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ISSN 1338-6182

A Student Magazine of the Department of British and American Studies

VOLUME 11 ISSUE 1

MARCH 2021

PERSPECTIVES ON CORONA: THE STRUGGLES AND CALMS IT BRINGS

& NOT ONLY THAT


EDITORIAL TEAM Capko, Andrej Čížová, Júlia Demo, Peter Gajdošová, Michaela Javoran, Daniel Kališová, Romana Koňakovská, Petra Krýslová, Natália Legardi, Vanessa Vaněková, Hilda Vrábel, Julián

GRAPHIC DESIGN Gofjárová, Andrea

COPY EDITORS Čížová, Júlia Grauzľová, Lucia Perspectives is an online student magazine published twice a year. https://issuu.com/magazineperspectives/ Publisher Katedra anglistiky a amerikanistiky Filozofická fakulta Univerzita Komenského Gondová 2 814 99 Bratislava

perspectives.ed@gmail.com | issuu.com/magazineperspectives/ | perspectivesfifuk.wordpress.com

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E D I TO R I A L A year has passed since we brought you a new issue of Perspectives, a year unlike any other. Our lives before the pandemic seem to have been lived in another world. We exchanged the daily hum-drum of KAA corridors for the harsh glow of the computer screen, the only medium through which our former lives could continue. At first, it seemed unbearable, but the thing is, most of us get used to anything. We at Perspectives were used to meeting regularly – less to work, more to hang out with each other. Thankfully, the simple scribe does not need anything but an open mind and a place to write. We present you with the newest “quarantine” issue. It speaks of some daily aspects of our lives in the pandemic, but there is much more. We hope that this is the last of such issues and that soon we’ll

be able to complain about the traffic lights at the Šafárikovo námestie and sit in front of the blue Gondova. When I wake up these days, I am reminded of the song Sun It Rises by the American band Fleet Foxes: “Sun rising Dangling there Golden and fair In the sky.” It seems to me as if life offers infinite possibilities in spring. So far, it is still more a dream than reality. Nevertheless, there will come a time when we once again roam the university corridors and indulge in the closeness of another human being – such a rare and special sight after a year of isolation.

xJÚLIA ČÍŽOVÁ perspectives |

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Content 6 10 12 14 15 18 20 22 24 26 29 30 32 35 37 39 40 44 46 48 51 4

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THE CORONA CALMS BEST OF 2020 THE MEMORIES DILEMMA MULTICULTURALISM IN BRATISLAVA COMENIUS’ MOST CONTROVERSIAL STATE EXAMINATIONS OF 2020 BENEFITS OF READING AND WHY YOU JURAJ ČERVENÁK - IT ONLY GETS BETTER BEING A FOREIGN STUDENT IN SLOVAKIA HOAXES ZOOM VS. TEAMS HOW TO DEAL WITH STRESS PROCRASTINATION A CURIOUS STORY OF TIMMIT GEBRU’S EXIT FROM GOOGLE WHO IS HANYA YANAGIHARA? HOW TO LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE BY YOURSELF HOW TO DEAL WITH IGNORANT RELATIVES IF SCIENCE IS HUMAN, WHAT DOES VALUE NEUTRALITY MEAN? FLAG FOOTBALL IN SLOVAKIA SOCIALIZING DURING THE PANDEMIC STUDENTS’ OPINION ON DISTANCE TEACHING CHRISTMAS DURING CORONA

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5 2 PANTONE COLOR OF THE YEAR 5 4 IMPROVE YOUR SLEEP AND LIVE A BETTER LIFE 5 6 EXERCISING 5 8 HOW DIZIS HELPED ME THROUGH LOCKDOWN

p. 40 p. 48

p. 51 p. 6

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CORONA LIFE |

The Corona Calms author | Andrej Capko Looking at the news headlines, Facebook feeds and government press releases, this period appears to be anything but calm. We didn’t ask for coronavirus one time and we certainly didn’t wish for it the next time this fall. Many of us had to leave their dorms, willingly or less so, and once again had to settle down in apartments or houses where, vying for the already feeble WIFI connection with several other family members, we try to make the most out of PJs Teams classes. We have to go shopping ninjastyle, masked and dodging other people, and every potential cough or sneeze in public comes close to triggering a panic attack. As cliché as this sounds, we’re living difficult times, not only on the outside, but in our heads, in our minds. The things that usually helped us maintain mental balance – going for a coffee or a beer with friends, working out at the gym, spontaneous McDonald’s runs or visiting Martinus “just to have a look” and leaving with three books because “you need them for an essay” or “you deserve them” - all these have suddenly become difficult or straight up impossible. We might get caught up in the vicious cycle of schoolwork and procrastination. Home, if it ever felt big, is suddenly a tiny space. And watching the daily reports of our prime minister, one is tempted to start questioning whether there was any order to this world. Those are huge loads for our poor minds! And yet, amid the havoc and the ripples or the sea storm of corona, there are moments and places that make us calm. As if the wind has suddenly stopped blowing for a second. The mental chatter stops, the mind winds down, the puzzle seems to fit perfectly (props to all the fellow OCDs out there). I want to take you to these places and times, the way I saw them and felt them during the first and the second wave of this corona-storm. Let me show you my two primary Corona Calms.

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Climb that goddamn mountain!

Alone evening strolls

Being outdoors and climbing rocks were some of the biggest antidotes to the coronavirus that I could find. I didn’t exactly climb mountains, though. If you’ve ever heard about bouldering, then that’s what I’m doing. If not, I climb boulders. I’ve been climbing for about eleven years now, and it’s safe to say it is now a stable part of my life. Apart from physical fitness, it brings me the feelings of mental strength, satisfaction and joy. During the first lockdown phase, I would take my climbing shoes, chalk bag and a crashpad (a pad you bring there and back again), hopped on my bicycle and cycled to the nearest crag. There I usually enjoyed the uncommonly dry and warm spring season and felt at ease being in my natural habitat. Being alone can be daunting sometimes and feelings of anxiety crept up even during those moments, but they would usually disappear if not paid too much attention. Once I found myself puffing my way up a steep hill in sunlit woods, looking for a piece of rock, which I didn’t find, but I ended up on a beautiful ledge, surrounded by early spring flowers and basking in the warm sun. Blue skies, fresh grass, and a veil of silence over the country below. A moment of complete stillness. A balm for the mind.

Backpack front, crashpad back, bicycle under. Safety first (or second)

Such views are a balm for the soul The advantage of online classes they can be held out perspectives |

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Home (not) alone Sharing a small apartment with two academically engaged people could be problematic. There were moments of tension, but for the most part my mom and sister were the islands of sanity in the busy and chaotic Pandemic sea. We supported each other and cheered each other on. Whether it was my sister studying for maturita (which didn’t really happen) and prepping for university admissions, mom putting together statistics lessons for her students or me stressing out about my bachelor’s thesis, we had each other’s backs. However, once evening came, we turned into enemies and we knew no mercy. It was time for the Settlers of Catan. Games are great for both relaxing and engaging the Settlers of Catan - if you don’t know it, you should! mind. We developed number theories, hypothesized about placements, ate popcorn and enjoyed the evenings spent around the game table. We also played online games with my uncle and his family, anything from crosswords to tic-tac-toe. For his sixtieth birthday, we prepared an online presentation, shared it with him and virtually celebrated together. And every now and then, I was getting my butt kicked at an online arcade game Brawlhalla by my girlfriend! Thus family, alongside nature and climbing, are the two anchors that hold strong even when a storm is raging everywhere around. There were other things, small things that made the pertaining chaos and anxiety of these times a bit more bearable. Krupicová kaša in the morning, with melted butter on top and sprinkled with Granko. A spontaneous ride in a car as old as the hills, just because having a bit of time for oneself and a smooth ride up the near village seemed like a good idea. The happiness when a shirt you ordered to support your friend’s shop comes and you can proudly wear it. And when the times got worse and even going out didn’t seem like an option, either because of fear or lack of time, just taking a short break, looking at the river and taking a deep breath, a reminder that there is still a world outside and it will continue to be there. This will pass at some point. Until it does, let’s look for those places and moments of stillness and grounding, whether they’re strong pillars like nature or family, or little ones like krupicová kaša and a nice balcony view. I don’t want to preach and am certainly not a health professional. However, these things helped me tremendously and keep doing so even now. If you are feeling anything like I did – stress, panic, anxiety etc. – then I can only tell you for myself that thinking about them made me cope way better. And even when we come back to ‘normal’, a new normal, let’s keep them. They can do wonders. Just by being there.

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Even little walks by the river when the weather is not perfect brought a bit of calmness

This is what kept my sanity in check

Window view that never disappoints

Beautiful view on the solitary ledge One never knows what wonders are hidden just behind the corner

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CORONA LIFE |

Best of

author | Peter Demo

The year 2020. We all agree that the past year brought us many, not that cheerful surprises. There are plenty of things that didn’t go as we planned, but that’s not the main idea of this article. Please take a seat, make yourself comfortable, and let’s focus on the positive things that happened the previous year.

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If you care about our nature and environment I hope you’ll be interested to know that Sweden became the third European country to eliminate coal from electricity production. What pleases me much more is the fact that Sweden managed to achieve this great milestone in a twoyear advance. Speaking of nature, did you hear about the concert for plants? Like much of Europe, Spain also survived very tough moments as the Coronavirus raged on. Among many institutions that had to close down was the famous Gran Teatre Liceu (the Barcelona Opera House). Thanks to social distancing rules, the first online performance after reopening was very interesting. Except for viewers around the world, the beautiful performance was also enjoyed by more than 2200 potted plants distributed all over the velvet seats in the opera. Organizers believe that this act will help us to reflect on everything that we do. Once the concert was over, the plants were subsequently delivered to health professionals, specifically from the Clínic de Barcelona hospital, accompanied by a certificate from the artists. Pandas are famously quite lazy when it comes to procreating. However, 2020 was quite successful for them. A panda couple at Hong Kong’s Ocean Park zoo had long frustrated its keepers because of this issue. The zoo closed in January due to the coronavirus, but the lack of crowds seems to have encouraged the pandas to finally get playful. It seems that perhaps all the pair needed was a bit of privacy in order to mate. This is always an important development for the species, as the species is listed as vulnerable. Not only pandas decided to make a move. On August 12, which is the World Elephant Day, the Kenya Wild Life Service reported that the country’s elephant population has more than doubled in 30 years. Additionally, one of the most popular parks in Kenya, the Amboseli National Park, is experiencing an elephant baby boom. About 170 elephant calves were born in September 2020 and more are expected. The year 2020 made also progress in gender equality questions. No country has yet achieved gender equality but there are clear pockets of progress. According to the United Nations’ World’s Women 2020 report, women’s representation in parliament has more than doubled globally. There are now 20 countries with

women as the heads of state or government. In 1995, there were only 12. Apart from politics, the number of female directors increased too. Also, Scotland became the first country in the world to make period products free for all. This move should help those on low income. Kazakstan, a country generally known for great oil production per year, or for the fictional Kazakh journalist Borat, took a great step towards human rights and signed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, committing it to abolish the death penalty. What about gastronomy? Do you think that 2020 also affected this area? You are right! If you ever get a craving for the one and only famous Swedish meatballs from IKEA, you don’t need to wait in a row to get ones anymore. Ikea shared a recipe for Swedish meatballs and cream sauce so we can all make the popular dish by ourselves during the coronavirus pandemic. The company published its “secret” recipe on its U.K. Twitter account. All the ingredients and steps can be found in an Ikea diagram reminiscent of its furniture assembly instructions. Imagine, you suddenly hear a song that is stuck in your head for the whole day. You want to share this song with your friends, but you don’t know the name of the song. However, thanks to the new hum-to-search feature by Google, allowing you to whistle, sing, or hum to discover the song, you can say goodbye to situations like these. Google built machine learning models that can match your hum, whistle, or singing to the right “fingerprint.” When you hum a melody into Search, these machine learning models transform the audio into a number-based sequence representing the song’s melody. Google’s models are trained to identify songs based on a variety of sources, including humans singing, whistling or humming, as well as studio recordings. See? The year 2020 wasn’t that bad after all. The information mentioned above is just some of the better stuff that happened. I know, all of us went through some rough times, but don’t let those things take away your passion and enthusiasm for this new year. If I may add a little wisdom at the end, it would be Budha’s words: “No matter how hard the past, you can always begin again.” perspectives |

