An International Network Unlike Any Other: The Copernicus Master in Digital Earth (CDE)

Copernicus Master in Salzburg

Interested in Geoinformatics? Want to study Geoinformatics while abroad and also meet new people from exciting backgrounds? Then the Copernicus Master in Digital Earth might be the perfect program for you!

Before sharing my reflections on the program, a quick background on what the Copernicus Master in Digital Earth (CDE) program is. The CDE Masters is focused on Geoinformatics and is an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree (EMJMD). What makes these programs special is that they take place in at least two universities in two different countries and are taught in English since students are accepted from all over the world.

I am part of the fourth intake of students for this program. There are 20 of us from 16 different countries. We will spend out first year together in Salzburg at the Paris Lodron University Salzburg where we will be studying Geoinformatics. For our second year, we will split up with about half of us going to the Université Bretagne Sud in Vannes, France to study Geodata Science, and the other half of us (myself included) going to the Univerzita Palackého v Olomouci in the Czech Republic to study Geocommunication and Geovisualization.

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When researching different masters programs in Geoinformatics I came across the CDE program and I could not believe just how much it seemed to fit all of my ideal criteria for a master’s program. Not only was it focused on the research topics I wanted to pursue (geoinformatics and cartography), but it was an international experience as well. Ever since I had gotten a taste of life abroad in my undergraduate studies I knew I wanted to live abroad again. But the most important part of the program was the opportunity to receive a scholarship to study. Without a scholarship, I would not be able to continue my studies. Amazingly, I was accepted into the program and received a scholarship and I can honestly say it has far exceeded all of my expectations. Finding the program and being accepted felt like a dream come true and now I am living the dream. Though, it is not always easy.

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The hardest part: getting here

The hardest part of this program is getting here and getting settled. The process of moving to Austria is different for everyone as it is based on nationality. For EU nationals, the process to move to Austria is relatively straightforward as all you have to do is register with the city upon arrival. However, for those who are not from the EU, the process to get into Austria can be long and confusing. Non-EU nationals will most likely need to apply for a residence permit to stay in Austria for more than 180 days. The process may require legalizing documents, multiple trips to an embassy, and filling out more forms than you can count. Some might even need to apply to get a visa to enter the country as well as a residence permit. The process can take many months so I strongly recommend starting the process as soon as you have committed to the program. Some students in my intake had to attend courses online for the first few weeks due to visa delays.

Once your application to stay in Austria has been accepted the next step is to travel to Salzburg and get settled. The first few days after you have arrived can be very hard. Having to learn a new city can be exhilarating but also overwhelming. There is a lot to figure out in the first few days you are here. You will have to move into your dorm (luckily there is an Ikea close by where you can get essentials for your new place or you can try Willhaben for second-hand items), figure out the transportation system (I highly recommend getting the  KlimaTicket, which allows you to use any bus and or subway in the city and throughout the entire region of Salzburg for just 137 Euros for 6 months), register with the city, pick up your residence permit, and figure out your courses. This can seem overwhelming but that brings me to the best part of the program: the people

The best part: the people you will meet

One of my main motivations for doing this program was to get an international perspective on the field of Geoinformatics and to establish an international network of peers who shared my passion for the field. I never could have imagined just how incredible that network would be. Everyone in my cohort is engaged, passionate, and incredibly intelligent. They bring their own skills, expertise, and local knowledge to the table and it has been a pleasure and a privilege to learn from them all. What has surprised me most is how collaborative the program has been. Everyone is always more than willing to help each other out, sharing information on everything from local events to figuring out classes to administrative issue. I expected the atmosphere to be more competitive, but there is always someone willing to help if you get stuck on an assignment or need help with a technical issue. More than that, all the students in the program are happy to volunteer any information or tricks they have related to a topic. As a result, while I have learned a great deal from my classes and the wonderful professors, I have learned a great deal more from my peers.

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This collaborative spirit is not unique to my cohort, rather this spirit is fostered by every student who has ever been a part of the program. As a CDE Masters student, you are not just connected to your current cohort but to every CDE student and alumni. The students from the other cohorts are just as willing to share information, knowledge, and opportunities as the rest of my cohort is. We have connected with other CDE students through informational presentations they have given in our classes and through social media, and we have even had the opportunity to meet a few of them in person in Salzburg. The CDE student network has been of invaluable benefit. It has not just made this experience manageable but enjoyable. All of the CDE students I have met are accomplished, driven and helpful and as such they have become my biggest source of inspiration.

Getting here and getting settled was the hardest part and, I know I will have to do it all over again in another year but now I have an incredible support network of people from across the globe that will ease the transition and open so many new doors for me.

So, was taking a chance to do the CDE Masters program worth it? Without a doubt. Sure, there are difficult times, from having to navigate a new city in a different language to challenging coursework, but these challenges are what make this experience so great. You will grow more both, professionally and personally, than you can imagine. The discomfort you feel at having to adjust to a new place and workload is a small price to pay given all that you gain through the connections you make, the information you learn, and the experiences you have. So don’t wait to apply!

Interest in learning more about the program? Check out the  CDE site for more information and application deadlines.