International waters

What impact does a summer school have on your career?

2 min
Text Arkasha Keysers
Image Sarah Van Looy

The Antwerp Summer & Winter University is 15 years old, so what impact has it had? Samuel Van de Vijver attended the summer school 'Shifting Climate Reshaping Urban Landscapes' (SCRUL) in 2015 and talks about how it has influenced his career. 


After working as an architect for a few years, Samuel enrolled on the Master of Urbanism and Spatial Planning at UAntwerp. ‘That summer school seemed like the perfect preparation for the master. Content-wise, it resonated so much with what I find interesting: how we can design cities and landscapes in the face of climate change,’ he says. 


What did he think of the summer school? ‘I like to compare it to a very intense and interactive course compressed into one week, as if you were released into a high-pressure boiler. It's like a period when you work hard, get stuck in a rut and say '’enough is enough now, I'm going for a week of hiking in the mountains.'’ And for that moment, you focus completely on that one thing and become detached from everything else.’ 

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A summer school is like going for a week of hiking in the mountains.

Samuel Van de Vijver

UAntwerp's summer and winter schools involve people from very different backgrounds and nationalities, a conscious choice by the organisers. Samuel agrees, ‘As a designer, I worked with historians, anthropologists, agronomists and bioengineers. And the approach to design of a group of Egyptian students, for example, was really different. For them, it was really about building new cities and landscapes in desert terrain. That made the collaboration very exciting, also on a social level.’ 


It also proved to be a source of new contacts for Samuel. ‘Prof. Maarten Van Acker then asked me to assist him with some research and prepare a doctoral proposal. I’m still in regular contact with him and some of the other summer school participants.’ Nine years on, he’s still feeling the impact on his career. ‘Afterwards, I coordinated the drafting of a water plan for urban development for the city of Antwerp, which was an ideal follow-up to the summer school. My passion for spatial planning, landscape and climate change was rekindled in 2015 and now, as a consultant, I’m still involved in these topics every day. 

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