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PHILOSOPHY |

author | Julián Vrábel

The Memories Dilemma Youtube’s algorithm “accidentally” recommended a segment of an old TV series to me. It was called “Maxihra”. You could phone in and play games through landline. The feeling of nostalgia I felt right at that moment ripping through my brain took me back to the period of my life when I was focused mostly on playing video games. I was a total nerd, playing on Playstation One all the time. Many of the adventure games which I was playing took a lot of time and so I needed to save my progress in the game on an internal memory chip in the console. This whole process got me thinking about how we create and store memories and if there is a way to save them forever, to be able to revisit them and replay them like in a video game. Could we ”save“ the ultimate game - our life? The easiest way to capture a memory is by taking a photo. It brings you back to that moment in time, lets you relive it in your mind. But images can be manipulated and adjusted to change our recollection of it or in some cases, to change history. Nikolai Yezhov was the head of an agency operating in the Soviet Union. After falling out of favour with Joseph Stalin he was secretly executed, his ashes were dumped in a mass grave and Stalin had him airbrushed out of photographs, not only removing any association but erasing him from history. Photo manipulation has also been used for much more subtle changes, for example a procedure called tobacco bowlderization, when a government agency or publisher removes any sign of tobacco use from photos or videos. Old copies of the book Goodnight Moon show illustrator Clement Hurd holding a cigarette, but new editions have removed it. Or if you were to buy an Abbey Road poster in the United States, you might notice that Paul McCartney is missing a cigarette. Even in E.T the guns were changed to walkie-talkies for the 20th Anniversary Release. 12

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An easy way to keep a memory alive is by doing exactly that, staying alive. Just because your body dies it doesn’t mean your mind has to. In 1970, Dr. Robert White took the severed head of a monkey and transplanted it onto another monkey’s headless body. It was able to smell, see, hear, taste and eat. The problem was that the monkey was completely paralyzed from the neck down since they were unable to attach the monkey’s spinal cord. It survived for a few days and then it died. More recently, Dr. Sergio Canavero came up with a plan to do the first complete human head transplant with reconnected spine... for proposed $13 million. But then there is the problem of aging. Our minds would grow older, and as our memories deteriorate, we would need a way to record those memories. Using an MRI, scientists were able to capture the visual activity in the brain and reinterpret it as video. The researchers used 5,000 hours of random videos from YouTube to build a reference library to try and reconstruct what the brain was seeing anc compare it to what was actually being shown. And the idea of building a reference library so that the computer could visually represent what was happening in our minds mimics how we reconstruct our own memories. As the director David Lynch once said, “we only dream of images we already have inside of us.” Similar to pareidolia, where we see faces or forms in things that aren’t. Like the famous face on Mars. There is even a sub-reddit dedicated to pareidolia! It’s easy to think of our memory as video files, something that we access when we need it and remember it exactly how it was. But our memories are a reconstruction, not a record. In essence, every memory you have is a memory of a memory. The more times you replay that memory, the more it changes. A great example of this is Patrick Liddell’s YouTube video where he


uploaded, downloaded and then re-uploaded the same video 1000 times. By the end, it becomes completely unrecognizable. And to a certain degree, that is what happens within our own minds. When these gaps occur, we fill them in with the images we already have. We even construct memories that never occurred. When it comes to implanting memories, kind of like Total Recall, there is Doctor Elizabeth Loftus who, in her book “The Myth of Repressed Memory”, talks about an experiment she conducted where subjects were given four descriptions of events by a family member that had happened in their lives. One of the stories was always about the subject being lost in a mall when they were younger and that story was always false. But when presented with this fake story, over 25% of the subjects remembered it happening. Some in such detail that they were able to recall sights, sounds and people that weren’t even in the description they had read - they had created new details. Once that memory is implanted in us, we believe it. It becomes infallible in our mind. The Door Study is a fantastic example of how we miss things even if they are right in front of us. The person asking for directions is replaced by someone completely different and the person helping doesn’t even realize. If we can’t even trust our own memories, then what can we use to accurately record our experiences and save our memories? In the great book “Elephants on Acid and other Bizarre Experiments”, the author Alex Boese talks about an experiment in which

fiber electrodes were inserted into the visionprocessing center of a cat’s brain. The cats were sat in front of a TV screen and software was able to decode the recorded information, turning it back into an image that closely resembled what the cat was watching. And while attaching electrodes to your brain is a little extreme compared to something like Google Glass which can also record what your eyes see in a sense, there is still one problem: if we watch a recording of exactly what happened, we still have to use our memories of those events to recreate how it smelled, how it felt, what it was like. Then there is the Assassin’s Creed idea of passing down memories through DNA. A Youtuber MatPat made a great Game Theory episode on this topic where he mentions how scientists have been able to save data, like Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech, in the form of DNA. But when it comes to our memories, we might not be able to save them in real life the way you can in a video game, we might not remember clearly what we wanted to do in the first place but that is what makes us who we are. Every experience we have, every memory, is unique to us. Even if it is experienced by multiple people, our perception of it, the manner in which we play it back in our mind again and again is entirely unique...even if we might have overlooked a few details. Image attribution: By Abouc%w7 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons. wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=97211365

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CULTURE |

Multiculturalism in Bratislava author | Vanessa Legardi Walking in the streets of Bratislava has a special vibe to it, there is something about this city that makes you feel comfortable and relaxed. Be it the summer when the sun shines and people are enjoying a beautiful day alongside the Danube, be it in the autumn when the leaves dance to the musicality of the wind and children run with their backpacks ready to go back to school, be it in the winter when friends share a glass of Slovak punch while staring at the Christmas lights, or be it in the spring when the flowers bloom and musicians sing on Hviezdoslavovo Square surrounded by the beautiful historical buildings, Bratislava has a unique vibe at any time of the year. Bratislava is not home only for people from all over Slovakia, but it is also a home for people from many other countries. When walking in Bratislava, one can enjoy the beautiful streets, the historical buildings, and also, if you pay attention, you can hear several foreign languages being spoken. This adds to the several great things about this city, multiculturalism. One good thing COVID-19 has given us is realising that it is in our human nature to be being close to each other. Even during these hard times, sharing a moment with your beloved ones is not impossible. Businesses such as restaurants and coffee shops, in their attempt to not go bankrupt, have created a special atmosphere on their terraces. Heaters, blankets and hot wine are the perfect combination for a night out with friends in these chaotic (and very cold) times. So, in such warm atmosphere everybody feels welcome. By visiting one of these places in the city centre, one gets immersed in a multicultural atmosphere. Imagine this, one table and five friends sitting,

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all of them from different countries, their native languages are all different, they all come from different backgrounds and cultures. Each of them shares a story about their country and what brought them to Slovakia. Some of them say they came to study, some of them came for work. Their reasons vary, some of them opted for Slovakia because of its free education, some of them received excellent job offers and some of them just wanted to try something new. Regardless the reason, these friends agree on the fact that Slovakia is a cosy country, in which most people show themselves to be friendly. It’s true, it is a small country and Bratislava a small city, but it is growing and becoming more and more multicultural. Each year, dozens of English teachers, from countries such as the UK or Ireland, visit Bratislava to work here and fill the positions of “native English speakers”, a treat for all English learners. Also, many Western European students visit Bratislava to participate in different exchange programs or even to stay here for the whole period of their studies. And a great number of citizens from the Balkans have settled down in Bratislava. Not only Europeans, but also Asians have a strong presence in Bratislava. In fact, the Vietnamese community is one of the largest foreign minorities living in Slovakia. They provide us with their delicious cuisine and also, they are experts in beauty care. As you can see, Bratislava has become a multicultural city, in which people from all over the world have decided to stay. And who could blame them? Despite the fact that the rent is rather high, this city has a lot of positive things to offer.


| EDUCATION

Comenius’ Most Controversial Online State Examinations of 2020 authors | Michaela Gajdošová & Hilda Vaněková

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From the Students’ Perspective

2020 is a tough year and certainly all of us got through some crucial changes in our learning experience. One of the changes concerned state examination, which, inevitably, were held online. And if you excuse me, I will start with a story of my own. Everything would have gone smoothly. Except, it did not. But first things first. I woke up and it was a special day – it was the day of my thesis defence. Ever since I got up, I was quite nervous. I remember reading messages in a group chat where my classmates were discussing whether all of us should connect to the Teams call at the beginning, or whether we should connect one by one according to alphabetical order. I put the phone down. The messages were making me more nervous… and hungry. So, I went to kitchen and started preparing a marvellous breakfast. Coffee? Hell yes! To not have a cup of coffee on a day like this would be the end of me. Oh, and some cereal and fruit would be awesome too, to ease my hunger. Some time passed. Preparing breakfast is a quite relaxing activity … probably TOO relaxing (I

was still wearing my comfy pyjamas). What could possibly go wrong? Well, in the midst of all this euphoria, I forgot about my thesis defence. It was 8:02 when I realized ‘Oh my God [enter many swear words] I have to connect!’ My classmates were correct. We were supposed to connect at the beginning and listen to the introductory information about the thesis defence. Trust me, the speed of light was nothing compared to how quickly I undressed, put on some better-looking T-shirt, brushed my hair and connected to Teams. I saw everyone there – teachers, my classmates, they all were already connected, and I thought ‘phew, I am not late’ since I did not hear anyone talking yet. Except, after some time I realized that they were opening their mouths and I couldn´t hear a thing! What. Now? This is just my luck! I talked to them for about 3 minutes. One of the teachers messaged that they could hear me well. Ok, so at least the microphone was working. Guys, now I will give you an advice: always check what audio device you have set as default. Because, you guessed it right: I had my speakers perspectives |

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defaulted and forgot to disconnect them. From that point onwards, everything went smoothly. Surprisingly, even the thesis defence itself! After I finished, I turned off my mic and camera. Two other students were presenting after me and then the final evaluation took place. So, according to my calculations, I had around one hour of spare time. I looked behind me and there was this big pile of clothes waiting for me to iron. Let‘s call it ‘using time effectively’. After an hour I moved the ironing board away, so it would not be visible when I turn on the camera and listen to final evaluation. For some reason, when I turned it on the ironing board was TOO visible and it was late to move it away. I tried to block the view with my body, but this was not successful – it was huge and too close to the laptop. Thankfully, it seemed like nobody noticed. After the congratulatory speech, one of the teachers said: ‘And someone even managed to iron!’ Everybody started laughing when they noticed my ironing board. x Michaela Gajdošová

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On a hot summer day, I was nervously waiting for the beginning of my state examination. I was scheduled for a particular time. At least I thought so. So the coordinator´s job was to add and expel people from the group, based on who´s next in and which professors will be in the commission. I was nervously waiting, dressed up nicely, 30°C in my room, counting down the minutes and seconds. And when my scheduled time came, nothing happened. The coordinator did not add me to the group, and I had absolutely no idea why. There was no other choice but to wait. Then the coordinator posted a message into the chat, saying that they were running late. What? Why? And most importantly, for how long? So I waited for another hour, drunk my glass of water and of course, thanks to that I needed to use the bathroom urgently, but I had no courage to stand up and walk away from my computer, since I had no idea for how long I would be waiting. I sweated, I was nervous, I was waiting for Godot, I had to pee, which was making me even more nervous and what´s more, I was afraid that the municipal office would play the public broadcast. I 16

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managed to ask the people in the municipal office to keep the regular public radio announcements for later, but since we were delayed, that just became more nerve-wrecking. I feared that they would start announcing: “A local farmer offering potatoes and cabbage for sale.” But luckily, before the announcement started, the coordinator let me in to the group, finally. Then I had to go around my room and show the committee my room, to make sure that there is no one inside, and of course, I had to show my desk in detail, in case there were any materials, which I could use during the examination. As for the examination – some randomly selecting system chose my question. Unfortunately, there was no possibility of preparation before the discussion. The whole examination was held in the style of „Tell us what you know“. Well, after weeks of studying, my head was full of necessary and unnecessary information, which I had no time to think about and separate. I just started spitting out anything than came to my mind. Some professors were nice to me and considered the fact that I had no possibility to prepare, but not all of them were like that. So at the end of my examination, after all the nerve-wracking hours filled with sweat, they literally grilled me alive with their remarks such as ”you did not mention this, and you did not mention that“. But the damage was done. It was all over. And just 2 minutes later after the coordinator dropped me out of the group, the public radio started announcing about the local farmer selling his goods. But I made it, I survived it, I got my diploma and I have the job I love and the job which I studied for. P.S.: The reason why the examination was delayed was because the Head of the Committee, an elderly professor, had some “technical issues “ and could not connect to the online examination. x Anonymous

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It was the day of my state examination. Everything went smoothly and though I was a bit nervous I guess that’s normal. I connected to a scheduled meeting in Teams and my examination began. There were two professors in the same room, sitting next to each other, but there should have been three of them. I was actually glad, because the professor that wasn’t present, was


not a favourite of mine, actually, I was frightened of her. Maybe she had to use the loo or went out to get lunch. Who knew, but I was glad she was not there, and I immediately became more relaxed, so I could handle the stress much better. When my time was almost up, I unpredictably said something silly, which was OK with the professors, and I heard a laugh. But it wasn’t the professors on the camera. Their mouths weren’t moving. So, who was that? Suddenly, I saw a head, popping out in the corner of the camera. It was THAT “frightening” professor, who was sitting there the whole time. She was in the corner, out of the camera’s sight, quietly listening to my whole examination. I was shocked to find out who it was but at the same time I was glad that I wasn’t aware of her presence till the end of my examination. x Anonymous

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Another student of ours lives in a village. That day, when her examination was planned, the weather was all sunny the whole day long. Only a short while before she was about to start, the weather suddenly changed and a there came a storm. The storm slowed down the internet connection and disconnected her. So we joked that she should have ordered better weather. x Anonymous

Do you have any out of the ordinary state exam stories? Feel free to share them with us!

