Czech mates: SCES international trip
It all began with an email: “Academic Trip for Current 4th Years”. I don’t think I have ever jumped to view a notification like I did this one. Well, except for the ones where the exam results have been released. As I skimmed through the email, one thing caught my eye: The Czech Republic. You mean, Czechoslovakia? The country that is no longer part of the Soviet Union? The country that…well, that was it. That was all I knew about it. After the details were confirmed and everything was all set, we all converged at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 2300hrs on the 9th of July for the trip to the Czech Republic. There we were, 19 familiar individuals, ascending into an unfamiliar territory.
After almost 10 hours’ worth of endless naps, Google translations, long layovers, bottomless meals and refreshments on the plane and a two-hour bus ride, we arrived at Brno (pronounced /bur-no/) at 2200hrs on the 10th of July. By the time we were settling into our rooms, we were exhausted; looking forward to a hot shower… and a toothbrush.
We were enrolled in a summer school program at the Brno University of Technology (BUT), which was from 11th to 26th of July. In the program, each student was to take one of two modules offered; Machine Learning or Cybersecurity. We were required to work on a project based on what was taught during the course. We were assessed, after which we were given certificates upon completion.
On the first day, naturally, during induction, we were given a tour of the university. We were taken to the labs and libraries. In each room, there was a tale to tell. What struck me the most was the institution’s history, and more so, how they preserved their traditions. It left me wondering what stories I’d have to narrate if anyone was to pay Strathmore University a visit. For example, the rubber duck. As programmers, we tend to get frustrated by something as minute as a semicolon during coding. It is even worse when no one understands what the problem is. Therefore, students at BUT talk to little yellow rubber ducks. You know, because rubber ducks are very empathetic. Then, after the student’s graduation, they lock them in a special wall unit in the institution. How special! That said, does anyone know where I can get a rubber duck?
That afternoon, we were taken on a tour of the city that is Brno. The buildings stand majestically, oozing grandeur and drama. They have a Baroque-Reformation theme that leaves you absorbing every arch, every inch, every single detail. We walked to this imposing 13th-century castle, Spilberk Castle, that first served as a fortress and then as a prison for common criminals. The castle is located on a fairly steep hill, so you can imagine that by the time I was catching my breath, most of the history had been shared with the group. You have to trust me though; its history is rich.
As part of the summer school program, we were scheduled to visit one of the bigger tech companies in the city, known as NXP. This Dutch-American semiconductor company develops technology solutions for the automotive, industrial & IoT, mobile, and communication infrastructure markets. They gave in-depth descriptions of how their systems operate and the algorithms and techniques that they use. Meticulous is the word. It was clear that they go through every detail in their work, and that is an admirable trait. Their eagerness to let us test some of their working examples was evident by the pride on their cheeks.
Another memorable experience we got as part of the program was a visit to the capital city of the Czech Republic, Prague. We thought we loved Brno, but this was phenomenal. Prague is like the proposed plan of Konza City but in real life. We were given a guided tour of Prague Castle. With its massive assembly of palaces and ecclesiastical structures in a variety of architectural styles, this is the biggest coherent castle complex in the world. Its history is layered with many facets. My mind was racing as I absorbed the scenery, one after the other, each being more glorious than the former.
As the days went by, we got to interact with our classmates from different parts of the world (South Korea, Slovakia and Greece) as we worked on our projects. On the final day, after our presentations, there was a small award ceremony where we each got our certificates of completion of the summer school program that bears 5 ECTS credits. A mini-graduation before our actual graduation. How cool is that?
You might spot us somewhere, looking a bit bulkier and slightly chubbier than the last time you saw us. What was that saying? “When you go to Czech, do as the Czechs do”. We did that, and some more. We lived, we laughed, but above all… we learned phenomenal lessons during this wholesome trip. Děkuji mnohokrát Strathmore University. That was indisputably an invaluable experience worth every second.
This article was written by Patricia Ngunjiri, a 4th-year Bachelor of Business Information Technology student.
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