It’s finally here – the day we get to go to COP27! This day came around faster than expected; at the beginning of the semester we were still unsure if we were even going to be here so I told myself I would not get my hopes up. As time passed and more items got checked off the to-do list, it started becoming real, until we finally got our confirmation letter from UNFCCC and our Egypt visa.

While I am tired and still a bit dazed from such a long journey, I am excited to finally be here, and extremely grateful for the opportunity to have such a life-changing experience. The journey itself didn’t get off to a great start, with our flight from New York to Cairo being cancelled, and having to spend two nights in a hotel in Long Island until we were finally able to get another flight. It was a less-than-ideal situation, but we made the most of it as a group, and it gave me time to reflect on what I want to get out of COP (and also a full two days to calm down my nerves!). A silver lining from that experience is that we had a mini COP27, Long Island edition – we meet incredible people at the hotel and got the opportunity to strike very interesting conversations over dinner around climate finance, loss and damage and the role of developing countries. It helped me get in the mindset of such an event, and start familiarizing myself with the different types of people attending COP, and their agendas. The actual event hasn’t even started yet, and I am already amazed at the people I have met. At dinner, we met people ranging from a group creating a documentary on students and climate change, journalists from AP France, and someone from Fundación Avina in Perú. And on the flight from Cairo to Sharm El Sheikh I had the good luck of sitting next to the Deputy Director of Communications for Bahamas, who was coordinating all the Bahamas events; she told me all about how Bahamas is facing sea-level rise and increasing hurricane intensity, but still people do not understand the importance of climate negotiations; her job was to communicate this.

These encounters made me question why I was coming to COP; I keep talking to people who have a very specific purpose and seem to have a lot to say, and it honestly makes me doubt myself a little and get a bad case of impostor syndrome. Do I have as much to say? Am I just a student on a class “field trip”? Or am I really here to make my voice heard, absorb as much as I can and create meaningful connections with people making an impact? I have to remind myself that I am not just a student, I also have valuable work experience that is worth sharing and I’m on my way to finishing a graduate degree in which I am becoming an expert in environmental economics. I do have a lot to contribute, I just need to remind myself of that. That being said, I also have a lot to learn and I’m excited to get started!