I’ll keep this short. My name is Josh Gage, and I am in second year Mechanical Engineering at the University of Victoria. Prior to attending this BEST course, I had been a couple places in Asia and Europe, but my time in Bratislava with the Local BEST Group (LBG) was unique and amazing.
I, and about two dozen Europeans —from nearly as many countries— lived, studied and partied in the student dorms on the campus of the Slovak University of Technology, and in Bratislava city itself. We were hosted by the Slovakian LBG, so about a dozen local Engineering students took awesome care of us while we were there, and made sure that we were always well-fed, happy, but never well-rested. I cannot speak highly enough of this amazing group of students; they were always accommodating and fun, which allowed those of us not from Slovakia to make the most of our time there.
During my two weeks in the sunny Eastern European countryside, I did a ton of cool stuff: I learned about Photonics and Nanotechnology, toured the Slovakian International Laser Centre, gave a presentation to a group of professors and to my peers, explored the old city, tasted traditional food and snacks from a bunch of different countries, learned about Slovakian culture and history, introduced a bunch of Europeans to real Canadian maple syrup, bungee-jumped over the Danube, camped out in the hills outside the city, drank Belgian beer, sang in local bars, drank Slovakian mountain liquor, sang in the dorms, drank home-brewed Moldovan vodka, and sang at a Cantus festival —it was a wicked time.
As for the course itself, every day we attended the lectures of half a dozen Slovakian Electrical Engineering professors who each gave us an overview of their primary research areas and their application to the study of photonics and nanotechnology. This included lectures on the design and fabrication of silicon semiconductors, solar photovoltaics, and carbon nanotubes. And although we touched on several topics throughout the short course, I am confident that I could hold a conversation about the basics of these technologies — which is pretty sweet, considering I’m not even in electrical.
But for me, the very BEST part (pardon the pun) was not the course material or even exploring another country and culture, rather it was the friends that I made from all across Europe. You would not believe how close you can get to twenty people after studying and never-sleeping and exploring together for a couple of weeks. Even though we came from different places, spoke different first-languages, and then returned to different cities after the course, I keep in touch with many of the people that I met at the course, and consider them all to be among my close friends.
So far, attending the BEST course has been a definite highlight of my degree, and I believe that they are a great opportunity for personal growth and learning. All that I can recommend you do to prepare for one of these courses is to pack your favourite toothbrush, samples of your favourite Canadian foods and drinks, and to go into it with an open mind —you will be pushed beyond your comfort zone, and you will have a great time. If you have not applied already for this season’s courses, do it.