Erika Narbutas, Bachelor degree student in Electric Engineering, Klaipėda University, Lithuania
Initially, I was not eager to go. I felt that I was not the right person to be chosen to represent my University, and the whole idea of me going, was associated with uneasiness. The number of times I had to ask myself “should I let someone else take my place?” were too many to count, but looking back now, these five days will forever stay engraved inside of my head. Let me elaborate.
The bus trip was long and uncomfortable, the experience at the airport was full of suspense, and the ventures at the train stations were based on stress with a headache as a cherry on top. However, my first full day at the venue, the Johannes Kepler University (JKU)in Linz was a big improvement on the previous day’s travel experience. After taking my seat, I was still stressed from the day before. The person sat next to me was Bernardo, and although I knew I was not in the most pleasant of moods, Bernardo just did not care, he was always cheering me up, making sure I was paying attention, and cracking jokes from time to time to make me laugh. The same day, I decided to share my feelings of stress and being unsure of myself being here with another participant. She introduced herself as Hang, and she was the little sunray of pure joy lighting the whole conference room and not letting me express any kind of negative emotions. And so, there I was, stuck with two of the most positive and optimistic people from the whole event. In fact there was a big emphasis from the organizers, Branko and Betti, on ensuring that all participants – especially the students – were made to feel safe, secure, and welcome in these surroundings. Words cannot describe how welcome and comfortable they made me feel that evening. Afterwards, when my new friends joined our table, I couldn’t even finish my food anymore, the whole time was spent laughing and trying to catch my breath.
The following days everything started to look exciting. I was taking notes, paying attention with great interest to the invited speakers, involving myself in discussions, socializing, listening to what others had to say, and in general, enjoying my time. I realized how much effort, thought and time was put in to making sure we were all looked after before, during and after the day’s events. From all of what we did, my standout activities were the Sensebox presentation, the Danish expert who had us all making rubber-band-powered vehicles, the visit to the ADS venue in Linz, and the team task we were assigned and which we presented on the last day. This final task was great because we were left to our own devices, using expert help if and when we needed it. Our theme was centered on how to motivate people to believe in a teaching career. Although I wish we had started this earlier and had more time to think about improving our ideas based on feedback following our presentation. I think all the teams would have benefited from extra time to improve and further develop their ideas.
When I give it some thought, I honestly believe that STEAM+ is such a great opportunity if one can use it properly. Never have I ever been seated in a group of people where each and one of us is from a different country, with a unique culture, different education achievements and a complete diverse opinion regarding our views in life. For the first time was I told that, “even though you’re a student in a group full of professors, that have Doctoral or equivalent level degrees, you voice is just as important, and your ideas will be heard”. When I was talking, everybody paid attention. I felt important. I experienced what it means to be treated as an equal where I shouldn’t be even considered as one. Before my arrival, I would have never guessed to end up on a stage, presenting my own beliefs to politicians that are genuinely interested in what I have to say. STEAM+ is a place in time where modern problems are trying to be solved by inviting modern minds into a conversation. This type of thinking not only inspires new solutions but changes the traditional way of dealing with certain matters, by finding new answers to difficult issues.
Linz was something that I could have never guessed to be if I hadn’t experienced it. To this day I am so thankful for the opportunity that was given to me. From a bottom of my heart, I can confidently say that Linz was one of the most meaningful trips of my life and each and every person mentioned in this blog had a massive impact on it. I can think of right now left a bad taste in my mouth or a negative experience.