As my time in Prague nears its end, I am sincerely grateful for the opportunity that the BSIA and GARI have provided me. While initially terrified at the prospect of living abroad, let alone in a country where I have zero local language skill, my time in the Czech Republic has been enlightening. I am confident now in my capacity to adapt to new conditions and overcome the basic obstacles to living abroad and hope to leverage these new skills again in the near future.
At work, the long-awaited conference, the Next 100 Symposium, that we have been working towards has come and gone in a blur. The two-day event was hectic, stressful, and in what felt like a constant state of near breakdown. However, the GARI team shattered expectations and managed to not only survive the symposium but were somehow able to make it go off without a hitch. Not only were there no major crises, but when a situation did arise, it was always dealt with calmly, immediately, and professionally. I would like to thank my fellow GARI team members and our hard-working volunteers for their contributions, which we could not have done without!
The conference itself was a smashing success. Hundreds of attendees and speakers gathered in the halls of the Prague Centre for Contemporary Art (DOX+) for a mix of presentations, discussions, and roundtables on topics ranging from BREXIT to AI to privacy and security, and many, many, more. The mix of guests was especially refreshing and included industry professionals, academics, students, entrepreneurs, visionaries, and NGOs, all of whom participated equally in the event’s diverse program. The breakout roundtable sessions were particularly productive and unique. As speakers discussed their work and ongoing projects, all were invited to participate in discussion and debate, asking questions, responding to ideas, and contributing to the overall conversation. While my experience with international conferences like this one is limited, it was unlike any conference-environment or event that I had ever seen. I believe this was one of the strongest features of the N100 Symposium and would encourage organizers of future conferences to consider including similarly open spaces for discussion.
Finally, the day after the conference I was fortunate to be invited on a small tour of Terezin, a small town outside of Prague that was originally built as a ghetto during WWII. While I have visited a number of Holocaust museums, I had never before set foot in a ghetto/concentration camp. The experience was extremely important, and while immensely sobering, it was incredibly interesting as well. Terezin saw the relocation of many thousands of Jews during WWII, and many died within the walls of the Ghetto and Camp. The conditions were horrifying, and the stories moreso. If you have the opportunity while visiting Prague, please consider taking the trip to Terezin. It is a vivid representation of an extremely dark moment in human history, but one that should be constantly remembered, and learned from.