We are master’s students of Environmental Studies and Sustainability Sciences at Lund University, and will be writing our Masters theses within the OPERAs framework under the supervision of Kimberly Nicholas. As students free to move around the project, we were able to be flies on the wall and absorb the discussions with an open perspective.
It was our first conference of the style and scope of the large-scale, international OPERAs meeting, so we landed in Lisbon with only anticipation for the meeting the next day. We hoped to connect with the OPERAs exemplar coordinators and learn about their projects, as well as opportunities for us to get involved. The conference was our first real exposure to the project, and we wanted an insight into how it functioned and worked in a practical setting. Up until that point, almost all of our information about OPERAs had come from helping Kim compile the Exemplar Study Designs within Work Package 2 (Practice). We were excited to get a clearer picture of what exactly OPERAs is.
Lisbon greeted us on a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon (a welcome change from Sweden), and in the evening we were charmed by the excessively celebrating Benfica supporters as we wandered towards the seaside. The next morning brought in the first day of the full team meeting, and our initial impression was one of incredible generosity. Every person we shook hands with offered ideas and advice, whether it was from prior experience or connections they knew. The friendly and open atmosphere within the project was encouraging, as people were honestly interested about our role within OPERAs.
On an academic level, the meeting in Lisbon opened our eyes to the full reach of the project: the flash-talks, working group meetings, exemplar presentations and most vividly, the excursion to Companhia das Lezírias. The excursion allowed us to hear from stakeholders the project was engaging with, in this case within the Montado cork region. Seeing the research in action helped us grasp the concept of engaging in such a large project, and it was inspiring to observe the massive potential for collaboration across regions, countries and governments that OPERAs provides.
The days in Lisbon passed quickly, filled with meeting new people and picking up as much information as possible; too soon it was time for us to pack our bags and head back to Sweden. As we reflected after the meeting, we agreed that it was a very valuable and stimulating trip, triggering more questions from the knowledge and experience we gained. The friendly atmosphere, inspiring environment, and of course great food made the meeting a joyful leap into OPERAs. We want to thank all participants for welcoming us so openly and particularly thank Margarida for hosting this general meeting so perfectly.