From the Teachers’ Perspective

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A day before the state examinations we tried and check the internet connection with students, also checking their background. When we saw the messy rooms and the unmade beds, we decided to tell the students that we would be giving credits for tidy rooms and nicely made beds (like in summer camps) and we also pointed out that girlfriends or boyfriends hiding in the beds are not welcome. x Anonymous

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One of the most regular situations was when a family member, mostly a mother, entered the room and started asking questions. x Anonymous

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One of our students was really stressed out, because he had some connection difficulties. However after 10 minutes, he finally managed to connect. So right at the beginning, he let us all know that his suit is drenched in sweat. When he finally started speaking, in the middle of a sentence he grabed a plastic 1,5l bottle of water and started drinking it all up. Well, staying hydrated is important, so we waited until he finished. perspectives |

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LITERATURE |

Benefits of Reading and Why You Should Read Every Day author | Romana Kališová “My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer and I have my mind... and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone if it is to keep its edge. That’s why I read so much, Jon Snow.” – Tyrion Lannister

Nowadays, when our lives have turned upside down and we have had to learn how to change our behavior and stay sane being stuck at home, it can be hard to make ourselves do anything. You may feel bored or vice versa – tired and overloaded with responsibilities. You may be trying to kill your time, or you may also find hard to save some free time for yourself. No matter what the situation is, you can always do one beneficial thing: read. As there are loads of things you can do outside your online classes, you may wonder, ‘Why should I spend my free time reading when I can watch Netflix or YouTube instead and learn basically the same thing as I would from books?’ Here are just a few benefits of reading, which may convince you. According to research conducted by the University of Liverpool back in 2010, reading has a great impact on our mental health. Liverpool scientists found out that there is a link between depression therapy and reading. The program was called “Get into Reading” and worked in a similar way to university courses concerning literature. There was a group of people suffering 18

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from depression and they attended reading sessions for 12 months. The reading material was read aloud in the session and followed by discussion. The members participated voluntarily and talked about personal feelings, opinions and experiences related to a particular text. Significant improvements in their mental health were noticed. Their symptoms were reduced, and evidence suggested that it was mainly because of concentration and relaxation caused by reading and discussing. The more you read, the better your vocabulary gets. This works both for your native language and for the second language acquisition. You are subconsciously acquiring vocabulary and language structures by exposing yourself to new words which sometimes you understand only from the context. It is worthy to check their meaning if you don’t understand and dive more into a topic because this can make your reading even more beneficial. Moreover, if you read about different things every time, there’s a higher chance of you gaining different language skills and vocabulary from different fields. So,


simulate the reality pretty well, and our emotional response is authentic. It was even scientifically proved that if you read fiction, your degree of empathy is higher, and you understand other people’s action and thoughts better. You are also able to understand yourself and your emotions in a better way as you read about different people’s thoughts, values, or the life situations they’re going through. Long story short, reading helps you interpret your emotions and emotions of other people. It’s up to you what you are going to read, but as you can see, even scientists claim that reading is a necessity for your well-being and health. During the hard times like this, taking time for yourself with a good book or a magazine can be one of the best options you have. Your eyes will take a break from the computer screen, and your brain will boost its function without you putting too much pressure on yourself. So enjoy all the mentioned benefits of reading and read about the things you’re interested in!

read magazines, historical fiction, political news, poems, lifestyle blogs, and scientific articles. And in the meantime, watch yourself grow in communication. This can also be useful in your language studies because it helps you become a better writer. Closely connected with language benefits, reading has a great impact on your brain. Your brain basically needs reading for its proper function. It’s a necessity just like healthy food or workouts for your body. Your brain finds this stress-reducing activity vital because it makes the connectivity in the left temporal cortex of your brain heightened. That’s the area of the brain which is associated with language comprehension. Not only that, it increases the capacity of your memory and improves general reading comprehension and fluid intelligence. Fluid intelligence is a term used for the ability to solve problems by understanding meaningful segments of the situation. Reading increases not just your cognitive intelligence as mentioned earlier but also your emotional intelligence. It’s mostly because you encounter different life situations you usually don’t face in your real life or the other way around – you can relate to them. Therefore, reading can

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19


LITERATURE |

Juraj Červenák – It Only Gets Better! author | Andrej Capko

An Angel Underground (Anjel v podsvetí) - no, this is not a war movie or a really quirky musical from the hippie ear, this is the newest book from Juraj Červenák. Originating from the mythical land around Banská Štiavnica, Mr. Červenák has already been hailed as one of the most prolific fantasy and historical fiction writers of our times and one might venture as far as to say he is one of the best contemporary Slovak writers. He started his professional writing career in 1993. Surprisingly, he started publishing in the Czech Republic first before moving onto the Slovak scene. He initially became famous for his historical fantasy from the first Slavic period (before the 10th century AD). Novels like Černokňažník (The Black Mage), Čierny Rogan (Rogan the Black) or Bohatier (Hero), were laden with fantasy elements. Witches and wizards, potions and poisons, dragons and other mythical creatures weave their way through Červenák’s stories but are combined with historical events and characters to make a very special mix where fantasy meets historical accuracy. His series The Adventures of Captain Báthory is even closer to historical fiction. This five-piece saga tells a story of Kornélius Báthory and his search for a lost son, but also gets into historical details of life in the Hungarian empire (including Slovakia), Ottoman empire and the Middle East, the Balkans and more. Furthermore, Červenák is very diligent in historical accuracy – he studied historical events, structures and items

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in detail to be as true to the historical reality as possible. His castles and fortresses are not just blocks of stone – they have intricately built bastions, crenellations and barbicans, his Turks do not smoke pipes but nargiles and are not just officers, but pashas, musahibs or kadis. If somebody uses a weapon, you are sure to know whether it was a shashka, yatagan or a schiavona, and if a firearm is fired, you won’t get away without knowing the intricate details of its firing mechanism. His focus on historical accuracy is perhaps most palpable in his series about Captain Joachim Stein and a notary with Slovak roots Matej Barbarič. In these historical detective stories, he almost completely drops fantastic elements and focuses solely on what detective work might have looked like in the 16th and 17th century. His main characters – captain Joachim Stein, notary Matej Barbarič (fittingly from Banská Štiavnica) and Stein’s adjutant and investigatory specialist with peculiar methods Bohdan Jaroš – are all vastly different in character, but together make a perfect crime-solving and laugh-inducing trio. Their investigatory scene always differs – it all started in Banská Štiavnica with the first book and new crimes took the characters, all together or separately, to locations within the Habsburg empire – Pressburg, Prague, Vienna, Trutnov and finally Pilsen, where Červenák’s last story, released in October 2020, takes place.


The stories within this series only seem to be getting longer and thus far, this one is the longest. Angel starts with Stein and Jaroš, who are to travel to the famous city of Pilsen where the Habsburg monarch Rudolph II. currently resides, since his official residence in Prague is under the threat of plague. Stein is driven to Pilsen on account of his brother, the district officer and the city sheriff, who asks him for help in a mysterious case. A diplomat’s son has disappeared, a huge blow to the trust of his majesty’s safety in Pilsen, and the underground tunnels are said to be haunted by a wailing demon. Court intrigues, spies and a hedonistic brotherhood further complicate the matters and Stein and Jaroš might need help in their case. Who’s behind it all and what secrets dwell in the dark and damp Pilsen underground? Having read some of Červenák’s works, one can easily recognize his handwriting even from this short paragraph. Mysterious and somewhat fantastic features set in a real historical time and place are the precursors for gripping action. What may seem fantastic at the beginning is usually resolved in a rational, believable manner, but one is never sure until the very end. A great feature of Červenák’s series is that he connects several details in previous books to complete the most recent piece. When Stein and Jaroš are in Pilsen, they are known to be working for Matthias, Rudolph’s brother, and since the two noblemen don’t exactly share brotherly love, Stein and Jaroš are not exactly welcome in the city. Jaroš’s background as an executioner’s son is a cause for social unrest and disgust, and hints at how family background was a hinderance at those times. Červenák uses real names for places in his stories which, in addition to enhancing believability, makes for hilarious moments, especially in case of this book (details would spoil the readers’

entertainment). One aspect that, in my view, makes Červenák’s writing so appealing is the amount of details he includes. He goes a long way to study materials related to the age he is writing about. This is especially visible when browsing through some of his Facebook post or articles. The drudgery really shows in his works. Lastly, it is his characters, whose roles and traits have already been established throughout the series, that make Angel a binge-read. Stein’s hardiness and sense of responsibility combined with the stubbornness and chastity bordering on bigotry, combined with Jaroš’s almost eerie calmness, which is only somewhat replaced by a little spark in his eyes when using his investigation instruments, make them an interesting duo. And should Barbarič’s talkative, light-hearted and alltogether witty persona complement the two, the pages of the book turn as if by themselves. When looking for points of criticism, one needs to consider the genre. There are far more complex works in the world of fantasy literature, Scandinavian novels might bring more tension to the table and works of great historians will likely provide more intricate and accurate details regarding the historical period. But what Červenák does, and in my opinion quite brilliantly, is connecting them all together in a piece that is both gripping and fun to read. It is easy to get lost in the works of Tolkien or Martin, get chilled to death by Nesbo or perhaps bored by Zamarovský, even though their works are on the pedestal in their field. Červenák has created, in a sense, a field of his own. His writing, cummulating in his latest book Anjel v podsvetí, is a great blend of historically infused fiction spiced up by a detective story narrative, and it gets progressively more difficult to put down the book when one chapter ends. And that is, in my view, a sign of an entertaining and a worthwhile read! perspectives |

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CULTURE |

Being a Foreign Student in Slovakia How many countries have you visited? How did you feel about it? Did you miss your home country when you were away? Did you learn something new? Regardless of the number of times you have been to other countries, traveling always teaches you something new. It helps you to learn new languages, get to know new cultures and overcome the challenges of being far from you home country. To me living abroad did not only change my life, but also my way of seeing things. It provided me with a whole new perspective. It wasn’t easy, I faced challenges such as the language barrier and I used to feel lonely from time to time. However, living in Slovakia taught me a lot about myself, I met amazing people and got to explore this extraordinary country in the very heart of Europe. Certainly, the major problem I faced was not being able to speak Slovak. When I first came to Slovakia I didn’t even know how to say “hello” and I had some terrible experiences when trying to communicate with people, especially with those who didn’t speak English.

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But besides this difficulty, I always enjoyed my time here and it’s been 4 years since I moved to this beautiful country. Slovakia offers great opportunities for students. Universities are very active when it comes to organizing workshops or contests to keeps students engaged and motivated. Also, there is a whole list of financial benefits for students, from being able to travel by train for free to significant discounts in shops, restaurants and much more. The atmosphere in Slovak universities is friendly, open and caring, although it may be challenging, it is enjoyable and enriching to study guided by qualified, passionate and dedicated teachers. When it comes to having fun, there is always something to do here in Bratislava, there are many foreign students and people to hang out with. Bratislava is a great city, it is easy to travel to other big cities such as Vienna or Prague, there are also many places you can go for a walk or a swim in the summer. I asked some of my foreign friends, who also study here what their experience was like, and this is what I found out:


Bilge, Turkey. “I like that the city (Bratislava) is small, everything is reachable. The university library in the Old Town is nice and handy. Although, it is difficult to find a part-time job and even harder to cope with the Corona situation. I like living here, my career is fascinating. However, there are some things that could use be improved, such as communication between university and students. Other than that, I think Slovaks are nice and this country is truly beautiful.”

Pedro, Portugal. “I’m really enjoying my life here despite the COVID-19 situation, which I believe will get better soon. The city is very beautiful and warming. I like the locals so far, but the language is really hard. Bratislava has a great location that allows you to travel very easily. I need to try some more traditional food from here, but the ones I tried I liked. Let’s see about the cheese dishes. Also, it’s a very clean city with a lot of green spaces.” There is no doubt that the pandemic has changed everyone’s lives, however us students are hopeful it all will get better at some point. We thank our teachers for their patience and hard-work, and we are eager to go back to our university buildings and keep enjoying the advantages of living abroad, especially in such a beautiful and friendly city as Bratislava.

