ESWC Summer School 2013

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Warning: This post is in english 😉

Better late than never, here comes the report from the summer school. The avid (and regular) reader may remember, that I got accepted as a student for the ESWC Summer School 2013 and even won the Spread-the-word grant (again, a big thank you to you out there for clicking my referral link!).

So on Sept 1 I hopped on a plane (and another plane and even another plane) and flew to Crete (oh how I love Crete!!). On the airport in Heraklion I met Julio and his wife, who shared the taxi to Kalamaki with me. The journey itself was rather exhausting and all the lift-offs and landings caused a headache, but when I arrived in Kalamaki late in the evening and met Anett with whom I shared a room for the week, we went to the beach (it was turtle hatching season, but I didn’t see any turtle) and hit a little tavern, everything was cool. The mediterranean is so laid back and relaxed … balm for my stressed-out soul!

School itself started on monday. Keynotes, tutorials and hands-on sessions took place by the pool in Kalamaki – quite a nice location to learn and study 🙂

Poster session

On Monday and Tuesday night we had a poster session, where we were to present the posters about our PhD projects. I was very nervous, since I had never done a poster session before, but I think it went quite nicely and I got a lot of positive feedback for my project *yay*. It was really amazing to see all the different projects, which all had to do with Linked Data and the Semantic Web, but were so diverse in their application.

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Thursday and Friday were the most intense days of the school. For these two days we worked in groups on small projects, which we had to present on Saturday morning. On our team were people from  a variety of disciplines – computer science, library science, and maths. This was great on the one hand, because we could view our project from different perspectives. On the other hand, that kind of left the actual coding work to only a small number of people. Anett, Laura, Francisco and Dörthe – it was great working with you! Although we havent‘ been as successful with our project as I would have wished for, I learned a lot during these two days and I was really stunned what some of the other groups have been able to produce during two days.

We presented our projects on Saturday morning, which was also the finale of the school. After the tutors announced the three projects that won awards, it was time to say farewell (and according to summer school tradition, John was thrown into the pool).

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So, to sum it all up, here is my list on what I gained personally from the summer school:

  • The biggest benefit for me was the really positive feedback from different people on my PhD project. Most of them said, that they find this really useful and a good idea, others asked smart questions and shed light on perspectives I hadn’t looked on so far. This really took away some of the doubts I had about it and gave me a huge push of motivation.
  • It was awesome meeting so many  people from different countries and making new friends. What really suprised me was, that I wasn’t the only PhD student there who also has a family with kids. I always thought this is kind of rare and that most PhD students are younger than me with no commitments. This also motivated me and gave me some reassurance – we can do it!
  • Once again I noticed, how really really important it is to speak English fluently. Everything was in English – keynotes, tutorials, poster presentations, lunch break conversations, project work. It took me a day to adopt (chatting with an American lady on the plane might have helped to dive in), the second night in Kalamaki I dreamed in English and sometimes Anett and I (we are both German and knew each other from Magdeburg before) spoke English to each other when we came back to our room. Actually, it was kind of weird to switch back to German when I went home.
  • Sometimes, things even work without the internet 😉

Attending the ESWC Summer School 2013 was an awesome experience for me. A very professional organization, combined with the incredible ability of the Greeks to improvise if things don’t work out as they should and of course a beautiful greek village in late summer made the stay absolutely worthwile. Thank you again to John, Elena, Aneta, Barry, Aidan, Jarred, all the keynote speakers, Nikos, Giannis and all the others involved for this really great summer school. If you have the opportunity to attend one of the next ESWC summer schools, do it! You will not regret it!

Apart from that, it was really hard leaving the family for one week. Before, I was boasting about how much I was looking forward for one week alone-time and uninterrupted studying. When I left Sunday morning, I was really sad and tried hard not to burst into tears.

I tried to organize the whole week, made a big schedule and arranged for the grandparents to fetch the kids from kindergarden. In the end kid 2.0 got sick on Monday, so my schedule (or at least parts of it) where a case for the trashcan and I ended up worrying and not being able to do anything … nevertheless, they made it through the week without me, recovered and after my return we went on a great family vacation to Turkey.

P.S: Sorry, Giannis, for the „turkish coffee“! 😉

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