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In the week of 13-20 September, 8 Cresting ESRs visited Messina (Italy) for a writing retreat. Nearing the end of their PhDs, and having only virtual contact for 1.5 years because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, this retreat facilitated in-person collaboration between the ESRs (Early Stage Researchers)  in the relaxed and sunny environment of Sicily. They were hosted by the University of Messina in Villa Amalia, the residential complex within Villa Pace, with a view on the Strait of Messina.

The participants came from various universities within the Cresting project: Kieran Campbell-Johnston and Kaustubh Thapa (Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development, University of Utrecht, the Netherlands), Anna Diaz (Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Graz, Austria), Estephania Delgadillo (University of Technology Troyes, France), Natacha Klein (CENSE, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal), Erik Roos Lindgreen (University of Messina, Messina, Italy), Katelin Opferkuch (Universidade Aberta, Lisbon, Portugal) and Anna Walker (University of Pescara, Pescara, Italy).

The timing of the retreat coincided with ESRs finishing both their theses as well as various individual and collaborative research projects. Additionally, different Cresting- and work package-deliverables are currently ‘work in progress’ – meaning there was plenty of writing to take care of.

After their arrival, the academic program of the retreat consisted of:

(1) Opening and inspiration day, setting the individual and shared goals for the week;

(2) Cresting deliverables day, providing the opportunity to work on the Cresting final conference, work package deliverables (short features summarizing scientific WP outcomes), and the Cresting book;

(3) Collaborative writing day, engaging the ESRs to make progress on their various collaborative projects as well as their theses; and

(4) Gratitude session, reflecting on the PhD journey and the professional and personal opportunities the Cresting project has offered, and a closing session, summarizing progress towards the shared goals – and planning what’s next. Naturally, Sicilian food and an excursion to the beautiful surroundings of Messina were part of the program as well.

The retreat has provided the ESRs with inspiration and relaxation, working towards their academic goals together with their colleagues, after a long period of only online meetings. The ESRs would like to thank the University of Messina and prof. Roberta Salomone in particular for hosting us and providing the environment to work together.