Becoming a digital earth expert through the Copernicus Master’s Degree Program

Copernicus Master Studierende

I am Nigerian, and as a Nigerian, I can tell you firsthand that the utmost desire of most Nigerian graduates is to Japa. By ‘Japa,’ I mean emigrating from Nigeria abroad for better opportunities, via work or study routes. Am I any different from others? you would ask. Well, no, I am not much different from other Nigerian graduates because, I am currently studying at the Paris Lodron University, Salzburg, Austria under the sponsorship of the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Degree Program. However, one thing that remains distinctly clear to me is that this did not happen based on some unsubstantiated wish. Rather, because I was hungry for a greater challenge.

A quick backstory to give this more context. In 2018, I graduated from one of the best schools in Africa, the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and I am confident that I finished well. Not the ‘genius’ type of way though, but that type that gave me enough confidence that with an educational foundation well laid, I can face the world, break personal and societal stereotypes, and not just raise the bar, but set new standards. The most common question I was asked back then (and I am sure a lot of people will relate to this) was, ‘Where do you see yourself in 5years’? As the young ambitious graduate that I am, I had an extensive list to tick off my career bucket list. But honestly, I was only sure of one thing on the list – I wanted to have my postgraduate studies abroad, specifically in Europe- no country in mind at that time. Everything that will happen before and after I certainly had no clue.

Speaking of the before, it was a very humbling process, and I mean that in all ways. I built resilience, persistence, and clarity and after my second attempt at applying for the Copernicus Master’s in Digital Earth program, I finally got my congratulatory letter on the 8th of March 2021. Trust me, there was no better way to celebrate International Women’s Day other than receiving the news that says I am about to go international. I was full of excitement, and I had so many expectations regarding what the new opportunity would offer me in terms of academic and career growth and, more interestingly, cultural admixture.

What makes Copernicus Master’s Degree Special?

In my quest to search for my ideal post-graduate course, I knew exactly what I wanted, and I was not going to settle for less. I loved geography and I was beginning to build my interest in technology, so I knew I wanted a program in the geography domain with a great infusion of technology. When my undergraduate supervisor sent me the link to the Copernicus Master’s in Digital Earth program, there was no point dilly-dallying, this course was indeed different from every other scholarship program I had come across and I was ready to give it my best shot.

I am sure you are wondering what makes the Copernicus Master’s in Digital Earth special. Well, let us talk about the rich synthesis of the curriculum in terms of geospatial data manipulation, creation of computer algorithms to analyze earth’s images, production of visually appealing and fully functional map products that address societal problems as well as a second year to study how artificial intelligence can be used to solve geospatial problems both at present and in the future.

Guess what, not only will I gain knowledge and skills, but I also get to apply them with a team of like-minded students from internationally diverse backgrounds. And the most interesting of all, I get to study in Salzburg, the setting of my all-time childhood favorite movie ‘The Sound of Music.’

Now, if this is as exciting to you as it was for me, then, you should not hesitate to check out all the details of the CDE Master’s including and most importantly the study curriculum. There are also many other Erasmus Mundus Joint Scholarship Programs you might want to go through just in case you prefer more options to choose from. I honestly did not know about the other programs before my application, but I advise you to.

My First Impressions of Salzburg

Nigerianische Studentin in Salzburg mit Copernicus Master Programm

I found the people very friendly starting with the airport staff, the taxi driver, and the locals. Everyone I met was polite in offering to help, in giving directions, and amazingly, a lot of people could speak English well enough too. Speaking of directions, your online maps will always be your friend in a new city. I must also say that Salzburg is a noticeably quiet and beautiful city, the alps and the views of the different landscapes from all angles are breathtaking and picturesque!

Herbstlicher Wald in Salzburg

In my first few weeks in Salzburg, I heard a lot of dankes!, bittes! and danke schons! so you might want to look that up before you come here and of course, practice your responses. I also got to indulge in Austrian cuisine and snacks and to be very honest, they were different from what I was used to. But variety is the spice of life, isn’t it?
I had a few culture shocks too. The weather was one. I noticed everyone gets fascinated by the sun here. Now, where I come from, the sun is most times ridiculously hot and so other than drying our clothes and the light it brings, we do not want to stay out on a sunny day for too long. Then, there was the bus schedule never to be joked with. You are either on time or you must wait because every minute counts. Nobody waits for you here. This has greatly improved my time-management skills. Asides from that, I saw a lot of men pushing babies in strollers and even walking their children on the streets. This was particularly a good one because men do not do that a lot in the African culture.

I also got to experience a local festival in Salzburg where people wore their traditional Austrian outfits just like in the movie – the Sound of Music. It lasted for about a week, and it was so beautiful. Ok! I could go on and on, but I do not want to be a spoiler, you need to see for yourself.

Copernicus Master’s in Digital Earth – the great, the good, and the profound.

Copernicus Master Studierende

I already mentioned how distinct this program is, but I would like to point out a few things. First, the remarkable thing about this master’s is the exposure to a wide range of geospatial tools for solving geospatial problems. There is the constant opportunity to work with experts in the field and interface with colleagues from diverse academic backgrounds. Isn’t that great?

This program also affords you the opportunity to choose from a variety of areas of interest. In fact, you might find it difficult to choose what courses to offer because there are many interesting courses. Now to the good part, this gives you an opportunity to gain clarity on areas of interest you would love to go into. Through your studies, you develop more curiosity and an innovative mindset towards achieving your goals and the application of this knowledge to day-to-day societal problems with the end goal of making an optimum impact.

Now here is the part nobody tells you; this master’s degree is not a walk in the park. In my country, we will say ‘it is not beans.’ The Copernicus Master’s degree, like any other Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Degree program, is not to be taken with levity. To be more specific, you need to be ready. ‘Stay ready so you do not have to get ready’ said someone I listened to recently but forgot his name. Well, it is just what it is. Also, you need to scrutinize the curriculum, see if it is really what you want to do. Do not just apply and write an award-winning application because everyone is going for a master’s degree.  You can also check out the application tips on the program’s website or contact past alumni if you experience difficulties. Do not just join the cause because it seems nice. You are signing up for a great deal of work that will yield a greater deal of success so you must be sure this is what you want.

Copernicus Master Studierende


If you are like me, hungry for a greater challenge from anywhere in the world, or you have greater motives and ambitions to get an international post-graduate degree, then, the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Degree program is for you. And if you want to study the earth from a very digital point of view, then, the  Copernicus Master’s Degree is for you.

As of the time of writing this, I have learned a great deal of German, joined the student board of my program, gotten a favorite professor, made awesome memories with my colleagues indoors and outdoors, had hands-on experience with several geospatial technologies, experienced the snow for the first time, traveled to some neighboring countries and currently having an awesome Christmas experience. Interestingly, I just started, and I have more than twenty months to go on this journey. It is a journey you want to experience, trust me.

It will be great to have you join the community.

Looking forward to meeting you and thanks for reading!

Arioluwa Aribisala.

Photos: Author