Travel: Terchova, Slovakia

Not the “sexy” touristic attraction on would expect… But I guess that’s one of the benefits of working in research and doing a PhD! You usually find yourself in the weirdest of places, for a number of reasons! In this case, this was a Summer School, hosted in a remote place (no distractions for the PhD candidates) with good rates etc., as it was more of a winter destination in Slovakia! Here’s Terchova!

It was the 2009, Joint Technology Enhanced Learning Summer School, and it was my first Summer School and to be honest one of my first trips abroad! I have scattered memories about this that become more vivid when I look at the photos I uploaded the other day in Flickr!

My highlights? I am not sure I can provide with the top-11 list this time, but I do recall the small regional airport where we landed in the middle of the night. We walked (!) from the aiplane to the luggage area and there, a small door opened and a person came and put the suitcases on a bench in front of the door, one by one, all but mine!

Yes, all the suitcases but mine! And the guy leaving!

Suddenly, the door closed and the lights went out, signalling the closing of the “terminal” for the night! And no person was in sight! There was actually just a button on the wall, which you pushed if you had a problem (see below)!

The most amazing use of a doorbell, known to mankind!

After realizing that I would not get my suitcase, we took the only taxi outside the airport, and through a crazy ride in the mountains, we reached the hotel where the school took place. I think this was one of the most eye-opening experiences in my life. Everything was new and exciting but also a bit intimidating for a guy that some months ago was actually thinking whether or not he should start doing a PhD!

I found myself amidst some brilliant young minds and some even more brilliant, experienced and really important TEL researchers, heads of units, etc. Me… And then the Impostor Syndrome kicked in! I tried to make it to all sessions, while at the same time being a bit timid and shy about being there, since I did not actually have a PhD topic then… And all of this with nothing more than the clothes on my back, a borrowed sweater and some extra t-shirts from the organizers of the Summer School. Luckily, on day 1, I went shopping to the only shop in the mountain, filled with ski clothing, where I was able to find a couple of things, along with some underwear! I have to point out that I went shopping with one of the PhD tutors participating in the event, a person of great influence and experience in the field, as if I wasn’t nervous enough! 😉 (Katherine, thanks for being so cool about it!)

The days went by so quickly but all the experiences are still lodged in my mind all this time. I enjoyed every part and got to know some people that I have the priviledge of calling them friends over the years. We were like the class of 2009, as most of us were just starting our PhDs, so it was kind of a bonding experience that went on to the next couple (or more) summerschools! Luckily, to this day, most of us have our PhDs or are really close to wrapping them up!

Here are some memories or highlights if you will…

The welcome presentation


My first session in JTEL SS ever, the “Pimp my PhD” session
(A JTEL Summer School classic)


Martin Wolpers standing and myself there with the green t-shirt

The “family” photo on the top of this amazing mountain where we went walking!  

Still remember someone walking barefoot, wearing shorts and a t-shirt in minus something…

My first Ambjorn Naeve presentation

Life-changing, captivating presentation. Beer session, late night!

Embarassing slide!

Just like everything else was not enough, Nikos Manouselis, my supervisor put me on a slide of course! 😉

My first Erik Duval presentation

And then this guy comes along and starts showing a presentation with nothing else but images and four-word slides. I was like “that’s what I should be doing!”

The hike and the small cantine!

Old guitar on the wall
Pricelist… Amazing!
Enjoying a short rest… After reaching the cantine in the middle of nowhere where we stopped for hot wine and beer!

The lobby

Shooting some pool in the lobby…
Enjoying the amazing and amazingly cheap beer… Something like 1 euro per 500ml?? Hell yeah!

This was a most memorable experience! I think it was the first time in my life that I went on a ski-lift, a real, big one! It was a first for a lot of things and was actually highly addictive, as I kept coming back in the summer schools, in 2010, 2011 and 2012! Overall, a real eye-opener! Something like that!

Leaving for home… Mixed feelings, mostly sad (despite the crazy face!)

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