Scientific Python Programming in Greece

It’s not often that I go on a trip and think “Nothing could have made this better.” And yet, in September of 2017, when I returned from my trip to Nikiti for a summer school in Advanced Scientific Programming in Python, I was left thinking exactly that.

Editor’s note: you can check out more from this trip by looking at my photo journal on Flickr or YouTube playlist.

The trip was a “perfect storm” of good people, good lectures, and a good location. The tutors were knowledgeable, energetic, and set the level of the lectures such that I learned a lot but was never so confused that I couldn’t keep up. My fellow students were intelligent and driven but always down to grab a pizza or head to the beach for a social evening. Nikiti proved to be an excellent setting, as its small, cozy beach-town vibes gave a chill atmosphere to both the days and the nights. And although Nikiti’s small size may have led to a few inconveniences for the organizers, I honestly thought that the quaintness of the village added to the whole experience. (I mean, come on, how often do you get to say you learned about Cython in the basement of a Greek folklore museum with a patio that looked over a lush green valley leading to the ocean?)

All in all, I rate the experience very highly. In fact, it might even be one of the best trips I’ve ever taken, and I wasn’t even on vacation! The icing on the cake: I was able to leverage my new knowledge on my very first day back at DTU during a code development meeting, and I’ve recently been given the green light to teach some scientific Python programming workshops in my department based on what I learned in Greece. And if that’s not a good metric for a successful trip, then I really don’t know what is. 🙂

Many, many thanks to the summer school organizers and financial supporters! It’s thanks to your efforts that I was able to learn so much. For anyone interested in reading more about the school or checking out the list of lectures, the website can be found here.

What made the program so good was the efforts of these people, the tutors and volunteers who put in many hours to set up and run such an event. I extend many, many thanks to Etienne, Jakob, Ashwin, Tiziano, Zbigniew, Juan, Pietro, Marianne, Aina, and Rike, for their time and efforts.

Here is a brief collection of memories from the week! You can check out more from this trip by looking at my photo journal on Flickr or YouTube playlist.

As soon as our bus arrived in Nikiti, I quickly went to my room to change, and then…beach time! Nikiti is a vacation destination, sometimes called “the Caribbean of Greece,” so there were tons of people on the boardwalk, often walking around in swimsuits or other beach gear. Considering the warm temperatures, I was more than happy to ditch my clothes and shoes for more beach-friendly suits and sarongs.
Most of the lectures were based on Python notebooks or code, but Tiziano’s lecture on git (which I found to be extremely useful to me, to my surprise) was on a good, old-fashioned whiteboard. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and came away with a much better understanding of both git and GitHub.

There were men sitting on the end of these rock piers and fishing almost all the time. It looked extremely relaxing.
Part of the morning walk every morning from the hotel to the museum took me past a section in Old Town Nikiti with several cool little restaurants, like this cozy one.
This was our venue for the programming workshop! The basement was reserved exclusively for us, and we had 15 laptops (with Linux) that were all set up for us and ready to go. We worked in pairs on the laptops, alternating between coding and supervising as decided by the pairs. I don’t get the chance to pair program very much, so it was a very cool chance to work with a bunch of different people and learn different styles.
I had a few deliverables I needed to finish for DTU, so one morning I walked to the museum a bit early to wrap up a few things. Let’s just say that the view from this “office” was pretty darn nice.
On Wednesday, we ended a little early and had a social event for the group. The beginning of the evening saw us at the beach, soaking up a few last rays of sunshine before the sun went down, and the end of the evening took us to this wonderfully cozy bar in Old Town, where we had free food, a free first round of drinks, and then a heart-warming chance to just sit and relax with everyone.
Bar cat in daylight. What a royal fellow.
On Friday evening, the east part of the village had a small festival with live music, free snacks and wine, and then dancing! The whole square was decorated very nicely, so it was nice to just sit in the space and listen to the local music players. Before too long, though, people were up and doing a Greek folk dance in the square, where you hold hands with each other and step in a circle. Naturally, I joined in basically as soon as it started, and tried my best not to step on people when we were suddenly supposed to step backwards. I succeeded…partially.

The gifts from the mayor included two containers of Greek honey (which that area is famous for), olive oil, and a small container of alcohol, all of which were packaged in small enough bottles that we could take them on the plane! We had a lot of discussion over what type of alcohol was in the bottle, and after consulting our three Greek students, we came to the conclusion that the alcohol was tsipouro with anise, not ouzo. Not that it mattered that much to us, anyway. 😛
Watching Denmark come into view from the plane window really cemented the fact that I was coming back, it was time to re-enter my life as a full-time wind energy researcher. But, I still had the memories and heaps of knowledge that I had gained during my time with my fellow students and the tutors in Nikiti. Thanks to everyone, for making such a great experience for me. Until next time. <3

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