During the Opening of the Academic Year 2013, Rector András Szöllösi-Nagy welcomed 228 new MSc students, from 53 different countries, at UNESCO-IHE. Guest Speaker Mr. Joost Notenboom gave a very inspiring talk about his 20 month bicycle journey, which brought him from Alaska to Antarctica. The official opening became even more inspiring, when Mr. Michael Mutale gave a touching acceptance speech after receiving the first edition of the UNESCO-IHE Alumni Award.
After explaining that the 'IHE' in UNESCO-IHE is not an abbreviation for International Holiday in Europe, but actually stands for Institute for Hydraulic Engineering, Andras Szollosi-Nagy told the new batch of students what awaits them during their 18 month academic period. Moreover, he expressed how the MSc programmes at UNESCO-IHE will help students becoming the next generation of water leaders. "There is a need for more qualified water professionals to manage complex water issues", Szollosi-Nagy says. Chair Woman of the Students Association Board, Ms. Maria Salingay from the Philippines, had useful advice for the new students as well. By sharing experiences from her first year, she was able to prepare new students for the life-changing period ahead of them.
Travelling 30.000 km on a bamboo bicycle
Guest Speaker Joost Notenboom shared the remarkable story of his journey through the Americas. In July 2010 he started his 30.000 km bicycle tour in Alaska to eventually reach Antarctica by 2012. His anecdotes about snoring travel mates and bears going through his garbage in search for leftovers were very amusing. However, the speech had a clear and inspiring message as well. Notenboom compared his journey with the 18 month MSc programme at UNESCO-IHE. At first everything is new and exciting, but after a while you'll face major challenges. At that moment it's crucial to stay determined and entirely focused on your goal. In addition, another clear link between his journey and the students' journey is the focus on water. During his trip Notenboom and his companion were involved in several projects, aimed on improvement of water resources.
Alumni Award Ceremony
Since the Opening of the Academic Year was combined with the annual Alumni Day, this was the ideal occasion for the Alumni Award 2013 awarding ceremony. This award has been introduced this year and was given to Mr. Michael Mutale, from Zambia. Mutale has been awarded for his dedication to improving quality of life in Southern Africa. "It's almost 20 years ago when I graduated from UNESCO-IHE. Little did I know then, that I would be the recipient of the prestigious Alumni Award", he says. Mutale also had some words of wisdom for the new group of MSc students. "Love what you do. People want to listen and work with someone who genuinely loves what he or she does and 'walk the talk'. Be that person."