IE University and La España Azul, an initiative to generate an environmental impact through at-sea research, join forces to launch a competition that results in an unforgettable experience for IE University students. We caught up with the winning students to hear about their time studying the sea.

A remarkable opportunity

In collaboration with IE University and IE School of Politics, Economics & Global Affairs, La España Azul created an exciting opportunity for students: the chance to pitch their ideas in a marketing and communication competition. The winning proposals would join La España Azul on an expedition in Valencia. 

La España Azul is an initiative designed by Nacho Dean, the only person to ever have walked around the world and swam between five continents. After years of adventure, Nacho decided it was time to take his experiences and start working toward making a lasting impact. His project, La España Azul, aims to generate a positive environmental impact on Spanish coasts through exploration and scientific-based research, as well as to promote sustainability and educate people about the importance of looking after our seas and oceans.

The winning students spent a weekend participating in beach clean-ups, visiting scientific institutions—such as L’Oceanogràfic in Valencia—and sailing the seas collecting samples of water. They were also lucky enough to spend time with Nacho himself, who winning student, Teresa, describes as “an incredibly inspiring person.” 

Meet the students

Six students presented winning proposals and spent a memorable weekend in Valencia with La España Azul. Paloma Campos Gil, Teresa Olombrada, Irene Victoria Cordova and Dalya Droste, in their final year of the Dual Degree in Laws and International Relations. Sofia Kritikopoulos, a fourth-year Bachelor in International Relations student and Vrushab Shekhar, a Bachelor in Economics student, are some of the many students that participated in the initial challenge.

Teresa decided to participate in the competition because she saw the opportunity as something fresh and exciting. Plus, the prize for the winner was different from the usual “academic” prize—La España Azul provided a personal development aspect. 

In Sofia’s case, she doesn’t often engage with marketing through her program, so she thought it would be an interesting way “to practice real-world experience with marketing proposals and copywriting.” And Dalya felt inspired to participate after hearing La España Azul’s mission to “explore, learn and protect.”

A personal experience beyond academia 

While there are clear academic advantages to opportunities such as the one offered by La España Azul, the value to students goes well beyond the classroom. Sofia believes that “this initiative has been really impactful on how I view life. The weekend as a whole taught me more about how important community was for me.” 

Experiences that combine both professional and personal development can bring professional opportunities, but they can also help students discover new things about themselves. Teresa concurs, saying that once you enter your professional life, you’re looking for “something that helps you in your personal side too.”

Lifelong benefits

The La España Azul trip allowed the winners to meet their university colleagues and staff in a completely different context, learning not only from the trip itself but from other people. Dalya notes that the experience taught her about the human impact on the environment and just how far it has spread, which has led to her “being inspired and motivated to take action and make a difference.”

By getting out there and experiencing the world both in an academic and personal context, students can truly make the most out of their time at university, developing different skills and becoming more rounded and knowledgeable overall. “If you actually care about the problem, go and see it with your own eyes!” Teresa encourages students. “There is a difference between saying it from the comfort of your home and actually contributing to it with your hands.” 

To any student interested in these projects, Dalya says to just “do it!” As well as being a valuable opportunity to learn about human impact on the environment, “It is also incredible to meet people like Nacho Dean who have devoted their lives to adventure.”

Future students should take advantage of these opportunities, regardless of whether they win. Sofia recommends that students: “Take the competition as a way to remember that sometimes less is more. The most complicated projects are not always the best ones; sometimes it’s just about the effort and passion that you can show for an initiative.” 

Opportunities such as this one are so beneficial to students looking to bolster not only their academic profile but also their personal beliefs and values. As Teresa summarizes, “IE University is a place to grow professionally, but also as a person.”