Our grantees| Lukáš Knápek| The world behind (metaphoric) handlebars
15. November 2018 Lukáš Knápek

The world behind (metaphoric) handlebars

Third year, the second half of my studies, the honours years. I personally think that this is out „adult“ period because I feel like it is just now that everyone starts to take this university thing seriously. Both students and lecturers. The former start to realize that grades actually matter now as they affect the final programme grade. And the latter are getting more demanding in an effort to shape us into professionals knowledgeable in their industry.

The new student year brings quite a few changes. The overall trend is us taking on more and more responsibility for our academic career as well as for what follows next. A good example is our all-year team project. We develop a software product for an actual customer. This is no longer just hacking together some simple program to get a good grade. There are other things that matter now such as communication with the customer, eliciting requirements, planning and team management, research and prototyping, processes and their continuous review, the actual development, testing and deployment of the product and last, but not least, the support for the product. Although we are being taught how to do these things, we have to do them on our own in practice.

We are also forces to start developing our time management skills due to the large amount of deadlines taking place in November. It is not uncommon for us to have to work on three quizes, a lab assignment, a weekly assignment for another team project and 1-2 assessed exercises in one week. In our programme in particular, we are being pushed to find a summer internship and get some industry experience. This means applying for a lot of positions at various companies and then stumbling our way through many rounds of many application processes. And we are also able to choose our subjects for the first time, thus shaping our academic career. In general, you could says that instead of just being passengers in the education system, we are now forced to take over the handlebars.

The university provides us with a level of support, of course. In fact, it tries very, VERY hard to make us as employable as possible. All teams have coaches (fourth year students) who oversee their processes and provide valuable feedback that can be immediately integrated. We are learning  the latest and the most popular development methodics in the industry. We attend talks from the current fourth year students about their summer internship experiences. We also have to attend internships fairs which provide us with both summer internship and year-long placement  opportunities. In short,

Outside of school, there was one more fundamental change to my life this year. I started bike commuting, here in Scotland (hence the weird metaphor two paragraphs above. It is a great success for me, but to the reader it is not clear why without context. My relationship to bike riding was always lukewarm at best in the past. I could not ride a bike when I was a child and because of that, I was the only person in my primary school class who could not take part of the lessons at traffic park. I managed to gain this exotic skill at age of 11 at last. A few years later, I had another bad experience with bike riding – my week-long tourist trip at my secondary school. We used bike to get everywhere. But I did not really like mine very much. I always ended up dead last and with my knees aching. It was after that experience that I decided that bike riding was just not for me. I can recall a memory here in Glasgow where I was taking the bus home and I saw some brave cyclist being stuck in traffic, surrounded by three double-deckers. That only fortified my decision not to try anything like that.

However, during my last summer vacation, I started to think about it again. I found a bike commuting subreddit with people sharing their experiences and stories. And it inspired me. I decided to try out bike riding by using up my vacation days and making an ambitious trip from Prague to Brno on a bike. I would like to say that I overcame all obstacles and managed to complete the trip. But in reality, I travelled 70 km the first day and I was barely able to walk the second one. Turns out my body is not really ready for such a feat after 5 years not riding a bike. Still, this „failure“ was enough for me to reconsider my previous decision. And so, after a couple of days of studying UK traffic laws, I sat on a bike and joined the bizarre+ left-side traffic. Since then, my bike is my main means of transportation. And it is also a symbol reminding me that I am able to overcome my fears and take over the handlebars of my own life.

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