The high school I went to had a tradition of starting the day with a few words of wisdom originally enunciated by someone famous and usually –by then- deceased. Each day a student had to memorise and deliver the ‘quote of the day’ in homeroom or at morning assembly, and on one of my turns, I stood in front of the classes and repeated aloud to my classmates some oft-quoted words of Benjamin Franklin ‘Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.’ Then we promptly forgot them and went back to lessons.
All these years later, Sir Franklin’s counsel came back to me as I came closer to the end of my year at the University of Leeds, where I have pursued what I genuinely wanted to learn, have had the opportunity of doing while studying, was involved in activities that interested me, and surrounded myself with experiences that inspired me. If anything, I wanted more of it. Could I do a summer school? An exchange programme? As a postgrad, did I have the time or the choice?
As it turned out, it was a matter of finding the right engagement at the appropriate time. I came across the International Winter School programme of Algebra University College in Croatia ( https://www.algebra.hr/international-school/kampanje/winter-school/ ) almost by chance, when a friend who had previously applied sent me the brochure in case I was interested in one of the programmes. Three weeks in January away from the dismal English winter, exploring the land of a thousand islands, of fairy tales and Game of Throne shooting locations, while learning new technology trends at a premier educational institute and adding qualifications to my CV? Yes, I was more than interested!
The application process is online, and there are three courses to choose from – Digital Marketing; with joint certifications by Google AdWords and Google Analytics, Cyber Security; with a focus on the correct use of digital tools, and every industry’s new favourite; Artificial Intelligence. Considering Algebra University’s academic partnerships with firms like Microsoft, IBM, and Cisco, and the accreditation of its professional study programmes by European bodies like NVAO and ASHE, it is no surprise that the winter school programmes are particularly geared towards creating a digital future.
Croatia, after all, is also the land of technological innovations. A country where fingerprinting was developed into a method of identification, where the parachute was invented, where the precursor to atomic theory was nurtured, and also where – my favourite – Nikola Tesla practically invented the future.
It also helps that Croatia is not an expensive destination, and the university offers help with short-term accommodations and hostels. The programme tries to be high on involvement to facilitate the learning process; it even includes a workshop on financing startups, and another in Croatian language and culture, as well as social events and company visits. Above and beyond, what attracted me is the diverse student profile and the opportunity to earn either ECTSs or US credits on each course. Incidentally, the Winter School’s motto – live and learn – seems to be right up there with Sir Franklin’s adage, and for once, I can’t wait to go back to school this winter!