This month we would like to introduce two Slovakian IT students who recently took part in the Erasmus+ funded Internship Programme in London. Patrik Németh and Tomáš Kender undertook three weeks of work experience at AbilityNet, an organisation dedicated to helping disabled people use digital technology at work, home or in education. They were praised by their supervisor for showing great initiative and skill and using new approaches to work tasks. Here, they talk about their experience and what the time in London taught them about life, work and reaching for the unknown.
Tell me a little bit about yourselves and your backgrounds.
Patrik: I'm from Slovakia. I enjoy travelling and I suppose I’m quite the ordinary student. I like movies, books, music, video games and sports. I also like to try new things, which is part of the reason why I took part in this trip.
Tomáš: I live in a small town called Hurbanovo in Slovakia. I’ve been studying computer networks for the last three years. As for my hobbies, I enjoy programming, watching movies and TV shows, but the thing that I’m most passionate about is definitely listening to music. I’m also very curious and I like to talk to people from other countries and listen to their opinions and, overall, see the world from other perspectives. This is also the reason why I applied for the Internship Programme.
What sparked your interest for IT?
Patrik: Video games. When I was younger I wanted to be able to program video games, so I started learning programming. Then I realised games aren’t just about programming, but that there are many layers to creating games, or any kind of software. That’s when I started to learn about the possibilities of IT.
Tomáš: In my case, it was computer games as well. It was the trigger that started it all. In these days games aren’t as big of a passion like before, but my interest in technology has lingered on.
What was the best moment of your trip?
Patrik: There were many but the one that stood out the most was when a friend of mine and I found a record store. We spent an hour just browsing old vinyl records and CDs and trying to figure out how not to spend a fortune.
Tomáš: It’s hard to say, really. My most memorable moment is probably our last day at work. Just before our departure, we took a group photo and received a gift by our coworkers. We wished each other good luck and after that, we left the office. While walking to the closest station, we opened the package and we found a card with a short message from our colleagues. That was the moment when I thought about the last three weeks and felt sad that I had to leave this amazing organisation and the kind people working there.
What was your work placement like at AbilityNet?
Amazing. Everybody was very nice and helpful. When we arrived at the office on the first day we didn’t know what to expect so we were a little nervous. But after a short while, we felt very comfortable being there. It was also very interesting to learn about the work AbilityNet is doing. We hadn't really put much thought into how people with disabilities use IT until our work placement at AbilityNet.
What were your tasks?
During the first week, we studied some accessibility technologies like Narrator, ChromeVox and Dragon. We wrote a text about the way they work and created a presentation. After that, we were assigned to a different task. AbilityNet’s database of testers was incomplete with some information missing and we were supposed to complete it by contacting the testers and asking them for the information. However, there were way too many testers in the database and honestly, we didn’t really feel like writing that many emails, so rather than writing a separate email to each tester, we created a script to do the job. Our boss was surprised that we selected this approach and seeing that the script had worked, he told us to create one more script. This time, it was a summarisation task. We had to create a script which would grab data from multiple files and put them into a single summarised file. In the end, we didn’t have time to complete the whole task, but most of the script was done on time.
How would you compare your work placement to your work or school back home?
Our work placement was more oriented towards communication and that was refreshing. At school, there are a couple of courses where you need to communicate to, for example, work out a problem. Here we had to communicate with our colleagues all the time. Otherwise, our tasks would have taken a lot longer.
How has this experience inspired you?
It has taught us a very valuable lesson about living in a foreign environment and how important teamwork and cooperation is. We got a chance to work in a very friendly environment at an organisation with many different nationalities. It’s an unforgettable experience, that’s for sure.
What did you learn from the trip?
Patrik: That time management is very important. I learned how to better manage my time, and not just at work, but in everyday life. Back home I rarely use public transport, because almost everything is within walking distance. Because of this I had to plan in advance and try to make the most of the time I had before taking the next train or bus.
Tomáš: I’m happy that I was able to spend three weeks in London, because it helped me to meet a bunch of awesome people, get to know myself and realise what I want to do and achieve in my life. I feel like with this trip I got the missing piece of the puzzle and now I know the answers to questions I wouldn’t have gotten if I just stayed at home.
What did you find most exciting about working and living in a new country?
Patrik: Being able to understand all the various accents in such a multicultural city. Being in contact with English - or any other language - through movies, TV shows, music etc. does not prepare a person for understanding accents and dialects from all around the world. So it was definitely exciting to try to keep up with someone speaking English with a Russian accent, for example.
Tomáš: I think that Patrik has pretty much summed it up. When you sit at home and watch two people from different countries speak English on TV, it doesn’t seem to be a big thing. However, when I came here and saw so many different nationalities speaking the same language and understanding each other perfectly, I was just moved. Not so long ago, nations from neighboring countries had serious trouble with understanding the people on the other side of the border. Fast forward a hundred years and here we are talking to people from the other side of the world without a translator.
What are your plans for the future?
Patrik: Finishing school, getting a degree and possibly coming back to the UK. I don’t have any big plans yet.
Tomáš: I’d like to go to a university and start my own company later on, which is the thing I invest most of my free time into right now. This traineeship had a very positive impact on me and I feel like eventually I’d like to repeat it. Where? I guess only time will tell.
What would your advice be for students who are yet to embark on this journey?
Have an open mind. Especially if you’re travelling to London from a smaller country or city, because London can sometimes surprise you with unexpected situations, which just don’t occur in less populated places.
Patrik and Tomáš visited London with our Internship Programme, a project eligible for funding from Erasmus+. Now we're also arranging work experience projects in Dublin. Don't hesitate to contact us if you would like more information about what we do and how to get funding. Call a Country Manager today on +44 2084249424 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.