Stay safe x. Vanessa Legardi, Peru. perspectives |

23


WORLD HAPPENINGS |

Hoaxes

author | Peter Demo

“Kalau masih katanya, kamu harus cari tahu faktanya.” or in other words “if you keep saying that, verify\find out the facts."

Those are the words of Indonesian artist Iwan Esjepe, which I personally find very interesting, especially in these days. Hoaxes, fake news, misinformation, disinformation are everywhere. It doesn’t matter whether you turn on your TV, log into your Facebook account, or watch videos on YouTube. A big amount of news is popping out of nowhere.

We have to be very careful in dealing with this big amount of information and always try to choose the most reliable ones. Here is a collection of some hoaxes that managed to fool, believe it or not, the smartest brains all over the world, even you may

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have crossed your paths with them. Let's begin with the most interesting one and it is a community of flat-earthers. You definitely must have heard of them. These people actually believe that the earth is a disc with the Arctic circle in the center. You may ask what is on the edge? Well, the answer is very simple. A 150-foot-tall wall of ice which is guarded by Nasa employees to prevent people from climbing over and falling from the disc. It sounds trustworthy, right? The second popular hoax that is very popular these days is downloading a virus by watching a YouTube video. That’s why you get a message from your friendly neighborhood telling you that there is this video called "Martinelli" or "Dance of the Pope" and not to watch it at all cost, because after watching it your smartphone will be hacked, all your data will be stolen and the saddest thing - you can't use your smartphone, your most precious belonging! What a shame! Speaking of viruses, did you know that they are created by anti-virus companies? What is a better way to increase one's income than creating more demand? All the hackers working for anti-virus companies are being watched over by their own companies. They have new fake identities with fake positions in company just to keep them a secret. The identity of these hackers must be classified because if they were uncovered, the anti-virus companies would lose the trust of their customers, and of course, it would have some legal consequences. The origin of this hoax dates back to the 1960s when the PC game Core War was created. After installing this game, it would replicate itself each time it was run until it consumed your computer’s memory. You may have noticed that there is a big event to kick off and it is the presidential elections of the USA and hand in hand with this event comes another hoax. Did you notice that the former Democratic


candidate Hillary Clinton is a shape-shifting reptilian humanoid that enjoys drinking blood and eating human flesh? What is even scarier that she isn't the only one. Many popular leaders, singers, and actors are these creatures as well. They control every important institution and sadly it is too late to take any actions. And the one about inserting nanochips into our brain when testing for coronavirus and this coronavirus pandemic is just a cover for this? I bet you heard about that. But did you know that behind all of this is one of the most famous billionaires –Bill Gates? He not only wants to know your location, but he also wants to sterilize all women by this action. I almost forget about my favorite one about an astronaut called John Herschel who, thanks to his powerful telescope, was the first to observe unicorns and bipedal beavers on the moon. Interesting, right? And all of this is just the tip of the iceberg. But how can we protect ourselves in a world like this? Here are some useful tips, that any of us can do. First of all, we have to spot the fake news. How do we distinguish them, you may ask. The answer is simple - it is trusting your intuition. When it is too good to be true, or too bad, you suddenly start to notice many twisted facts or certain techniques that are supposed to make you angry and focus your attention on a particular thing. These are not hard to recognize. Then you continue to step 2 and that is reading deeper into the text. Try to find the journey of that message. Where was this text posted? If it is reposted, try to find the source. When was it posted? Focus on the publication date of the original text. Is it a recent post or is the origin dated long ago and has nothing to do with the current situation. If you find any weird links in the article, do not hesitate

and verify them. Did you find any blind spots in that article? Don't be afraid to publicize the information. Find some statements which support your claims. There is also one thing to remember and it is the author of the article. Do you know him/her? Was his primary intention to write the article in a satiric and ironic way? Or is this author even real? Upon mastering the second step, we can move on to another step and that is the evaluation of the collected evidence. This is the most difficult part. If you're dealing with a study, try to look up some information about the author and consider whether the author is trustworthy. Focus on facts. Are they trustworthy? Are those facts more subjective or objective? After answering all these questions, the next step on you. Decide whether you can trust the information mentioned in the text or not, whether you are going to spread the information further, or try to prove its unreliability. To sum up, finding and identifying misinformation and hoaxes is not very easy, but I believe that finding the truth online can be fun. It's like solving a puzzle or playing a detective investigating a robbery. But you're not alone in this fight. There are many initiatives on the internet that are trying to build a system to provide provenance and history for digital media, empowering consumers to verify its credibility. So, let’s fight hoaxes together! One last thing to remember - THINK before you post or share any information further.

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TECHNOLOGY |

Zoom vs. Teams author | Andrej Capko The Clash of Titans. David versus Goliath. Thin-crust vs. thick-crust pizza (ok, we all know thin crust is the best…). And Zoom versus MS Teams. During the past year, many of us have started using, or rather have been pushed by the situation to start using either or both. We have gotten more or less accustomed to their perks and flaws. Naturally, two opposing camps began to form. They both praise one and send the other to the pitiful depths of online communication hell, but the question remains. Which one is better? Maybe you have your answer ready right off the bat, perhaps you’re undecided and it is absolutely possible that you’re flabbergasted by this whole thing. Let me, therefore, dive deep into the muddy waters for you. It needs to be mentioned that both Zoom and Teams have their free and paid versions and while both are relevant, we will mainly deal with the full, paid versions of the programs. Both can also be used in a variety of ways and while I will mention some of their features relevant for other fields, I am specifically focusing on their usefulness for us – students and educators. Who are you, really? While I’m sure you’ve already heard of something related to Microsoft even during your primary school years, Zoom may be quite a new thing for you. Zoom Video Communications, Inc. was established in 2011 by Eric Yuan and only became popular in very recent years. One could even speculate that it was largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic that the use of Zoom has become so widespread. Even more surprising is the fact that Zoom didn’t actually bring a new wave of communication – it offered very similar functionality like Skype for Business or Google Hangouts, but in a much easier format. Zoom was also clever in their marketing. It offered 26

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free 40-minute conferencing calls and apart from businesses, it also targeted educational institutions with special offers. But Microsoft wasn’t far behind and with the launch of Teams in 2017, it did bring a change into the world of communication. Apart from conferencing, Teams offers Cloud storage space, connects with other apps like Word, Excel etc. and can even incorporate third-party apps to help with things like polls. It also targeted businesses and education and perhaps that is why Zoom and Teams became such competitors. But is one of them winning over the other? Let’s look at some of their prominent features. Before we do that, just a quick note on the Teams: Our university is largely focused on Microsoft and that’s not a coincidence. There are contracts signed and cooperation underway between the company and our school. That’s why use Teams so often and also why we’ve never used its free version.

3, 2, 1 ... FIGHT!

Interface The first thing we’ll look at is the interface. This is especially important when you want to see all your classmates (and not only those who are speaking at the moment), but is also crucial to avoid those awkward moments when you’re nervously looking for the screen sharing button and can’t find it. It can also help you easily locate the dreaded “share with sound” button, which prevents you from regularly quitting and re-


setting your shared presentation. Nice and easyto-use interface also makes everything a bit more appealing. While I’ve heard many people say that Zoom’s interface is much more intuitive and user-friendly, I find that for someone who is just starting off, both can feel equally confusing. However, with a bit of patience, Zoom does seem to be easier to use and I found myself being able to utilize many of its functions quite quickly. With Teams, it took me some time to figure things out. Both offer several viewing options for the participants, but it’s surprising that some viewing options on Teams are not available to Mac users. Oh yes, Mac and Windows, here we go again… Teams also has one special feature that Zoom doesn’t and that alone could make it the winner – Together view! (I’m kidding, but if you haven’t tried it out yet, do it. If nothing else, it’s fun to use at the first time) Also, even though Zoom has their icons and pop-up bars neat and at hand, the chat and desktop app design kind of ruin it for me. I find the Teams interface a bit more professional and congruent with the whole structure of the application.

Functionality By functionality, I largely mean how things work and how easy it is to use them. It’s probably the most important and the most complex category. I can’t possibly incorporate everything, but here’s at least a couple of things. Let’s look at streaming quality first. I’ve heard many people (including myself) say Zoom runs much more smoothly and allows for higher quality calls. But when I looked for proof, I couldn’t find any evidence supporting that claim. They share much the same system requirements, which are met and surpassed by most computers, with the only exception being that Zoom requires higher internet speed (3Mbps) to carry out a Full HD video call compared with 1.5Mbps for Teams. Perhaps that’s the key to the seemingly higherquality Zoom calls, but the details would probably require a more qualified expert. All I can say is that Zoom seems to provide better quality to some, but objectively they seem to be quite similar. Sharing options are again quite similar for both – you can share either your whole screen or

just a document, your browser or a presentation. Presentations is where it gets quite interesting. Firstly, some of you may have noticed that some teachers choose to do their presentations in presentation mode, while others only show you the ‘raw’ version of the slides with all the underlined typos and empty text boxes. There might be a good reason for this – they can see when you chat with them or when you raise your hand. This is actually one of the strongest points of criticism I have against Teams. When you enter the presentation mode, the window with other participants either hangs in a corner annoyingly or disappears altogether, and even when you receive a message or somebody raises their hand, you can no longer see them. For all you know, they might even be brewing their coffee or blissfully napping! You can always give them questions or call people out if you remember their names, but all in all, this (dys)functionality is really annoying. Zoom lets your participant window hang in the corner of your screen nicely without the participants seeing it and the bar at the top of your screen always lets you know when there is a new message in the chat. You can also see the students’ raised hands right in the window. This is what truly makes a difference for me and tips the scales towards Zoom. One last thing is sound sharing. You can do it in both apps (don’t forget to check the tick-box before you share the screen!). But again, Mac users get the short end of the stick – Teams doesn’t allow sound sharing on Macs yet. To cap it all, Zoom has another amazing feature that Teams currently lacks – breakout rooms. We use them on a regular basis in ELT classes and I’ve already wanted to use them several times when preparing my mock-lessons for geography, but unfortunately this feature is not incorporated even in the pro version of Teams. You can do a work-around and create a different channel within a Team, which could be a semi-worthy substitute, but that seems clumsy and arduous compared with the couple of clicks you make in Zoom. There are rumors that breakout rooms should be incorporated into Teams this calendar year and Microsoft confirms that on their website, but the question is whether that will actually happen. We might have to wait and see. But if limited screen sharing wasn’t enough, breakout rooms is where Zoom truly surpasses Teams. perspectives |

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Integration But wait! Aren’t you a little biased? Patience, young Padawan, we’re getting there. I’ve said that Zoom seems to be a bit easier to use, has better screen-sharing option and has breakout rooms. But it lacks, or rather doesn’t focus on, one thing in which Teams excels. Zoom is first and foremost a video conferencing app and Teams strives to be a complex do-it-all by providing a whole package of services bundled up in one app. Video conferences are only a fraction of what Teams can do. There are assignments, where you can set instructions and deadlines for your students and let them submit their work directly to you (and with cute animations, too!). You have space to share your class materials, create common notes or shared documents where students can collaborate, and you can chat and be in contact with your students even outside the class or a meeting. And if you want, you can employ third-part apps like Quizlet, Slido or YouTube directly into your Team to make materials more accessible, interactive and engaging. Sure, Zoom can work with e.g. Stack, but honestly, which teacher ever used Stack for their classes? In this regard, Teams not only surpasses Zoom, but leaves it far behind eating its dust.

Conclusion Now you might be thinking: “I’m totally confused. First you say Zoom better, then you say Teams is better. I don’t know what to think anymore.” Well, my friend, let me put it this way. I don’t think either Zoom or Teams is better. I think they both do a great job in the area they were designed for and I think they both have their strong and weak points. Zoom is a slick conferencing tool that becomes easy to use very quickly. It has many great sharing options, which are not unlike Teams, but with clear, thoughtthrough functionality especially when it comes to presentations. Also, as far as I know, it does not discriminate Mac users. The biggest advantage of Zoom for me are the breakout rooms, which are a huge step forward in online classes for both teachers and students. This is David – thinner, lighter, quick and agile. MS Teams is a massive do-it-all tool 28

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that integrates everything in one place. Video conferencing is only a part of what Teams can do, even though it is not its strong point. Assignments, integration of other Microsoft apps and collaboration with third-party software make for a bulky, versatile educational tool. This is Goliath – big and strong, with a massive support of the Microsoft behemoth behind its back. I’m sorry to say that, at last, I’m not going to give you an answer to the question. If you’re looking for a tool to connect with your students, one that is quick and fairly easy to use (and don’t mind paying extra cash, as our university does not officially use it for educational purposes) then Zoom is one of the best options out there. Combined with software like Moodle for managing assignments, it can be an awesome combo for handling online schooling with ease. If you can’t be bothered to use multiple apps or websites and want one app to do it all, then Teams is for you. Its massive bank of options is suitable for a whole range of activities, even if break-out rooms are currently lacking, and its handling of assignments (with cute animations!) is very neat. And don’t forget Together view. I’ve actually seen and experienced them used in tandem – Zoom for conferencing and Teams for assignments. I think it works quite great! And as a soon-to-be teacher, I like the pragmatic eclecticism of this solution. Whichever you chose, may the force be with you and use it well!


| HOW TO

How to Deal With Stress

author | Petra Koňakovská

The coronavirus has brought a lot of new challenges. Having to adapt to the new situation quickly has certainly increased the stress levels in our lives. I decided to write down a list of things that help me with stress by stimulating all the senses. Hopefully, it might inspire some of you.

