My bachelor studies were coming to an end and I was disappointed that I could not go on a study exchange due to the pandemic situation. When the offer of the Summer Learning Lab 2021 came up to us, I was immediately interested. I have to be honest, at first I thought that the Summer LL 2021 would not be in online form, so when I found out that it was, I was not sure about my participation. The idea of another 6 weeks in front of a screen after three online semesters was not appealing to me. After thinking about it for a couple of days, my curiosity won out and I decided to give the experience a chance. The program looked promising, and I also saw a chance in practicing my English. I don’t regret my decision at all, on the contrary, I am grateful for being open to it. It was a great experience to improve working life skills by working with real challenges.
Together with my other Czech colleagues, we were pleasently surprised especially by the approach of the coaches, which was friendly but at the same time contained the necessary dose of natural authority. Throughout the six weeks I knew that I could contact the coaches at any time and it was easy to communicate with them.
During the 6 weeks, we were split into several teams where each team worked on a different product and interacted with their own client. That was already a major responsibility and of course a challenge. Especially learning how to communicate with your team, dividing roles, tasks, etc. Communication with the client was also key, to understand the client’s idea and confront it with my own and the team’s. Which sometimes was quite problematic. I had really hard working people in my team that I could rely on. The communication between us worked well because we always knew what we were working on, who was working on it and where they were, which especially in an online environment is important element. We also did check-ins to see how others were doing and made sure to do team learning and use advices we got from our coaches. At the end of the day, it was up to us what we gave in to the whole process, as the responsibility to deliver the final product and to inhance our self-growth was ours.
I liked that the key themes were well-being, teamlearning and sustainability. Over the six weeks we had interesting workshops that brought the topics to life, gave us practical advice and allowed us to think and communicate more deeply with our colleagues. It is important to say that the structure of the whole programme ensured dynamism and avoided stereotyping of the day. Although we called through MS Teams we had multiple work chanells according to its meaning. This allowed us to meet with everyone, or just in a group with coaches or work in our assigned team. We had morning walks, which could be really comical sometimes. After all, explaining to the neighbours in my small village why I walk around every day talking on my phone like an influencer is probably not for everyone. Anyway, these walks were great. Firstly they kick-started you into sitting in front of the PC for the day and secondly it was an opportunity for informal communication between the teams. As well as work, there was also an effort to engage in social activities that went hand in hand with wellbeing and teamlearning. For example Summer learning lab convinced me that karaoke sessions can be done online. Again over time, their initiation was up to us.
Overall, I rate the six weeks as an excellent opportunity. Opportunity to meet new interesting people who have lot to say, to practice my English, to step out of my comfort zone, to learn to take responsibility for my self-growth, to listen to great workshops and take away a piece of it and apply it to my personal and work life. I especially got to try my hand at managing social media, writing posts, creating in canva, coming up with activities for a morning meeting for a final event where I was able to use my skills learned from my social pedagogy studies. I am using all my newly acquired skills on a new project I am currently working on.
Organizing the final event with my team was a big task, as none of us had previous experience with this type of event. Hosting everything on Zoom was also new to me. To this day, I still laugh about the situation where I agreed with the team on something but there was a misunderstanding. During the final event, I was watching to see if everything was going smoothly. Suddenly there was silence. I wondered why nothing was happening. That’s when I realized I was being waited on. In the end, my team and I had to improvise a lot. Fortunately, everything worked out well and again it was a valuable lesson.
Of course, the online environment comes with some disadvantages. Some of us were physically in Tampere and so could meet in person, sometimes there could be issues with the internet connection and communicating online is guaranteed to be more challenging than communicating in person. Still, I think the choaching team did an amazing job in making the whole experience as realistic as possible, so the mentioned disadvantages were not a hindrance for me thanks to the setup of this program. For anyone who is considering giving the Summer Learning Lab a try, don’t hesitate and go for it!
Iveta Fantová, student, Faculty of Education, Social Pedagogy.
University of Hradec Králové, Czech Republic