Margarita Bintsi shares her experience of meeting new people and enjoying recreational activities at ICSVSS Summer School; a week focusing on computer vision – the science and technology of making machines that see.

Group photo of event participants

Having in mind that summer schools can be extremely useful for becoming more familiar to computer vision, I was assured that the chance to go to one after my MRes year and before the start of my PhD, would be a great boost for my PhD. Therefore, I applied for the International Computer Vision Summer School (ICVSS) whose line up of speakers and structure looked particularly interesting.

The summer school takes place every year and lasts for a week. It is held in a big, luxurious hotel, located right by the beach, in the south of Sicily. When I read the detailed programme, I was both excited and overwhelmed. On one hand, the courses and lectures sounded really intriguing. However, there were lectures scheduled for both the mornings and evenings almost every day, along with reading groups and poster sessions, making me think that I would need to study all day with hardly any time to relax. While I expect summer schools to be intense, there was part of me that longed for a summer in Sicily to involve trips to the beach in the Mediterranean sun. Hence, I began my journey with mixed feeling. 

It only took me a few hours to realise how wrong I was. Upon my arrival at the Catania airport, I had a while to wait until the summer school bus came to take everyone to the hotel. From these first hours, I could see that both organisers of the school, who were there to help us, as well as the other students were very open and communicative. Generally, I am extremely nervous about socialising with new people. However, everybody was in a good mood and willing to talk, so much so that meeting half, if not the whole, of the bus could be described as effortless by the end of the ride. When we arrived at the hotel just after 10pm, the organising committee had kindly arranged for the the hotel staff to have dinner waiting for us.  

At this point, I think it’s the right time to talk about the food. I cannot even adequately describe how much food there was. I constantly had this huge internal struggle to take only the quantity needed, but also try out everything I like. This kept happening during every single meal, throughout the whole week. The result, as one would expect, was that I gained a few pounds, but it was worth it.

Participants sitting at a lecture

Every morning there were lectures from 9am until lunch time. I found the lectures truly intuitive and interesting. The quality of the lecturers, combined with the structure of the lecture, made the content easy to follow and enjoy. Every lecture started with an explanation of the basic terms and theory – ensuring that even those of us without a relevant background could understand the subject- and was ended with more specialised and difficult points.  

After morning lectures, students were given a few hours off to have lunch and chill. Those most desperate for sun, myself included, squeezed in a bit of swimming pool or beach time. Since the conference hotel was right by the beach, it was easy to travel between the two in a short period of time.

Sandy beach in Sicily

Most days, lunch was followed by some additional lectures or reading groups. Afterwards, dinner was served. There was something special planned every night, like poster sessions accompanied with local wine tasting, dinner with traditional Sicilian Folk Dance, or an excursion to the unique and historical town Ragusa Ibla. The last evening included some optional exams and the closing ceremony, followed by a big disco party on the beach!  

Night picture of a square in Sicily

All in all, this summer school was a valuable experience for me, providing me with both the opportunity to gain new knowledge in the field of computer vision, and to network with interesting people that have similar interests to mine. I already met some of them a second time and I am sure that I will, hopefully, meet all of them again in the big conferences or in potential collaborations. I wish that I could go next year again and re-live this amazing experience!