1. Taste: Drink Tea No, I don’t mean Tatra tea, although some people do drink alcohol for stress relief. I admit I sometimes do too, but the stress relief from alcohol is just a temporary solution, an illusion! A much better option would be herbal tea with natural stress relievers, e.g., melissa, mint, and lavender. They are not only magical medications which help you with stress, but they also help ease some of the symptoms triggered by stress, such as migraine or nausea.

2. Smell: Lavender Is Your Friend Everyone who has known me for a long time has realized that I can’t get enough of lavender. Each room of my apartment has a tiny bouquet of lavender. Almost all my cosmetics and candles smell like lavender and I sleep on a pillow that is filled with this miraculous plant. The reason is clear: I would be constantly anxious and stressed if I wasn’t surrounded by it. Try adding a little lavender to your home and see the difference! The other smell you shouldn’t forget about is the smell of fresh air. Although it

may seem impossible if you live in a big city and there is a lockdown, where there is will, there is way. Open your windows when it rains. Sit on your balcony early in the morning. Enjoy the little things.

3. Hearing: Oh, Something Good Will Make Me Forget About You For Now This title does not only imply that listening to good music helps you forget about the current situation and the other problems you might be dealing with. It’s also my recommendation for one of the bands whose music I find calming – alt-J and their song Something good. The indie slow rock with a hint of melancholy is exactly what seems to work for me during these unhappy days. Or maybe you prefer some soothing classical music? It is worth trying.

4. Touch: Do Not Forget About Those You Love, Including Yourself During the current social isolation, it is not hard to get lonely and get a sense of touch deprivation. Let’s turn it into an advantage and cherish the everyday moments you can experience between the four walls of your home. Kiss your mum. Hug your partner. Pet your cat. Take a hot shower. Cover yourself up with a freshly ironed duvet. Brush your hair. Squeeze a soft ball. I’m sure you can name at least 5 things you can do to stimulate your sense of touch even during the lockdown or the quarantine.

5. Vision: Doodle and Craft There is so much fine art in this world. But no art will calm you down as much as the one you make. But I can’t draw, I hear you say. It’s okay. You don’t have to have the talent to make art. The best way to get rid of stress with art is, as I’ve figured out, drawing (painting, sculpting…) recklessly. Surrealists like Joan Miró or Jean Arp were using a method called psychic automatism. The movements of their hands on the paper were random – their subconscious painted for them. I find this method very relaxing. And if you decide to keep the results, you can let your psychologist analyse the drawings. Maybe you will even learn something about yourself. perspectives |

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LEISURE TIME |

author | Natália Krýslová

Procrastination “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Benjamin Franklin was a clever man. But do you think he would have invented bifocals, swimming fins or the lightning rod if he was procrastinating all the time? His life was busy and so he made sure he never had lazy days. He was also a strong believer in to-do lists. Be honest. How many of you are reading this in your pajamas, postponing all the important tasks from this day to another day? Even I, working on an article about procrastination, was putting it off until the due date loomed in close distance. But why do we procrastinate? There’s actually science behind it. Human brain prefers tasks that spark pleasurable feelings. Therefore, we’d rather watch a movie, read another chapter of a book or spend one more hour scrolling on Instagram before we sit down to write that English essay. On the other hand, the tasks that are more difficult or more timeconsuming induce anxiety and stress, causing the area of the brain associated with pain to light up. Speaking of time-consuming tasks, humans prefer immediate fulfillment over longterm satisfaction. Meaning that we choose to do the simplest tasks first, thinking we’re being productive, while the more complicated, time-consuming tasks are pushed aside. The most obvious problem of them all though are distractions. Binge-watching Netflix, constant trips to the fridge, taking your dog out for a walk. These became much more accessible since we ended up home for the semester. Online courses have their perks but also some disadvantages, procrastination being one of the challenges. How do we fight it? When you browse the Internet, several solutions jump up. Let me present a few of them.

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1. The Magic of To-Do Lists

3. Set Up a Working Space

Planning is crucial when it comes to staying on track. While being home and practicing distance learning, all your days might seem the same. To fight this, try to put it on paper. Have an assignment that has a certain due date? Write it down. When the assignments and tests start to pile up, you can easily arrange your time, day by day, planning when to work on what. A good tip is to prioritize tasks, dealing with those with close deadlines first, or planning some longterm projects for days or weeks in advance. I suggest planning the pleasurable moments, too! Write it all down in a simple todo list and check off or cross out all the things you’ve done so far. Trust me, when you see how productive you are being, your brain will be overjoyed!

Are you spending most of your time in bed, crouched in an unhealthy position, with your laptop in your lap? Such behavior can become demotivating and even painful after a few weeks. It’s not very sustainable. Want to trick your mind into focusing on certain tasks, school or work related? Create a special working place. It doesn’t have to be a special room. All you have to do is clean up your desk (if you don’t have one, a table in the kitchen or dining room works just fine), set your laptop down and spend your learning or working time there. Be sure to have everything you need - a snack, a water bottle, a notebook or all the literature, so you don’t have to get up too often, creating a distraction every time. This way you let your brain know that this is the area where you are being productive, dealing with important tasks and your bed becomes the place to relax and wind down after a long, productive day.

2. Reward yourself! Remember when you were a child and your parents wanted you to do something you really didn’t want to do? They promised some reward, whether it was a small toy, some candy or a coveted trip to the ZOO. A similar system works on adults too! Promise yourself a reward after finishing a task you were putting off, whether it’s an episode of a series you are watching or baking yourself a tray of cookies. These little breaks from working on not-so-pleasurable things spark that little joy in your brain as well!

4. The Pomodoro Technique No, this isn’t a revolutionary way to make tomato pasta sauce, but an effective time management technique. It consists of several productive blocks of time, interrupted by small breaks. You start by working on a task for 20 to 25 minutes continuously, this is called a Pomodoro. After a Pomodoro you take a 5-minute break focusing on something

else entirely, preferably a rewarding activity. Then you get back to the task and work for another 20 to 25 minutes, another Pomodoro. After three or four Pomodoros you take a longer break, this time for 15 to 30 minutes. Repeat. You can set yourself a goal to aim for a certain number of Pomodoros a day! If a distraction comes up while you’re in the middle of your Pomodoro (say you remember something important you also have to do), write it down but don’t pay attention to it while you’re working, deal with it after your Pomodoro session ends. I realize it’s nearly impossible to list all the useful tips for fighting off procrastination and that not everything works on everyone, but it’s a start. I hope you found at least one thing that works for you and helps you to be a little more productive. Remember, it’s all about tricking your brain into thinking it’s enjoying whatever it is that you’re doing, or at least getting a reward for the unpleasant stuff. I will finish off with another motivational quote by the wise Mr. Benjamin Franklin: You may delay, but time will not. May the productivity be with you! perspectives |

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TECHNOLOGY |

The Curious Story of Timnit Gebru’s Exit From G o o g l e author | Daniel Javoran Dr. Timnit Gebru is a computer scientist who, prior to December 2020, worked as a co-leader of the Ethical Artificial Intelligence at Google. Then she was fired. Her exit from Google is a curious story, and it might even be described as absurd. But it comes with its lessons. It also shows Google and their AI projects in a new light.

Stochastic Parrots The story of Dr. Gebru’s firing begins with a research paper. Gebru and six other researchers, including four of her Google colleagues, wrote a paper called “On the Dangers of Stochastic Parrots: Can Language Models Be Too Big?” (2021) that they intended to publish. In the paper, the authors write about Big Artificial Intelligence Language Models - big systems that produce texts similar to the ones produced by humans. The research paper focuses on the “possible risks associated with this technology and what paths are available for mitigating those risks’’. You see, technologies are not always harmless, and it is (or at least should be) a common practice for tech companies to account for risks associated with them. That’s what the paper was supposed to do, and here’s what it found: “The training data has been shown to have problematic characteristics resulting in models that encode stereotypical and derogatory associations along gender, race, ethnicity, and disability status.” So there is a risk associated with the data that the Language Models train on. This is because the training data comes from the Internet, and there is only a minority of humankind present on the Internet. By training on the language data filled with dominant views, the models tend to reproduce them, and the voices of unrepresented and underrepresented are simply ignored. Maybe you remember a similar case. Microsoft’s AI Twitter bot, Tay had to be shut 32

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down in 2016 after it started spouting racist and sexist tweets, including “feminism is cancer”, and “okay, jews did 9/11”. This happened because as a Twitter bot, Tay’s training data came from humans of Twitter, and those people are too much. Gebru’s research paper recommends a strategy to plan for and mitigate possible risks of big Language Models, “including weighing the environmental and financial costs first, investing resources into curating and carefully documenting datasets [...], carrying out pre-development exercises, evaluating how the planned approach fits into research and development goals and supports stakeholder values, and encouraging research directions beyond ever larger language models.” Google AI’s senior vice president Jeff Dean claims that the paper “didn’t take into account recent research to mitigate these issues.” But after reading the paper, I think it’s an unfair characterization of the work. The authors of the paper recommended solutions based largely on research from the last few years. Furthermore, Jeff Dean didn’t really name any of the research he has in mind, so we unfortunately don’t know what he is talking about. Nevertheless, the paper is written very well and bases its recommendations on the latest research. Why try to block ideas?

The Last Drop Google wanted Gebru to retract the paper, or at least remove all of Google’s employees’ names on it, including herself. She refused, saying that she would leave Google if her work was treated like this: “I said, here are my conditions. If you can meet them, great, I’ll take my name off this paper, if not then I can work on a last date,” she tweeted right after she was fired. When Gebru refused to retract the paper, she was fired immediately via email: “We are accepting your resignation immediately, effective today.” This seems rather impulsive. Google says that the final reason behind Gebru’s exit was that she wrote an email deemed unprofessional by the managers. In the email Google is referring to, Gebru tells her co-workers in the Google Brain Women and Allies mail list that they should stop trying to change the company by writing reports anymore. “Please don’t [stop


writing the documents]” Jeff Dean wrote in an email to Google employees. But why did she write that in the first place? The less quoted parts of her email show that she doesn’t see any sense in fighting for Google’s progress by writing reports anymore. Not because she stopped believing in change, but because the current system of the company makes it easy to ignore the documents they’re working on. The email is written from a perspective of a person repeatedly silenced by Google: “Your life gets worse when you start advocating for underrepresented people, you start making the other leaders upset when they don’t

at Google are levels, I’ve seen how my expertise has been completely dismissed. But now there’s an additional layer saying any privileged person can decide that they don’t want your paper out with zero conversation. So you’re blocked from adding your voice to the research community—your work which you do on top of the other marginalization you face here. [...] So if you would like to change things, I suggest focusing on leadership accountability and thinking through what types of pressures can also be applied from the outside. For instance, I believe that the Congressional Black Caucus is the entity that started forcing tech companies to report their diversity numbers. Writing more documents and saying things over and over again will tire you out but no one will listen.”

