explore a bit more of the world, keep learning from the other cultures and exciting environments. REWATERGY offered me this opportunity, full of training events and secondments around Europe with 36 months equally split into two different countries. Other than this, the project offered me the opportunity to gain experience in both academia and industry, enhancing my career prospects through the PhD on the very topic I am passionate about, the water-energy nexus, addressing climate change challenges and embracing a circular economy concept. Soon, I found myself packing again and getting ready for Madrid, my first destination. I started the project in a very cheerful atmosphere in the GIQA group at Rey Juan Carlos University. Then, I had the chance to meet the rest of the consortium in our first meeting in Cambridge and get to know better the other ESRs in our first training in Belfast. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic changed many aspects of the project and created new challenges – different and, in some respects, more difficult than those already expected. My time in Madrid concluded successfully, with highs and lows, and about 6 months ago I moved to my second destination, Cork. Starting new in another city, in another country, in this “different world” with social restrictions, has been tough. However, thanks to supportive friends and colleagues, I am making my way through the worst moments and enjoying all the good that this project is offering me.

Adriana Rioja


he first half of the REWATERGY programme is over. It was almost 2 years ago, when I decided to leave my job as Battery Engineer in Netherlands and join REWATERGY programme. This programme presented me with the opportunity of doing a doctorate while still being in contact with industry, as well as pursuing my interest in electrochemical research applied to energy and sustainability. It has been 18 months of fast-growing experiences, which I think have really contributed to both personal and professional development. My first placement of the REWATERGY programme was at Ulster University in Belfast. Even though I had already been in Northern Ireland doing an exchange at high school, the only thing I could remember from that time was how much it rained and that I barely could understand any English with Northern Irish accent. Therefore, I prepared myself mentally for a lot of rain and to not understand much of the English. Fortunately, my understanding of the accent greatly improved, but it still took me some weeks to clearly understand some of my colleagues and supervisor. From my first days in Belfast, I felt the hospitality and kindness of the people around me, which contributed to making me feel welcome and have very nice time. After travelling a bit around, it made me remember how beautiful NI is filled with amazing landscapes, beaches, cliffs forests and hills. Moreover, I really enjoyed Belfast’s atmosphere, particularly the nightlife, filled with traditional pubs, where you can enjoy live music. Unfortunately, after six months of my arrival in NI, the whole world was hit by the global pandemic of COVID-19. This impacted, to different extent, both the personal and professional life of many people. For me personally it was also a challenging time, as I saw Belfast quickly transformed into a ghost town. I had to deal with being away from my family, as well as completely changing the way of working, as we had almost no access to the university for 1 full year. Fortunately, I had the luck of sharing these difficult moments with a small group of friends. I hope to have the opportunity to return to Northern Ireland sometime in the future and keep exploring its amazing nature and atmosphere. Most memorable moments from the first part of this experience include: meeting all my colleagues at Ulster University, returning to do experiments in a laboratory, the meeting held in Cambridge where we met everyone involved in REWATERGY, the training courses in Belfast with all the ESR, my friends cooking amazing traditional food from their countries, daytrips exploring NI and evenings listening to live Irish music in the pubs. Now already settled at my second placement at the company Delft-IMP in Netherlands, I am hoping to fill the next months with new memories and experiences which would make me grow further both personally and professionally.