Reflections on MILSET ESI 2011

Thu, 2011-07-28 07:31 -- Team Canada-MILSET

Team Canada’s experience at MILSET ESI 2011 in Bratislava, Slovakia this past week was absolutely phenomenal! It is difficult for us to sum up our adventure and to truly express our feelings about it. There are numerous highlights, memories, adventures, photos, and conversations we will never forget. Any time you bring together science, networking, and traveling with students from a multitude of countries, cultures, and backgrounds it is certain to be extraordinary. The girls from room 420 would like to share some of their thoughts about the spectacular event.

Angela Howell:

Going to MILSET definitely gave everybody a part of their summer they will never forget. While the pins from Uruguay may lavish in a semi-forgotten box at the back of our closet, or some of the edges to some of the memories may fade a little (just a little), the people we met and the experiences and lessons we had will last a lifetime. I have a Facebook account now, something I have always put off doing, and I now know why people have them: it helps you keep in touch, and I must say - it makes you feel loved. I definitely felt the love from all the people I met in the Slovak Republic. I love you guys!

There’s not too much I didn’t like. We all ran on little food and little sleep, but that was all part the crazy haze in which we were continually on the move in, and man, it was fun. For some reason, I particularly loved the Družba. The balcony had a fantastic view of Bratislava, it was sparse (I prefer living this way) and the crazy vibe of partying university students seemed to have soaked in the air. Add in the awesome Team Canada people (as well as the odd Belgian or Russian), and the odd sketchy corner seemed pretty immaterial to me.

I can’t seem to shut up about how cool the people were. Everybody was extremely nice, extremely smart, extremely fun to hang around, and everybody had something to say about the world in which they lived. I wish we all went to school together.

Random events seem to stick in my mind. Learning how to say hello in Thai (Sa-wah-dee-kah!), playing games with the Russians, staying up late, Ninja, getting yelled at while Ellen and I climbed the walls of the Castle Devin, dancing to Waka Waka with everybody from everywhere.

What else can I say? Everybody else seems to have the timeline down pat. My hair which went crazy from the Slovakian humidity is slowly returning back to normal, my jet lag has receded, and I’m in the middle of the beautiful Saskatchewan prairie instead of beautiful Bratislava and the awesome ESI people.

Keep in touch you guys. You’re all pretty sick. I get the feeling this won’t be the end.

Joan Lopez:

Although Team Canada was in Bratislava, Slovakia for a short period of time, the memories that we shared will stay with us for a lifetime. The members of Team Canada were always very spirited and eager to mingle with people from across the world. Whether it was at an airport in Paris occupying ourselves with an intense card game of “President” or playing an agile round of “super-mega-ninja-destruction” outside the Družba, as a team, we immediately became really close.

Having the chance to interact with youth from different countries was the highlight of MILSET ESI for me. By taking a simple stroll around the exhibit hall, it was clear that Canada loved to socialize! Gone were the nerve-racking days of judging and waiting beside our projects for hours and hours. Instead, we embraced the relaxed atmosphere that MILSET ESI encouraged and we traded pins and souvenirs, shared some laughs and even learned a few words in many languages! We also learned about the different projects and inventions that the world had to offer. To be in a room filled with incredible scientists and knowing that each one of them will make a difference and impact our world was an honourable experience.

The rest of the week was spent touring the beautiful city of Bratislava, where we witnessed breathtaking views. We walked past some of the European cafés and shops, with each step making us wish we could stay in Slovakia a little bit longer. Thanks to our kámoš, Michael, we learned more about the Slovakian culture and its fascinating attractions. The castles were paramount and I think it is safe to say that some people felt like royalty when walking through its halls.

Our last night in Bratislava was curfew-less thanks to our superb delegates and Team Canada was together for a final hurrah. It was hard to bid farewell to those who made MILSET ESI 2011 a memorable experience, but rest assured, we will keep in touch and hopefully have a reunion in the near future!

This experience has been phenomenal and I will never forget MILSET-ESI 2011! To those who made it all possible, thank you for encouraging young scientists to be able to attend such a worthwhile event!

Grace Wang:

It is very difficult to describe in words the sheer greatness of my MILSET ESI experience. The excitement started long before the event officially began, and the happy memories will extend far into the future. From Day 1, when we happily introduced ourselves at the Pearson Airport, we knew first hand that we were to spend a spectacular week with a group of exceptional people. Needless to say, we all shared many things in common; and each and every one of us was poised to spread Canadian culture and science with students from across the world!

Upon our arrival in Bratislava, Slovakia, our delegation settled into the Družba residence. The dormitories in the Družba took some time to get accustomed to, but it wasn’t long in the week before we started to call it “home”. We kept in touch with others using the free Internet access provided at the Družba, or by calling out to nearby balconies.

The highlight of the trip was, of course, interacting with people from across the world at the Incheba Exhibit Hall. Our delegation was by far the most friendly – hoards of Canadians were always spotted socializing, chatting, trading pins, and taking photos with people from different countries. Above all, we all loved that MILSET ESI was a non-competitive event! Instead of spending all of our time preparing our presentations, chaining ourselves to our project booths, and nervously awaiting our judges, MILSET ESI allowed us to roam around freely and immerse ourselves in a variety of cultures and experiences. It set the stage for so many everlasting friendships that we will all remember for a lifetime.

