Thursday, January 5, 2023

Founder of London Climate Connection and Alumna Recalls Her Experience at the HNC

Juliette Devillard, Certificate ’17, is the founder of London Climate Connection. Juliette looks back on her time in Nanjing to discuss the valuable connections she made, from friends to faculty, as well as how certain experiences at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center have informed her work and professional interactions today. 

While reflecting on her time at the HNC, Juliette emphasized the value of living in China, the challenge of learning the language and the host of interesting things that occurred on a day-to-day basis. These experiences were influential in terms of enhancing her confidence, learning how to navigate unknown situations, and interacting with people from different backgrounds. Juliette spoke fondly of the class she took with Professor Hua Tao, and the invaluable friends she made at the HNC. She was fascinated by Professor Hua Tao’s teaching style, and really enjoyed how nuanced the understandings of the content he taught were, making her feel like she always learned more than expected in his classes and more than what was covered in the readings. Juliette mentioned his great sense of humor, and the clarity and organization of his lectures. 

Juliette also emphasized the life-long friendship she created at the HNC, and especially values the in-depth relationships that she fostered there. She advises focusing on such relationships as opposed to necessarily building a large network of acquaintances, as these are the relationships that have impacted her the most.

When asked about suggestions for current and future HNC students, Juliette recommended stepping out of one’s comfort zone and the bubble that the HNC provides for students. Going beyond the Center’s gates, making friends with the local coffee shop staff, talking with the owner of a tea shop you really enjoy, even joining in on the tai ji practices in the park with the elderly are great ways to develop new friendships outside of your degree. It can be difficult initially, but these are ultimately the kinds of relationships that Juliette considers very rewarding, because they give insights into varied perspectives on Chinese societies. Talking with people in the Nanjing community gives HNC students the opportunity to have conversations with people that are older or younger than themselves on a wide range of topics. Juliette also strongly recommends volunteering, either with a community center or a school, as a great way to interact with different segments of society.

Living in China gave Juliette the opportunity to witness firsthand the big picture issues affecting the country. Juliette experienced acute air pollution for the first time and learned how differently governments tackle such issues. Juliette also mentioned learning about the phenomenon of ghost towns, whereby local officials will pour money to build infrastructure, generate jobs and enhance their revenue statistics, but ultimately leave these buildings empty and unused because they are not necessarily built according to economic demand. She realized the effects capitalism can have on society and the consequences of mismanaged resources and acute pollution. When ultimately deciding to focus on climate change and work in the climate sector, Juliette’s experiences in China and at the HNC influenced how she looks at climate issues and understands the different approaches developed and developing countries take towards climate change mitigation.

After graduating from the Hopkins-Nanjing Center in 2017, Juliette moved to Boston, MA to pursue a Master’s degree at the Fletcher School of diplomacy at Tufts University, and then worked in California, before founding the London Climate Connection. During her Master’s degree, internships and work experience in the United States, Juliette specialized in climate and learned about climate change-related policy, economics and the climate sector more generally. Her experiences at the HNC were impactful especially in terms of her overall ability to talk about climate in an informed way. During her time in the United States, Juliette worked mostly with early-stage climate-focused start-ups that are developing impactful innovations for climate change, based in the sciences or hardware-focused. Upon moving back to the United Kingdom, Juliette realized that there is still an entrepreneurial challenge in terms of innovation and the level of scientific research, and a need for more connection between people on the issue of climate. This led her to founding the London Climate Connection, which focuses on building a climate technology ecosystem within the United Kingdom, by hosting a variety of different events for people to meet each other, promote connections and accelerate the work they are doing.

Written by Sophia Pradels 苏菲, MAIS '24