Google against its own principles

Image Credit: Kimberly White/Getty Images for TeachCrunch, “775208327EC00105_TechCrunch” by TechCrunch is licensed under CC BY 2.0

want to give you good ratings during calibration. There is no way more documents or more conversations will achieve anything. We just had a Black research all hands with such an emotional show of exasperation. Do you know what happened since? Silencing in the most fundamental way possible. [...] Silencing marginalized voices like this is the opposite of the NAUWU principles which we discussed. And doing this in the context of “responsible AI” adds so much salt to the wounds. I understand that the only things that mean anything

Jeff Dean accepted Gebru’s resignation, but from what it looks like, there was no resignation offered by Gebru. “I hadn’t resigned - I had asked for simple conditions first and said I would respond when I’m back from vacation,” Gebru writes. I find it very weird that the last drop for Google was the email, in which Gebru expressed discouragement and complained about her treatment and the hindered progress of the company. It seems to me like Google punished Gebru for speaking out, for being able to stand up for herself and her coauthors. Critique is a healthy part of any open culture, but here Google doesn’t seem very open. The thing is, the most serious resignation of the day was Google’s resignation on its own stated principles. In its list of AI Principles, Google writes: “We believe that AI should: [...] 2. Avoid creating or reinforcing unfair bias. [...] 4. Be accountable to people. [...] Technological innovation is rooted in the scientific method and a commitment to open inquiry” perspectives |

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But Timnit Gebru was fired while trying to avoid creating or reinforcing unfair bias. Her and her co-authors’ paper points out several ways which Google’s AI projects can create and reinforce unfair bias. It also tells Google how to prevent this. Principle number two was violated. Timnit Gebru was fired while trying to make Google’s AI projects be accountable to people. “Training data needs to be curated and extensively documented for accountability,” the paper says before describing how to, but I guess that just ignores the latest research. Or maybe it’s Google that ignores its own fourth principle of AI. I have many doubts about the openness of inquiry in Google research after learning about what happened to Dr. Gebru. Also, there’s that late-December 2020 report by Reuters that states that Google asked employees to “strike a positive note” and “avoid throwing [the] technology in the negative light” in their AI research. This sounds like an opposite of open inquiry. The curious story of Timnit Gebru’s exit from Google could be described as absurd. But there’s a lesson we can learn from it. We can learn about what sometimes happens to research in corporations; how sometimes profit is a value that no stated principles can triumph. It’s disheartening that Dr. Gebru had to leave Google, while Google has stayed willfully blind. But as Jeff Dean says in his email to Google employees, “No doubt, wherever she goes after Google, she’ll do great work and I look forward to reading her papers and seeing what she accomplishes.” Of course, we don’t know whether Dean really thinks this, or the words just come from a place of mandatory HR positivity, but I agree with them. Timnit Gebru will go on doing a great job, and I hope her story will long serve as an inspiration to those whose voices are being silenced.

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Bibliography

GEBRU, T., 6 UNKNOWN: “On the Dangers of Stochastic Parrots: Can Language Models Be Too Big?” (2021) @timnitGebru. December 3, 2020. 4:41 am. https://twitter.com/timnitGebru/ status/1334341991795142667 @timnitGebru. December 3, 2020. 5:24 am. https://twitter.com/timnitGebru/ status/1334364732480958467 PICHAI, Sundar: “AI at Google: Our Principles”. June 7, 2018 https://www.blog.google/technology/ai/ ai-principles/ PLATFORMER: “The withering email that got an ethical AI researcher fired at Google” (December 3, 2020) REUTERS: “Microsoft’s AI Twitter bot goes dark after racist, sexist tweets” (March 24, 2016) REUTERS: “Google told its scientists to ‘strike a positive tone’ in AI research” (December 23, 2020)


| LITERATURE

Who is Hanya Yanagihara, the Author of A Little Life? author | Romana Kališová

When the second of her life and novel by Hanya that it wouldn’t Yanagihara A be the same if Little Life was she spent time published back only writing. She in 2015, the writes when she public went has something crazy. Reactions to say and at the were extreme: same time, she people were says that she’s talking about not disciplined how their hands enough to keep Image Credit: Wirasathya Darmaja. Hanya Yanagihara: A Little Life. Neka Museum. shook while writing all the they were reading, about the shock and horror time. When she was working on A Little Life, she they experienced, the great intensity of feelings was writing for many hours and realized that this and many said that it was generally too much to is not a process she would ever recommend to handle. Last year, when the Slovak translation was anyone. This was her second novel. The book published, the public response was very similar. was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize. It hit readers hard and initiated discussion about Before that, she wrote The People in the Trees in mental health issues and childhood trauma. As I 2013, which is a book based on a true story of was reading the book this year, I kept wondering the virologist Daniel Carleton Gajdusek. It is one if the writer ever experienced a terror as the one of the best novels of 2013, but still, it didn’t make presented in the story or if she’s familiar with her as famous as A Little Life did. the topic of child abuse through her friends or relatives. She’s very honest and open when A Little Life follows the lives of four college talking about taboo topics and such a personality classmates in New York. An aspiring actor trait can’t be obtained overnight. So, who is Hanya Willem, a frustrated architect Malcom, a painter Yanagihara and how is it possible that she made JB and Jude, a lawyer who is the survivor of the whole world crazy about one story? terrible childhood abuse. Sometimes it’s only Hanya Yanagihara was born in 1974 in Los Angeles but grew up in Hawaii. She is not only a novelist, although it would probably be enough for her to earn money just by writing. She’s also the editor of the New York Times Style T Magazine. During an interview with the Guardian, she admits that the adrenaline of deadlines and the excitement of making a new product each week is a huge part

their friendship that keeps him alive. The story itself is a hymn of love, overcoming trauma, male relationships and even things like self-harm.

How is it possible that she can relate to people with childhood trauma so well? Her father was a doctor from Hawaii, and he wasn’t afraid to present various diseases and images of bodies perspectives |

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to her when she was a little child. He even took her to see the pathologist and let her watch how the pathologist opened the cadaver. She used to draw and at that time, she could literally draw the flesh. It was very fascinating for her (even though it sounds like a terrible experience). Because of all of this, she became very attracted to the idea that there’s a connection between mental health and the physical condition of the body. Closely related to this is the fact that trauma

Image Credit: Wirasathya Darmaja. Hanya Yanagihara: A Little Life. Neka Museum.

experienced during one’s childhood can cause pain even later in life and the pain itself doesn’t have to be just mental. In A Little Life she also discusses the amount of pain that the body can handle and how hard it can fight to survive. She says that our bodies do not care about us at all and it’s just up to us as how to deal with pain. At the same time, she says that she fought with her publisher about how much a reader can take: “To me you get nowhere second guessing how much can a reader stand and how much can she not. What a reader can always tell is when you are holding back for fear of offending them. I wanted there to be too much about the violence in the book, but I also wanted there to be an exaggeration of everything, an exaggeration of love, of empathy, of pity, of horror.” But after all, she’s not that interested in abuse itself. What she is interested in is the effect abuse has on life. And especially men. She thinks 36

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that females are somehow better prepared to experience such things, like being viewed as sexual objects and it’s generally more common for women to become victims. And she doesn’t think that this applies to men. She also admits that a story like A Little Life is probably not common but can happen. Another interesting thing about the book is the prioritizing of friendship instead of having a family or being married. This, again, has its roots in the author’s life. Hanya thinks that friendship is perhaps a purer version of a relationship. So the concept of adulthood is completely different from other adulthood novels. None of the four friends in the novel are married or have children. Hanya has always lived alone. She has never even wanted a family and doesn’t believe in marriage. But she has many friends with a similar worldview. Instead, she likes to focus on art and her work. She considers herself to be a hard-working editor and when it comes to reading, she’s only afraid that there won’t be anything to say. In the end, she explains her life by quoting Kenneth Koch’s poem: “You want a social life, with friends / A passionate love life and as well / To work hard every day. What’s true / Is of these three you may have two.” I would say that it’s a blessing for readers that she chose writing after all.

If you want to read reviews and find out more about the book, follow this QR code over to goodreads:


| HOW TO

How to Learn a New Language by Yourself

author | Nikoleta Nagyová

As the coronavirus has slowly became a part of our everyday lives, we are learning to spend more time by ourselves and with ourselves. It’s safe to say that most of us are spending the majority of our days at home. Some of us have home-office, some, including me, cannot work from home. This often leads to having more free time on our hands. One of the useful ways n which I was spending time during the first wave of the pandemic, was downloading Duolingo and using it to learn a new language. It started as a fun time-filler for boredom and resulted in the change of the combination of languages I’m studying at university. However, a great app or book was not the most important part of learning the basics of Italian. Here are some of my best tips for learning a new language on your own.

1. Choose a language you like We might be tempted to want to learn a language that we see as the most “useful”. I have tried to learn German several times, purely because it seemed practical. However, it is much easier to stay dedicated if you’re learning a language which sounds pleasing to your ear, or the language of a country you wish to visit. Or it is simply a language that is in any way connected to your heart and soul. If you feel that the language you like the most might not necessarily be the most practical one for your life, it will never be useless. So, my recommendation is: Go with your heart and you won’t regret it.

2. Do Your Own Research

Although some apps have great reviews and you hear about many people using them, they might not be available for the language you want to learn or might not correspond to your needs. Therefore, it’s important to do your own research about the available resources for the specific language you’re interested in. You can find many free books or dictionaries you can simply download to your computer. Besides, a number of textbooks can be bought in e-book versions for very reasonable prices. In case language learning is just your go-to activity to fill your free days and wait out the pandemic, spending a lot of money on expensive study materials isn’t the

best idea. However, if you are dedicated to this journey and you need motivation to keep working, buying materials, and spending a small amount of money right at the beginning might help you to feel bound to your goal.

3. Set Your Own (SMALL) Learning Goals This might sound like a cliché, but it works. The most important thing is to be consistent. Set 1-3 small learning goals and make sure you complete them every day. For example, these were my learning goals: • learn 5 basic words every • write 10 sentences using the words you already know • use Duolingo for 15 minutes This took me approximately 20-30 minutes every day. It was realistic because I was able to complete them even when I was very busy or perhaps, sick. A heads up: you will be tempted to skip days thinking that if you work twice as much the next day, you will be all caught up. This is a huge misconception. You’re not writing an essay for a set deadline. Your long-term memory is only able to process a certain amount of new impulses every day. If you try to learn too many new things on the same day, they might stick to your shortterm memory, but you won’t remember them in a week. Consistency is the biggest key.

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4. Have Fun

+ Bonus

Remember, you are not studying a language, you are learning it. You don’t need to follow a thick book full of grammar rules and memorize words repeating them 50x out loud. If this way of learning is fun for you, then great, go for it! But no matter how you do it, try to find ways to include language learning into your favourite activities. I like to be able to use messenger and text my friends while doing something else. Therefore, Duolingo was a very fun way of learning for me. I was “just being on my phone”, I could reply to my friends or listen to music in the background and incorporate learning into it. When writing my 10 sentences, I always tried to make them as funny and absurd as possible. This way, I wasn’t just writing some sentences, I was coming up with jokes and it was a very joyful activity for me. If you’re a Netflix fan, try to find series in your target language. If you like to cook, you can write your favourite recipes in the language you’re learning. Whatever activity you come up with, make sure you enjoy it.

Use internet to your advantage. There are many great TED-Talks, articles, blogs, and resources full of free tips and recommendations. Take your time, look through what’s out there and make your own list of tips and your own learning plan. Remember, there’s nobody to assess your learning curve, only you can judge your progress. Be as benevolent, as harsh, as motivating or encouraging towards yourself as you would be towards you best friend. Good luck!

5. Don’t Put the Activity on Your To-Do List In the moment you start thinking about it as something you must do, you will become demotivated. Don’t think about your learning activity as if it was an assignment with a due date. Try to look at it as a natural part of your day, as a habit you do without having to pressure yourself into it. I’d compare it to brushing my teeth, taking a shower or having a coffee in the morning. (I acknowledge that for some of us these examples might not be the most pleasant every-day activities.) I encourage you to think of your own comparisons and add your language learning activity to the list of your natural daily habits. 38

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| HOW TO

Some of our family members hold rather strange opinions about “the” virus. An interesting fact about people who believe in different “it’s just a flu” theories, is that they usually don’t read any legitimate newspapers. They either get their information from an email chain of conspiracy theory blogs or Facebook. I’m not suggesting that subjecting yourself to conspiracy media is the causality of having dangerous opinions, but it’s a rather interesting corelation. However, once we are confronted with these opinions, the question is:

How can you argue with a person who disregards facts?

How to Deal With Ignorant Relatives author | Nikoleta Nagyová At the beginning of the year, everyone I know was either very concerned about the situation surrounding the COVID-19 crisis, or not bothered by it at all. Thus, the situation has added some fuel into our already polarised world. Dealing with people who have different views, opinions or beliefs can prove quite challenging at times. Most of us are stuck at home which, for many of us, means being locked down with our relatives. However, once you experience the freedom of living in a dorm room with complete strangers, you don’t want to go back to the old days, when your parents told you what to think or expected you to agree with them on everything. What I have to say at the very beginning is that religion and politics are dangerous topics. I wish someone had told me earlier not to even mention those two. These topics can often create pressure and eventually turn our households into a warzone. And, as expected, the authorities have quickly turned the worldwide pandemic into a political debate, thus, creating another big subject to argue about.

