Culture shock is a common experience when traveling to a new destination, whether it’s for work, an academic trip, or vacation. Initially, the feeling of excitement and wonderment takes over, and everything seems amazing and fascinating. One is eager to explore and immerse themselves in the new culture.
From 26th June to 2nd July 2023, the School of Computing and Engineering Sciences (SCES) sent its Masters students on an exhilarating academic journey at Brno University of Technology (FEKT VUT v Brně). And right from the beginning of their international academic trip, they were filled with anticipation and enthusiasm. For some, it was their first time leaving the country, while others were more seasoned travelers, easily navigating their way through the new environment. Fascinated by the strict adherence to tram schedules and crossing roads only at zebra crossings with a green pedestrian light was a stark contrast to what we were used to in Nairobi, whereby some often crossed roads more casually, assuming drivers could see us clearly.
Engaging lectures and practical classes were the order of the day. Split into two groups, the MSc. in Information technology (MSc.IT), MSc. in Information System Security ( MSc. ISS) and MSc. in Computing and Information Systems (MSc CIS) students had their lectures at the School of Faculty of Information and Technology with Mr. Nelson Mutua, an Alumni at Strathmore University, and Prof Peter Matoušek. They explored the field of Information Technology learning about Web Browser Forensics, Cloud Forensics, Network Discovery and Port scanning just to mention a few.
Simultaneously, the MSc. in Sustainable Energy Transitions (MSET) students were at the School of Electrical Engineering and Communication Technology where they had hands-on classes exploring the Laboratory of Diagnostics, Electrical Protection Laboratory and Laboratory of Nuclear Power. In addition, they also had a chance to explore the solar laboratory, gaining valuable insights into harnessing the power of the sun.
As classes ended around 4 pm, the students eagerly delved into exploring the nearby areas and its hidden gems, engaging in shopping sprees, and savoring the delights of numerous cafes. One prominent street food that caught our attention was the affordable and delicious kebabs, locally known as Shawarmas, available on almost every corner.
The language barrier in the Czech Republic was indeed a challenge, as many locals spoke only Czech, leaving some feeling a bit lost as they navigated the city. Road signs, tram announcements, and interactions in public offices were often a puzzle to decipher. But in the face of this adversity and in this modern era, Google Maps and Google Translate came to the rescue, deciphering the foreign words that danced before their eyes.
Despite the language hurdles, they made the most of the long summer days that extended until 9 pm when the sun set. The enchanting streets and hidden gems of the city beckoned them to explore, but they had to be mindful of the classes in the morning. Balancing the urge to wander with the responsibility of academics added a touch of discipline to their adventure.
Site visits to AT&T and Teplárny Brno – 28th June 2023
The tech-savvy students stepped into the realm of technology as they had the privilege of spending the morning visiting AT & T company, Brno. During their visit, they delved deeper into the world of emerging network technologies, gaining insights into the intricacies of network infrastructure, internet connectivity, cloud solutions, and the highly secure domain of cybersecurity services.
Meanwhile, the MSET immersed themselves in a tour of Teplárny Brno, the fourth-largest heating company in the Czech Republic and the largest consumer of natural gas, which serves as their primary ecological fuel. There, they explored the heating facilities and received an exclusive insider’s view of the plant, enriching their knowledge and understanding of the company’s operations.
A blend of adventure and learning – 29th June 2023
The better part of Thursday afternoon was spent touring Brno and learning about its history under the guidance of students in Brno University ( many thanks to Filip and his team). The journey took the students to the iconic Astronomical Clock, a peculiar timepiece that defied conventional expectations. Despite its name, the clock’s astronomical features were rather limited, yet its odd shape intrigued us all. Resembling a bullet, it stood as a commemoration of Brno’s triumphant victory during the tumultuous Thirty Years’ War.
Then, a hike up to the Špilberk Castle culminated the day’s activity. The castle, perched atop a prominent hill, beckons one with its distinctive silhouette visible from afar. The ascent gradually becomes steeper and the bustling sounds of the city are replaced by the rustling of leaves and the occasional chirping of birds. And other tourists on their way to have a tour of the castle. At the top, we caught a glimpse of the beautiful panorama of Brno. The cityscape unfolds below, a patchwork of rooftops and streets that seem smaller. What a view!
A history class awaited us. And it was expertly delivered by a lady tour guide whose storytelling skills were so impeccable that we felt transported back in time. The castle, built during the Baroque era, itself holds within its walls a complex history, once serving as a fortress, a royal residence, and even a prison; one of the toughest dungeons in Europe. Exploring its various chambers and courtyards, there were exhibitions and displays that provide insights into its multifaceted past.
The day ended with a brief tour of the magnificent Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, one of the most distinctive Brno landmarks, dominating the skyline of the city. It is literally impossible to miss it.
Touring Prague – 30th June 2023
Friday arrived, and with eager anticipation, the students embarked on a two-hour bus ride, venturing towards the heart of the Czech Republic, the captivating city of Prague. They set out to explore the fabled Prague Castle, an awe-inspiring sight renowned as one of the largest ancient castle complexes in the world. The castle’s grandeur and historical significance left us in awe, and we couldn’t wait to uncover the secrets it held.
At the entrance of the Castle were guards, dressed in blue, standing at attention seemingly frozen in time. Alongside other tourists, we eagerly took turns posing for photos with these men dressed in impeccable blue uniforms. But time itself seemed to halt when the mesmerizing spectacle of the changing of the guard unfolded before our eyes. Every hour, the change of guard unfolds. However, at 12 noon, it is accompanied by a symphony of brass. It was simply breathtaking, and we couldn’t resist capturing the moment with our cameras.
Prague Castle’s spellbinding allure left us enchanted, and the journey through history proved to be a worthwhile adventure. The memories of that day will forever be etched in our hearts.
Saturday offered the students a free day, and the students seized the opportunity for last-minute explorations and frantic shopping, making the most of their time in Brno. But with Sunday morning approaching at the ungodly hour of 5 am, they found themselves questioning the sanity of such an early departure to Vienna. Squeezed like sardines in a tram on their way to the main train station, the hustle and bustle of the morning rush was undeniable. Yet, as they boarded the train to Vienna, the atmosphere transformed into one of tranquility. The smooth ride provided a moment for reflection on the past days, each student lost in their own thoughts.
Upon arriving in Vienna, it resembled a siesta afternoon as the streets were emptier than we had expected, with only a handful of shops open and barely any people around. Undeterred by the calm ambiance, most of the students made their way to the Prater Amusement park to relive their childhood memories. The thrill of roller coaster rides, the sweet indulgence of cotton candies, and the satisfaction of crispy fries brought laughter and joy.
As we landed back in Nairobi, the July chill embraced us, almost like we’d never ventured away. Some among us even whispered wishes to rewind the time and bask once more in Brno’s radiant warmth.
Indeed, the trip etched its mark, a chapter forever czeched into the pages of the students’ experiences.
This article was written by Jemmy Kamau.
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