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We meet up with Claudia Vaquera Montero at the VUB International Relations office just before the exams start. She’s from Bolivia and in her first-year master’s programme in applied computer science and she’s nervous about the exams, but probably that little bit more about the summer course she’s organising along with fellow engineering students.
Every year since BEST was launched at the VUB around 1994, there have been BEST summer courses. BEST stands for Board of European Students of Technology, and was set up in 1989 to help communication, cooperation and exchange possibilities for students of engineering across Europe The summer schools were set up to promote cultural exchange and connect with others. BEST has about 90 groups across Europe and has guidelines on how these summer courses should be organised. The summer course at VUB, which will run from 5-13 July, is organised by the Local BEST Group (Brussels) with help from several members and 4 co-organisers from other Local BEST Groups and 1 co-organiser from AEGEE (i.e. another NGO). The costs for participating students are kept to a minimum, €45 or even less – enough to cover the essentials. It’s important to the organisers that the course remains affordable.
This year’s BEST summer course has the focus, “Gamify Your AI: The Legend of Brussels”. Students will learn the necessary elements to use AI in building games, which they’ll eventually need to put together a project, which counts as the ‘exam’ bit of the course. The level of the course is basic so students from bachelor’s and master’s programmes can attend and is generally for a minimum of 22 students. The selection process is quite rigorous, which it needs to be, given that this year saw over 110 applications come in. Motivational letters, geography and gender are taken into account when selecting the final participants list, as well as the waiting list, in order to obtain a nice mix to encourage intercultural skills. This July, it looks like we’ll have 10 women and 12 men participating from Ukraine, Russia, France, Spain, Germany, Greece, Austria, Portugal, North Macedonia, Romania, Hungary, Croatia and Denmark. [continue reading below pictures]
Claudia is the lead on this project, and it’s her first time doing it. As she says, it is “a summer course run by students, for students”. It means that there will be a nice non-work programme as well. The students will initially stay in Brasschaat, where everyone will gather, before coming to Brussels for the week. Everyone is made to feel welcome, with an international dinner on Saturday evening (everyone cooks/brings food from their own country) and on Sunday there will be a welcome activity on a lake. The 9-day summer school will also include a day trip to Antwerp, a tour of Brussels, and the necessary waffles and beers, of course.
In preparation of the trip and course, online games will be set up on Facebook, so the different students can get to know each other. And of course, it’s prep work in another sense too, given the subject of the course is gaming! Throughout the week there will be projects across 6 or 7 teams and on Friday these teams will present the results in front of academics. At the end of the week, the participants get a certificate and their 1ECTS. The academics are also involved from the start. Given that Claudia was this year’s organiser, she looked to her professors in applied computer science to help out with the course and check their availability for summer.
It’s a lot of work. Being part of BEST means you are continuously organising events throughout the year alongside your studies. This summer course has been in the works since November 2018. Crunch-time next week!