12 Months in Limerick: From Erasmus Student, to Intern to Research Associate ! (Susan Gritzka)

Station 1:

I started my journey at UL in January 2018, coming from Dresden, Germany, with a focus on work- and organisational psychology in my masters. Honestly, Limerick and Castletroy are not necessarily places that fascinated and enthralled me from the beginning. The first two weeks passed and my opinion did not change.

Did I feel like quitting my Erasmus stay, leaving Limerick and never coming back? Yes.

I remember browsing the UL book of modules and my eyes stopped randomly at the module heading “SS6113 – Applied Positive Psychology”. I emailed the course director Dr. Tadhg MacIntyre and he agreed that I can join the module. First of all, I was astonished by the straightforwardness of the process, as I was invited to join the module on SULIS in accordance with the international education office within the next day. At a German university you are required to make an official request, ask the course director, ask the examination office and other responsible individuals, to be ultimately rejected after two weeks.

I found joy in this module which encouraged me to acquire more knowledge about positive psychology even outside of the classroom and moreover I practiced it. I included different positive psychology exercises within my daily life: savoring experiences in the mornings, green exercise in the afternoons, kindness gestures during the day and writing a gratitude book in the evening. I started liking my stay at the UL and new opportunities came up.

In April 2018, PESS tendered the application for internships; I was curious and I seized the opportunity. Dr. Tadhg MacIntyre was looking for an intern to predominantly engage in grant proposal writing for a H2020 call about mental health in the workplace. I presumed my skills and expertise in organizational psychology could significantly contribute to the proposal and I applied. My acquired optimism got rewarded and my application was successful.

Station 2:

After spending the Summer back in Germany, I returned as an intern in PESS in September 2018. I couldn’t really acclimatise as a H2020 partners meeting in Brussels was scheduled three days after my arrival in Limerick. If I had to describe this meeting in two words, it would be: mental overload. In a nutshell, I was surrounded by ambitious partners from across Europe creating innovative ideas that had never even crossed my mind, who used abbreviations I had never heard of and first and foremost everyone seemed to know exactly what is needed to get funding from the European Commission, except me.

Did I feel lost and feel like I am in the wrong place again? Yes.

Back in Limerick I told myself to try my best and to accept this challenge. Dr. Tadhg MacIntyre and I spent weeks of researching, brainstorming and proposal writing. At some point ideas started to flow and “NATURE WORKS” was born: Novel Approach to Upgrade Recovery of Employees: Well-Being, Organisational Resilience, Knowledge, Sustainability. Human-nature contact was the key mechanism in our approach to promote employee’s well-being in the workplace. After a tremendous workload which was not least feasible without the aid of tons of coffee, we submitted our proposal on the 1st October 2018. Well, what can I say? I was proud.

Station 3:

Why just aiming to improve the well-being and health of employees in the EU? Why not taking it a step further and cultivating the well-being and health of European Citizens by investigating visionary and integrated solutions? The idea of our second funding proposal “GOGREEN ROUTES” (Resilient Optimal Urban natural, Technological and Environmental Solutions) was sowed. In the meantime, I had become a research associate at UL and was funded by Enterprise Ireland. This second funding proposal was much more comprehensive than the first one – yet, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I had to acquire knowledge in unfamiliar topics such as nature-based solutions and urban landscape, digital innovation, active travel and behavioural games, as well as in governmental actions such as public-private-people partnerships. From now on I had to not only manage my life abroad, but also, I became a project manager of sort. Once again we pursued the submission of the proposal with long and demanding working days brightened up by coffee and Asian food consumption breaks. We proudly submitted our proposal on the 19th February 2019 with the help of an excellent and transdisciplinary consortium from UL (especially thanks to Prof. Alan Donnelly) and from other EU-countries.

Station 4:

Although our first proposal did not make it to stage 2: The ideas we have developed within NATURE WORKS are just too novel and good to not be used. I am planning to start a trainee position within occupational health psychology in Germany in autumn 2019 and I definitely aim to introduce several workplace interventions from NATURE WORKS.

In June 2019 we received the information that we achieved Stage 2 with our second proposal, GOGREEN ROUTES, with a high ranking out of the 68 submitted proposals.

Now, one major question still remains: Will I return to Limerick and PESS a fourth time? Maybe.

About the Author:
Susan Gritzka will soon graduate from the MSc program “Human Performance in Socio-technical Systems” at TU Dresden. Her thesis which was a systematic review of nature-based interventions in the workplace has been submitted for open access publication. Susan has also co-authored three chapters in the forthcoming Routledge text on green exercise including a chapter entitled ‘nature based solutions in cities: A look ahead.’ Contact: susan.gritzka@tu-dresden.de     Researchgate

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