The answer is, you don’t. Especially if it’s a person you’ll be stuck with for who-knows-howlong. It doesn’t matter how hard you try to explain your perspective, you won’t convince them. They are not actually trying to understand the facts, especially not if these facts are explained by their younger relatives, who obviously know nothing about the world. It took me 10 months to learn to stay silent. In my opinion, the best option is to not say anything. If you can’t stay calm when you open your mouth, just count to 10 and leave. It’s extremely important to learn to pick our fights. You cannot keep investing your energy into a person who is not willing to have constructive conversations with you and who honestly just does not care to understand. It is frustrating, it is painful, and it can often feel very hopeless when we can’t even make our relatives act responsibly. However, we must remember, it is not our fight and we are not responsible for our relatives’ opinions or actions. The last thing I can add is to remember: This will pass. The pandemic is not going to be here forever. It is all temporary and it will soon be over. If you have the energy, I encourage you to try to stay understanding. We hold different privileges that our relatives, especially if they’re older than us. We have grown up being exposed to media, we can fact-check our sources in different languages, we have been brought up in a world to which the older generation only had to comply to. So, try to show empathy but do not invest your energy into things which can’t possibly have any useful outcome. And hang in there, the vaccine is here, and the end is near. perspectives |

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PHILOSOPHY |

If Science Is Human, What Does Value Neutrality Mean? author | Daniel Javoran No matter what we imagine science to be in abstract, in reality it is fundamentally human and filled with value. There is no scientific knowledge that could exist without at least some intellectual work done by people, and people are prone to value. But the image of science as value neutral is ubiquitous in our collective imagination. Value neutrality of science is, however, not just a myth. It has its meaning. In order to see what value neutrality means when we face the humanness of science, we need to explore the relationship between science and people, why value neutrality matters, and where we can go from here.

No Science Without Humans

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There is currently no human-free science. Science is still in a close relationship with its inventors humans. Of course, we can imagine a world in which computers (or robots, if you will) do science for us, so we don’t have to. In such a world, science would be human-free. However, we don’t live in such a world. Take, for example, a robotic scientist Adam, who came to the media attention for being the first robot doing science with “no human intellectual input” according to Lizzie Buchen’s 2009 article on WIRED. The sensation of “no human intellectual input” in Adam’s science is actually negated later in the article: “[The designers] armed Adam with a model of yeast metabolism and a database of genes and proteins involved in metabolism in other species.” In other words, Adam’s source of data is human. Some human intellectual input in Adam’s science can’t be denied. Ok, that was 2009. But progress is possible, maybe it’s better, less human, now? Not really. Even in 2020, when asked by the BBC whether robots that the UK scientists are currently working with will once take their jobs, Dr. Dreidre Black, head of research and innovation at the Royal Society of Chemistry, said that “science will always need people”. Progress is possible, but right now, robots and computers are scientific tools to speed up the scientific work, not a


new generation of scientists. It’s still the human who dominates science. Science without people is imaginable, however it is not the current reality. With people comes baggage. The problem inherent to the humanness of science is that people are biased, and we don’t want science to be biased because that can be harmful to the enterprise of knowing, among other things. But humans are not perfect knowers due to their bias, and psychological traits such as negligence, gullibility, and prejudice, which affect the knower. The next part of the article is about these obstacles.

Bias and Epistemic Vices Where there is science, there can be bias and epistemic vices. Epistemic vices are character traits of knowing subjects. Epistemic means “related to knowledge”, while vice is a bad trait, the opposite of virtue. People can be negligent, gullible, prejudiced, but also arrogant, stubborn, manipulative. These are called epistemic vices, because they are the knower’s traits that can skew their picture of the world. When it comes to bias, a number of types is known: bias in gathered data, algorithmic bias, cognitive bias, and social bias. Bias is a systemic flaw, not an individual trait. Of course, someone can be stubbornly unwilling to face their bias - and that is an epistemic vice, but bias itself is a dent in our systems that skews our pictures of the world. Danger is partly in its ubiquity - bias is everywhere. Ignoring bias always puts us in a weak position as knowers. Epistemic vices are individual character flaws. Bias is an inherent-ish systematic flaw. Data gathered from the world by humans are gathered from and exist inside the world. The blind spots and selection bias can result in bias in data. Bias can be algorithmic. A biased algorithm doesn’t work well and creates harm. For an example of algorithmic bias, let’s turn to an example from the real world. Cathy O’Neill, an American data scientist, recollects a case of Fox News trying to make the job application process more fair for women, who were historically excluded from the company. Fox News decided that to make the process more fair, they should use an algorithm and data. They tried to make it objective and therefore fair. However, the data was the Fox job applications from the last 21 years. The idea was to train the algorithm to recognize the

successful applications. An application was successful if it belonged to a good employee - someone who worked there for at least 4 years and had at least one promotion. After that, the algorithm tried to recognize the elements of successful applications in the pool of the new applications that came to the Fox and point to them as good candidates for new employees. The problem is that the data is too limited for its declared goal. The data also comes from the reality of the last two decades. We’re basically asking the algorithm to reproduce limits we’re seeking to overcome. Applications which were deemed successful and those new applications that most resembled the successful ones, were the ones that most resembled men’s applications. And so the past creeps into the future through the crack of the false belief that data is not human. That is algorithmic bias. We can’t imagine algorithms as disengaged from this world. But bias also exists within our brains. Cognitive bias exists because our brains are imperfect. In order to process information such as sense data, our brains tend to use shortcuts - so called ‘heuristics’. The scientists who study cognitive bias say that heuristics are normal in cognition. They’re used to solve problems and make judgements quickly and effectively. They’re very useful. One example for all: anchoring. When we make decisions, we often do anchoring. Anchoring is when we rely on the first information offered when making decisions. The first offer is our ‘anchor’, no matter how irrelevant the information is to our decision making. That’s how our brains work, irrationally. We have biological bodies and everything we perceive, we perceive through our biological bodies. We also live in a society and culture - its dominant assumptions about values and behavior. We can’t ignore our biological and social condition when we think about science, because our biological and social condition are integral parts of being human, and an integral part of science is its humanness. We need to talk about social bias. Social bias such as that regarding race and gender is present in science. Social bias is often enmeshed within cognitive systems, creating space for racialized heuristics. Social bias is often situated in algorithms, as it was in the hiring algorithm of Fox News. Social bias is not really about whether you’re a racist or a sexist. Racism and sexism definitely can be epistemic vices, leading to cases of epistemic injustice (which is a topic of its own). But racist and sexist social perspectives |

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bias is often more of a flaw in the system. However, that doesn’t absolve us from fixing this.

sort of target, we shall know better the goods that are achievable.”

The Ideal of Value Neutrality and the Larger Vision

The argument for unachievable objectivity is analogous.

The ideal of value neutrality is a principle according to which science should be value neutral. The argument goes like this:

(1) Recognize that absolute objectivity is an unachievable goal. (2) The absolute objectivity can still be a target. (3) You don’t have to hit the target, it’s impossible anyway. (4) By trying to achieve the unachievable goal of absolute objectivity, you can at least achieve an achievable goal: that of objectivity which is possible.

(1) Science is objective. (2) Values are subjective. therefore (3) Values have no place in science. This is the argument for value neutrality of science we can find in Julian Reiss and Jan Sprenger (2020). Of course we could counter-argue and point out, for example, that it is not always the case that science is objective. And it is true that values are subjective, but they’re also often shared, and therefore intersubjective. Take, for example, what sociologists and philosophers of science call the ethos of science. These are the norms that scientists (should) adhere to, but also values behind those norms, such as the objectivity itself. We want science to be objective. These values are shared by various knowers in the scientific community, and are therefore intersubjective. In this version, the aforementioned argument for the ideal of value neutrality is wrong. Science is not objective, but is trying to be objective. Values are often subjective and sometimes intersubjective, when shared among the subjects. And they are often shared in the scientific community, and therefore have a central place in science. We need to look further than value neutrality. Even my deconstruction of the argument presupposes the objectivity as a value. Value neutrality is not important for its own sake, it’s important because we want science to be objective. Now, we don’t know whether objectivity is possible. In fact, it doesn’t have to be achievable - it can be just something to strive for. It’s akin to what Aristotle says about the Platonic Idea of Good in the first book of his Nicomachean Ethics: “With regard to the Idea of Good; it clearly cannot be achieved or attained by a man (sic); but we are now seeking something attainable. Someone might think the Idea of Good is worthy in respect to the attainable and achievable goods; for having the Idea of Good as a 42

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Knowledge Is Situated But what’s certainly achievable, and what has already been achieved, is intersubjectivity. We have a partial picture of reality made up of a lot of partial pictures of reality. In a sense, science is intersubjectivity that wants to be objectivity. In science, sharing knowledge with others is essential. Science is a social activity. That makes knowledge situated in social relationships. This can be known as the Situated Knowledge thesis, because it comes from Donna Haraway’s “Situated Knowledges” (1988): “Situated knowledges are about communities, not about isolated individuals. The only way to find a larger vision is to be somewhere in particular.” This is a call to embrace the impossibility of reaching objectivity in science. However, it still satisfies our need for a larger vision, transcending individual knowing capacities. In the intersubjectivity of an epistemic community, we find the solution to the problem of what to do with the ideal of value neutrality in the face of humanness of science. Situatedness of knowledge challenges objectivity by pointing out that the subject of knowledge - the knower - is situated within other subjects of knowledge and within a web of objects they seek to know. What’s necessary is an ethos of science that can configure the partial perspectives, and pave the way for accountability in science. The new ethos of science should create conditions for the growth of epistemic virtues of the knowers. It needs systemic changes to counter bias. It needs strategies to counter social bias. But the new ethos must be designed and built. As Donna Haraway says, acknowledging that knowledge


is situated “allows us to become answerable for what we learn how to see”. Holding each other accountable, especially in scientific communities, is easier when it’s a part of the system. We need dynamic, systematic changes. The relationship between science and people is a close one. Science cannot currently exist without people, who are prone to values. Value neutrality matters, however, because it at least directs us to what we really value about science, which is objectivity. I have identified objectivity as an unattainable goal, but a good value. To get an attainable larger view, we must acknowledge the situatedness of knowledge, and we must counter vices, both in individuals and in systems. Until then, let’s at least acknowledge that knowledge is situated in the social world of partial visions - perspectives. Bibliography ARISTOTLE: ‘Nicomachean Ethics’ translated by W. D. Ross

(350

B.C.E.),

BUCHEN, Lizzie: ‘Robot Makes Scientific Discovery All by Itself’ (2009), WIRED.com GILL, Victoria: ‘Robotic scientists will ‘speed up discovery’’ (2020), BBC.com HARAWAY, Donna: ‘Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective’ In: Feminist Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3 (1988) O’NEILL, Cathy: ‘The era of blind faith in big data must end’ (2017), TED.com REISS, Julian; SPRENGER Jan: ‘Scientific Objectivity’. In: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2020), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)

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SPORT |

American Football in Slovakia author | Peter Demo

football to the defense, but if they succeed, they are given a new set of four downs to continue the drive. The team with the most points at the end of a game wins. American football got to Europe, you’ve heard of that for sure. But did you know that there is a chance to meet and play American football in Slovakia? I asked the vice-chairman of the Slovak American Football Association Juraj Sopkuliak some questions that might interest you. Hi Juraj, can you briefly introduce yourself to us? “My name is Juraj Sopkuliak. I was born in Nové Zámky and the next year will be the 20th year since I got involved with American football. Like most, I started out as a regular AF player. As time passed, the need to create our own football infrastructure in Slovakia arose and that’s why I started as an AF referee. After a while, I became the chairman of the arbitration panel and was later elected vice-chairman of the SAAF. Except for football I engage in financial fields.” How did you come across AF and how were your beginnings?

American football - one of the most beautiful sports in the world. You must have heard about it. If not, here are some very brief rules. American football is a team sport played by two teams of eleven players. There are two basic positions for teams as a whole - offense and defense. The offense team has possession of the oval-shaped football and tries to advance down the field by running with the ball or passing it through the endzone. On the other side of the field is the defense team who doesn´t have the ball and aims to stop the offense’s advance and, of course, to take control of the ball. The offense team must advance at least ten yards in four socalled downs or plays. When they fail, they give the 44

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“My friend’s girlfriend was once in the USA with Work and Travel and just before she was able to find another boyfriend there, she managed to send my friend a football. Despite the fact, that the internet wasn’t so popular at those times, me and my friend managed to put together a bunch of friends and went to play AF every Sunday. We didn’t know much about this sport, but we still played full-contact football without equipment regardless of the weather. Despite a few occasional concussions, broken noses, and some fractures, we incredibly enjoyed it. Later we found out, that there already was a club in Nitra, so we started attended training courses there.” There are a plenty of sports with a better background in Slovakia. Why did you choose AF? “AF is a very complex, tactical sport. What I like about it is that during a match, you’re engaging not only your muscles but your brain as well. At the same time, there is usually a lot of great people in each team. I made a lot of friends thanks to this sport (and some of them, I believe, for life).”


