Hi, I’m Philippe or Phil for short, a 4th year electrical engineering student at Western University. In August of 2018 I had the distinct pleasure of spending 10 days in the gorgeous metropolis of Prague, situated in the western Czech Republic. The local chapter of BEST (Board of European Students in Technology) had been generous enough to accept my application for the orbital mechanics course, and since receiving the news in May a state of eager anticipation had occupied my mind. This was especially true since I had been on internship for the past year & was itching to spend some of my hard-earned monies on an international experience.
As soon as I stepped off the plane, I was warmly greeted by one of the organizers, and we hopped on the bus to reach the accommodations at the CTU (Czech Technical University) dorms. The Communist legacy remains: a massive stadium
where Party rallies were once held is right next to a couple of the newly constructed buildings. My Italian roommate turned out to be a super friendly guy from Milan, and that night all the participants played the usual icebreaker games. At this point it’s important to note that Czechia is the number 1 country in the world for per capita beer consumption…no further comment.
The next day we were split into groups for a city-wide scavenger hunt challenge. A fun European twist on this was to perform various humiliating acts in public, some with the involvement of strangers such as kissing someone’s dog (consensually, of course). Exploring the darkly beautiful architecture of Prague in such a way was extremely enjoyable; the historical locations such as the Charles Bridge & St. Vitus Cathedral seemed to take on a new life as we gallivanted around on a quest for points. That night all the students from 21 different countries hosted an international evening where each student brought food/drinks from their respective regions. This was incredible for a gastronomy-oriented individual such as myself, especially since I had been watching Parts Unknown to prepare for the trip.
On Monday the hectic course schedule was thrown into full gear. Every day we were woken up with singing and dancing from the incalculably joyous organizers, inhaled a quick breakfast, and then took public transit to the engineering faculty buildings. Lectures were then given for most of the day and a lunch break was given along with some time for exploring the local cafés/restaurants. Every night after dinner there was an event to unwind, such as karaoke bar crawling, and visiting an observatory. This was fun (although exhausting) and by the end of the week climbing up 4 flights of stairs at 8AM after an evening of activities became an Olympic feat.
On the final weekend of the course we packed ourselves into a tour bus and drove off to a sizable cottage in the countryside. This proved to be a superb way to end the course on a high note, as we hiked all the way up to a 12th century castle and marveled at the view of Prague a few dozen kilometres away. 3D printed rockets were launched as a culmination of our learning. Major takeaways included the design constraints for satellite technology and the different orbit levels used for various communication frequencies. All in all, the experience was terrific & I’d highly recommend that any engineering students reading this post apply right away! BEST was absolutely the best.
Learn more about BEST course opportunities at cfes.ca/best-courses