Discovering Europe by train: our student Robin Nizou’s ecological journey to Norway

Ecological transition Education Brief
Published on 19 April 2024
At the age of 24, Robin Nizou embarked on a courageous adventure: traveling across Europe by train to Trondheim in Norway, as part of an ATHENS Week .
This project, made possible by the Fondation Mines Paris and with the support of the Direction de l’Enseignement de Mines Paris – PSL, demonstrates the School’s commitment to supporting initiatives in line with its commitment to the ecological transition.
Robin Nizou’s decision to travel by train rather than by plane also reflects his deep-rooted ecological commitment, rooted in a global approach to the environmental impact of his actions.

At a time when environmental concerns are playing an increasingly central role in our societies, some young people stand out for their concrete commitment. Such is the case of Robin Nizou, a 24-year-old student who chose to travel by train rather than plane to Trondheim, Norway, as part of an ATHENS (Advanced Technology Higher Education Network) week. Born in the United States and raised in a riding school in Les Bréviaires, Yvelines, Robin embodies a generation aware of environmental challenges and ready to take action for a more sustainable future.

After receiving an e-mail informing him of his posting to Norway for the ATHENS program, Robin questioned his willingness to participate, not wishing to fly for just a week’s travel. Encouraged by one of his friends to take an Interrail Pass, he then asked Matthieu Mazière, Director of Studies in charge of the Civil Engineers program and teacher-researcher, if it would be possible for him to be absent from his classes in Paris, which he accepted, as the trip would require several days. The initial funding of 300€ for the ATHENS weeks, intended for train travel – which was no more expensive than a plane ticket – meant that another source of funding had to be found for accommodation throughout the trip.

Matthieu Mazière recommended that he apply to the Fondation Mines Paris for funding, in exchange for a project to be handed in.

An academic career representative of his commitments and focused on Europe

Robin Nizou’s academic career reflects his thirst for discovery and openness to the world. After entering HEC through the direct admission entrance exam, he continued his studies at Mines Paris – PSL for two years, where he also enrolled in a master’s degree in environmental economics at APT. It was in this context that he seized the opportunity to take part in the ATHENS program, which offers students the chance to attend a week-long course at a partner university in Europe. For Robin, this experience was much more than a simple academic immersion: it was a chance to live an international adventure and discover new horizons.

Choosing the train: an ecological and well-considered act

Robin’s project bears witness to a profound awareness of the environmental issues associated with modes of transport. Aware that the train is more virtuous than the plane on the majority of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) criteria, he chose to favor this option despite the additional constraints it entailed. This choice was not only motivated by ecological considerations, but also by a desire to live an authentic experience, far from the traditional tourist trails. Robin considers that the opportunities offered by air travel and rail travel are incomparable. Indeed, as part of his ATHENS week, those who flew visited Trondheim and the surrounding area, but were unable to get an idea of the rest of the country, or of what neighboring countries such as Sweden or Denmark are like. So, although Robin wasn’t originally naturally drawn to this part of Europe, he used the experience to discover the world and culture of Scandinavia.

Planning and preparation: behind the scenes of an atypical trip

Organizing a train trip across Europe requires careful planning and a good dose of creativity. For Robin, this meant not only mapping out a coherent itinerary, but also finding affordable and authentic accommodation solutions. Exploring the possibilities offered by the Interrail Pass, he mapped out his itinerary, juggling the constraints of time, budget and logistics. By using CouchSurfing, a site that connects people offering a bed or sofa to sleep on, for 8 of the 16 nights of the trip, he was able to meet local hosts and discover the culture of each destination in a more intimate way. From buying tickets to finding activities to dealing with the unexpected, every stage of the trip was an opportunity to push one’s limits and show resilience.

Documenting the journey as a testimony to experience

To document his journey and honor the funding he received from the Fondation Mines Paris, Robin documented his trip through a vlog format video, as well as tracking his itinerary on Polarsteps. Affectionate with storytelling and entertainment, setting up this digital travel diary project posed no difficulties for him, as Polarsteps enabled him to geolocate his experience. He added photos and poems written along the way. Furthermore, in order to meet people and take part in interesting activities during his trip, Robin posted stories on Instagram retracing his journey, signaling that he was open to any proposals. His contacts responded with ideas, allowing him, for example, to be hosted by a friend in Stockholm.

An experience of freedom

At the moment of departure, Robin felt apprehensive about this plunge into the unknown and uncertainty, knowing that CouchSurfing hosts could cancel accommodation offers at any time. But as he boarded the train, he felt liberated. Every kilometer he traveled took him a little further north, a territory then unknown to him. He was free of his thoughts, free of everything but the train. Stopping in a town, he approached people, asking them what was interesting to do in an hour’s wait between trains.

In Trondheim, Robin managed to find a balance between university activities and chosen moments of solitude. So he was able to take a sauna and then dive into the cold water with his fellow students, or discover a Nordic forest on his own, and write in it.

“I met a very colorful man, who said he’d been sentenced to prison in Denmark and had come to Norway. It was nice, but he was very unpredictable. We went to an island one afternoon, he found a hut and we built a fire, which he taught me to handle with my bare hands ‘like in Viking tradition’ he said. We drank beers and enjoyed the scenery. It was an authentic Nordic experience!

The impact of the trip: beyond the adventure

Robin’s journey didn’t end when he returned to Paris. He leaves behind not only lasting memories, but also a reflection on his commitment. At Mines Paris – PSL, students are made aware of the need to reduce the use of airplanes, and the people around him welcomed his initiative.

When she arrived in Trondheim, the students were surprised by her choice of transport.


The participants of different nationalities had arrived the day before, and when they saw me arrive on Sunday morning with my huge bag, they thought I was crazy. But they were very curious about my journey and thought it was great.


Robin’s journey is much more than a simple escapade across Europe: it’s an affirmation of his commitment and an exploration of himself. By sharing his experiences through his vlog and stories, he inspires those around him to rethink the way they travel, and to favor more sustainable modes of transport. By choosing the train as his mode of transport, he has not only reduced his carbon footprint, he has also paved the way for a new form of travel, one that is more intimate, authentic and conscious.


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