The rest of our trip was occupied by fantastic tours of Bratislava and its surrounding areas. MILSET ESI organized several tours that gave its participants a better taste of Slovakian lifestyle and history, including Castle Devin, Castle Lednice, Kia Motors, and Bratislava Waterworks. Our exceptional kámoš, Michael, also highlighted our trip by showing us the beautiful and historic sites of Bratislava. We were able to witness the modest cobblestone paths and the majestic architecture of Bratislava’s historic monuments. The sites in the Bratislava city centre, especially the famous Bratislava Castle, rivaled those that we had seen in European tourist magazines.

Our delegates granted us a curfew-less night on our last day in Bratislava. Needless to say, the subsequent plane rides were unusually silent. :P And although we were all sad to say goodbye, we all knew that we are definitely going to be seeing each other again very soon – whether it be participating in more science fairs or acting as delegates for upcoming MILSET ESI participants!

MILSET-ESI was such an unforgettable adventure for each and every one of us. Every moment of the experience will stay with us for many years to come! Thank you to all who made this amazing trip possible!

Megan Schlorff:

My MILSET-ESI experience in Bratislava was INCREDIBLE! Team Canada immediately clicked and set the tone for what we knew would be a great week. I’m sure we all agree that by the end of the week we were one big, happy family. However, we made sure to extend our Canadian hospitality to many other delegations as well. One of my favourite aspects of MILSET ESI was the relaxed atmosphere and emphasis on interaction and networking. Unlike most science fair experiences where we are expected to stay at our projects the entire time, we were actually encouraged to walk around and meet as many people as possible. That meant many of us spent little time at our projects, and some spent none at all. :) We spent many moments chatting with various countries and taking lots of photos, and of course, trading pins, food, stuffed animals, flags, stickers, pencils, fans, key chains, the list goes on and on and on! Pretty much anything somewhat patriotic was tradable by MILSET ESI standards. I loved walking down the rows of the exhibit hall and just absorbing the sheer genius of the projects being presented - clearly some ideas that will leave the world a different place. Not to mention the unique cultures we were exposed to and the various dialects we heard as we wandered the aisles. The cultural evening resonated to me what MILSET ESI is truly about - over sixty countries coming together to connect and share with science as the connection. Although, science was certainly the theme of the week, we connected with all of the students on almost all levels to really develop the true spirit of MILSET-ESI.

The tours we went on allowed us to explore more of the country and even neighbouring ones for some. We’ll also never forget our last day at Chateau Červený Kameň where we had ample time to wander around the grounds, eat, shop a little, enjoy gelato, and sleep. However, my favourite memory of the trip was the evening when we ventured downtown for an in-depth exploration of the city. We began with a visit to an epic shopping mall and those of us who were feeling adventurous tried some traditional Slovak food which left us with mixed feelings. :) However, we were quickly led downtown and to the city square, giving us a true European feel. The city centre was paved with cobblestones lined with cute shops and quaint cafes. The architecture was breathtaking and the views spectacular. The highlight was climbing up to Bratislava Castle where we were awestruck by the view of the city while the castle was illuminated in the night. It was one of those picture perfect moments that you never want to forget. The final night we decided to pull an all-nighter, after most of us had averaged about three hours of sleep a night or less. It was our last night and made sleeping on the airplane totally effortless. :) I think this week I have survived on the least amount of sleep I’ve ever had but hardly noticed with all of the energy surrounding me. MILSET ESI has truly become one of the most memorable experiences of my life, and I will share my memories for years to come. Team Canada was an astounding group of people who I have no doubt will do remarkable things and make the world a better place one science fair project at a time. :) We definitely have to keep in touch, and I can’t wait to meet everyone again someday soon! (Certainly not at Družba, but maybe in Sudbury? :P)

Of course, none of this would have been achievable without the extremely generous support of our sponsors who made it possible for us to have the trip of a lifetime. We are grateful for Nuclear Waste Management Organization, the Province of Ontario, the Province of Québec, Science East, Saskatchewan Association of Science Fairs, Inc., and Youth Science Ontario. Youth Science Canada and Conseil de Développement du Loisir Scientifique were instrumental in organizing all aspects of our trip. Our chaperones were constantly looking out for us and helped to make our week run smoothly. Thank you Lori, Alison, Susan, Dave, and Patrick, our fearless leader! You were great delegates to share the experience with. Reni was also a huge asset to our team, and we thank him for everything he does, not just on excursions, but throughout the year. We would also like to thank the MILSET ESI organizing committee for arranging an immensely successful event. A huge shout-out goes to Michael, our kámoš, for showing us his city. Finally, thank you to our parents. You do so much to assist us with our crazy science fair projects and were a huge help preparing for this trip.

If you've made it to the end you deserve some Canadian clapper sticks and an umbrella hat. :) Thank you for reading! We hope our reflections have been able to capture at least a fraction of this unbelievable experience. I think we all agree that a reunion should be in the near future!