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2020 – A Year in Review

At the beginning of 2020 we were looking forward to a busy year for our EMIC-GEM project. Besides work on all intellectual outputs we had planned meetings all around Europe - in Maribor, Bilbao and Biberach. In fact, when news of COVID-19 spreading to Europe first emerged we were busy planning a programme for our first meeting of the year in Maribor.

We were all looking forward to meeting each other for the second time after our Kick-off Meeting in Glasgow and our hosts, Academia, had created a exiting programme for our meeting. This included multiple visits at construction companies as well as opportunities to see the Slovenian countryside and sample some of the local food and drinks. However, one week before our travel dates in early March we had to make the decision to cancel our meeting. While planes were still flying through the skies all around Europe with Slovenia being close to a hotspot and some of us coming from regions that at the time were already reporting higher number of cases we did not consider the risks involved with travel worth the benefits.

To replace the meeting in Maribor we decided to have an online meeting via zoom. While we all attended our monthly online meetings on zoom before this was a different challenge. Transferring one and a half days’ worth of work into an online meeting proved to be a challenge and we all were exhausted at the end. We got some value out of the meeting and were able to plan next steps but we have also learned a valuable lesson about what works or not in an online meeting. Since then have stuck to our monthly meeting schedule with much shorter meetings, supplemented with a few 90 minutes workshops were necessary.

It soon become clear that our second meeting of the year at the start of summer would also be a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic but hopes were high that after the summer some kind of normality would be found again. As a result, most of our partners prepared for opening their schools and classrooms in some capacity and indeed after the summer things started to feel a bit more normal again. For example, in Scotland some students came back to our campus, Pubs and Restaurants (temporarily) opened up again and enthusiasm for work on our project returned. Indeed, in the fall we had some very productive month finally finishing work on our IO1 report and developing our module descriptors.

With a second wave already in sight towards the winter we obviously had to also cancel our third meeting in the year. However, from the fall onwards we launched a series of very productive IO2 workshops in addition to our monthly meeting and we started working in small groups on the first three of our eight modules. This took us to the end of 2020 and we are all looking forward to the coming year where we have lots of work to do but may also be finally able to meet again.

2020 might not have been what we expected at the beginning of the year but we have made the best out of the situation and have overall been able to push forward with our objectives very well. We have also started to really come together as a team, get to know each other much better and have developed the team spirit necessary to successfully complete our project in the future.
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