What is your biggest achievement in AF so far? “I would split my answer to more areas/sections. The first area/section is from the player’s point of view and that would be the match with the Slovak national team where I was nominated for the basic line-up. I believe that despite our loss, it is the greatest honor for a player to wear the national jersey, to hear the Slovak national anthem, and then start playing. The second area/section is from the referee’s point of view when I was the main referee in the match between the Czech Republic and Hungary. 5000 spectators at the stadium, live broadcast in two states… It is hard to describe my feelings when I ran to a sold-out stadium right after just 2 hours of poor sleep. If you’re a retired AF player and you miss the adrenaline rush, I definitely recommend the career of a referee. In the third area/section which is from the official’s point of view are more things worth mentioning? From this POV I’m proud that we managed to fulfill the conditions for granting SAAF the status of a national association, which helped us to get AF on the map of Slovak sport. Another success is that many teams in Slovakia have the opportunity to fight in SFL for the prestigious Chuck Bednarik’s trophy; then that at this moment SAAF is financially strong enough to be able to provide such demanding operations as the national team, the “Hraj Flag Futbal” project, etc.” What is your current status in the area of AF? My current position is the position of vicechairman of SAAF and I also help out as a referee. What is SAAF and what is its main goal? SAAF is a civic association whose task is to support this beautiful sport in Slovakia. It is not a professional organization and we can say that people working here are mainly enthusiasts. However, now I’m dealing mainly with financial and project plannings.

the future. Despite the COVID-times, we managed to organize a school competition and persuade about 6 schools to start with flag football in their PE lessons. We have collaborations with big media such as RTVS or sport.sk. Unfortunately, unless there is a bigger AF league in Slovakia, the leading media won’t broadcast news regarding marginal sports. How do other schools welcome the idea of flag football? Flag football is still perceived as a new fresh breeze to PE lessons. We have very positive responses from PE teachers. We are happy that the Play flag football project succeed and is fulfilling its purpose. Who is flag football for? Flag football is absolutely for everyone! It is just as normal sport as any other sports and has its world/European championships. Who can take part in the “Hraj flag football project”? This project is mainly focused on school environment and organizations working with children. But we have no problem with advising and helping football enthusiasts who are interested in flag football and would like to start their own club. Who would you recommend American football to and where can we come across this sport? If you are interested in AF or flag football, my advice to you is not to be discouraged by the initial confusion regarding the rules. This sport is very complex that is its beauty. You don’t need to be necessarily a player to be a part of the AF community. You can also be a referee or a coach but also be a fan!

What does football publicity in Slovakia look like? This year, we managed to launch a project called “Hraj flag football”, which has had excellent results so far and we expect much more from it in

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CORONA LIFE |

Socializing During the Pandemic author | Hilda Vaněková Pandemic is raging everywhere around us and we are all stuck at home with only very little interpersonal contact. At the moment, our only contact is with annoying siblings, parents reproaching us for not showering (nobody can smell me via Zoom, can they?) or multiple simultaneous calls and meetings you have to attend at the time when all other family members have online classes or business meetings. We all miss those Fridays and Saturdays (and the rest of the week) when we could spontanously go to the nearest (or cheapest) café and drink a cup of coffee, have a glass of wine or beer. We may say that a major part of us already tried to bake own bread, cleaned the whole apartment/house (the windows were never this clean, remember?), spent all our money on online shopping, started home edition of workout, the HIIT, the TRX, the crossfit, and at the same time gained some weight (more than we would wish for). Let’s be honest, these are not muscles, but those chocolate twisters you bought at Lidl. (This is not a paid advertisment. Unfortunately, Lidl is not our sponsor). So if you feel like you have gone crazy because of the separation from your friends (and you already look like a crazy person – and we don’t need to mention the odor again, do we?), tried everything that was possible and impossible to keep youself busy and run out of ideas, we are offering you 10 + 1 ideas how to socialize during the pandemic!

A perfect example of idea no. 1

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Missing those nice evenings with friends 1 while drinking beer or wine? Plan an online session! Turn on your cameras, bring your own glass (or bottle) and have a chat while drinking these essential anti-craziness fluids.

Do you have a pet? Are you buddies? But you still miss your human buddy? Print a picture of your mate (his or her face) and stick it on your pet’s head. Isn’t this perfect? 2in1

2

Feeling sad because you miss your classmates or collegues and seeing their faces during a 90-minute call isn´t enough? Next time, before your class starts, try printing (or rather drawing!) the faces of your classmates and place them all around you (e. g. couch) and get that real school feeling!

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Did you like the idea of placing your friends’ faces all around the couch? What about an online movie night? Keep those faces sticked to your couch and plan a movie night with your friends. Everyone safe at home, but still together. And don’t forget popcorn, lots of popcorn. And cotton candy. And sweet peanuts. And some cola. Or anything you wish. Are you a lowlander and you miss hiking and seeing the beauty of the hills? Get a cardboard, cut out a mountain silhouette and paint it! I already feel the fresh air. And you?

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6 set...

Or are you rather a sea view lover person? No problem! A cardboard can handle that too! So take out your little sister’s painting

Do you know the game Guess who? Try to 7 play a real life version of this game! Dress up like a well known person or a character, nail the accent and let your family members or flatmates guess your identity! And if they are willing to join you in the game, it will be much more fun! The more the merrier! You live on your own or no one at your home wants to play the Guess who? game 8 with you? Ask your friend! Plan an online meeting, get your costume and accent ready and have fun. Did you enjoy creating and wearing a costume? What about an online play? Pick 9 a play with your colleagues, each of you choose a character and set the date of your online Broadway debut (and don’t forget the red carpet)!

A major part of us miss the travelling, 10 so this is a great idea to plan an online international day! Choose one (or more) easy recipes typical for your national cuisine (or any other cuisine), share the necessary ingredients with your friends and plan a regular cooking sessions. But how will the others taste your food? Easy solution. You’re not going to cook the recipes you chose, you will lead your friends online, step by step! They will be the ones who cook it and then taste it! Sounds like a great idea for an internation day! Even Perspectives is preparing some means for students of KAA and of 11 our faculty and university to meet and socialize digitally during this time, so stay put for updates! Follow us on social media - Facebook and Instagram and be the first one to know about these events!

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CORONA LIFE |

Students’ Opinion on Distance Teaching author | Michaela Gajdošová STUDENT POLL: ONLINE TEACHING What is presumably the one thing most of us have in common right now? Well, you have guessed it. ONLINE TEACHING. Or distance teaching. Whatever you call it. Currently, all of us are dealing with a tricky and an arduous task. Unexpectedly, back in March,

various obstacles some of which are yet not resolved. In a survey I asked numerous students via Facebook what are their opinions on distance teaching. This period has certainly taught us a lot and after months spent in this process, we can clearly distinguish certain advantages and disadvantages that the pandemic brought. And what were the answers? What are the advantages and disadvantages of online teaching? Luckily, people found something positive even in these uneasy times. We can point out a couple of topics that were mentioned the most: - Being at home - Multitasking and time management - Studying - Technical interface

Advantages of Being at Home

Covid-19 barged in and distance teaching became the new way of studying. During these nerve-wracking times, students and teachers not only had to adapt to a whole new level of teaching and learning but also had to overcome

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Our home provides us with comfort. According to students, one of the greatest advantages is waking up 10 minutes before the start of the lesson, without the need to get ready. Eating breakfast in comfy pyjamas while listening to a lecture has become a habit for many of us and returning to recorded lectures simplifies the learning process just in case something was overheard (or a whole lecture missed). Students are now able to save money,


since pandemic measures forced them to go home from dormitories. Life at dormitories may be fun, although for some it is too disruptive. A lot of students value the possibility of studying at home due to the tranquil environment they are surrounded by. And what is the best part of being at home? Food! Which is mostly for free! Not caring about what to cook, where to head off for lunch or what food to buy provides us with a great deal of time, not mentioning the money we save. And since you are at home, you do not need to commute by public transport and buy either short-term or long-term tickets and at the same time endanger yourself and others.

As days go by looking seemingly the same, students get frustrated and demotivated. They lose their attention easily, procrastinate and the efficiency of work is decreasing. At home, it is difficult to separate working environment from the fact that home is first and foremost a place where we usually rest. Some cannot switch off, so to speak. Social interactions are at their minimum, even though some mentioned benefits of social platforms such as calling or chatting with their classmates. Nevertheless, there is a risk of spending too much time procrastinating in such way or become addicted to social media.

Disadvantages of Being at Home

Advantages of Multitasking

Some students stated that they are improving at self-studying and have way more opportunities to be with their families. This can be a blessing and a curse at the same time since not everyone has conditions for a peaceful environment. Many have siblings or other members of family also staying at home which can cause some distress. However, even more alarming are comments on how much time students invest into learning and working on assignments. Clearly, on one hand staying at home and not commuting saves us some time. On the other hand, students stated that they are given even more assignments than before and it takes a lot of time to finish them. Most of them sit in front of the laptop for days with minimum exercise, which is harmful both for their physical and mental health.

As the number of assignments increases, students try to use their time as effectively as possible. The question is, is this beneficial? One student shared this opinion: “During seminars, while other colleagues are presenting, I normally cook, iron or have lunch. I say something when it is needed or expected, but besides that I do other stuff that does not interfere with my seminar.” Other students confessed that because during lectures they are not obliged to have their cameras on, they work on assignments and watch the lecture later if it is being recorded.

Disadvantages of Multitasking It may seem that the efficiency of work increases when you multitask. Well, that is neither true nor false. Although students can work on several tasks during lectures or

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seminars, in fact they just keep adding another activity to the pile of unfinished activities. As they are not actively listening to the lecture, they rely on recording maybe a little too much and postpone it. Assignments keep adding up and students lose their track due to overload.

Advantages of Distance Teaching Distance teaching definitely cuts both ways. Possibilities to use new and fun methods, new ways of explaining curriculum were found. Students value being more anonymous during lectures while asking questions and commenting. Presenting is now easier and less nerve-wracking. Evening lectures have become safer and students do not waste time by commuting from one faculty to another. Recorded lectures are ready to be watched anytime and anywhere (even though everything has its limits).

Disadvantages of Distance Teaching Many are currently working on their final theses. Even though there are possibilities to use internet sources, some prefer going to library and search for books. Since university and faculty libraries are closed for public, students are forced to rely on what internet provides them with. Some students, e.g. from Faculty of Natural Sciences or Faculty of Medicine mentioned irreplaceability of practical classes and labs. Students cannot go to a field and take samples. Citing a student from the Faculty of Medicine: ‘It is inconceivable to learn about all of the structures, e.g. bones that we cannot grab and feel, see them for our own eyes, just from books and pictures. When the internet connection is bad, it cuts unbelievably.’

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Advantages of the Digital Technologies Students and teachers needed to learn how to work with platforms such as Zoom or Teams, and how to find new apps and programs and consequently, become more technologically advanced.

Disadvantages of the Digital Technologies Not all students are equipped with adequate internet signal and some experience issues with their microphones and web cameras. Sometimes even new equipment or an upgrade of internet package was needed to resolve these issues. However, some decide to take it as their advantage when they don’t want to fully participate during lectures or seminars. As one student mentioned: “Now I can cry during the lectures and seminars freely without anyone seeing me.’ (I guess we all felt that.) With all of this being said, what is YOUR opinion? Are you satisfied or is there anything that you would change? Hopefully, we will successfully get through this altogether and in a short amount of time we’ll meet each other again. But until then: Stay safe – stay home, guys! And do not forget to take care of yourselves.


| CORONA LIFE

Christmas at Corona Times

author | Vanessa Legardi

C

hristmas… the time of the year in which the world literally shines. An atmosphere of peace and a good vibe can be felt pretty much everywhere. There are several reasons people look forward to this time of the year. Be it the presents, the delicious Christmas dinner, the time with the family, the skiing trips or even those days off work. There’s always a reason to look forward to Christmas. But what specifically has Christmas 2020 given us to look forward to? Let’s answer this question by going back to January 2020 first. It seemed to be quite a normal year, like any other. People celebrated, they spent precious moments with their families and friends, they drank, and they probably got their midnight kiss on January the 1st. What most of us didn’t know, however, was what was just about to happen. On January the 1st 2020 none of us could have possible imagined that 2020 was going to be one of the most chaotic years in human history. Fires in Australia, the almost beginning of WWIII, and your favourite one the spread of COVID-19. At the beginning, it didn’t seem to be bad to stay at home for

“a couple of weeks”. It even seemed like a good thing, a few days off school or work. But what started as a two-week quarantine turned up to be a three-month isolation. We were all thinking “It all be good in the summer”. A fair assumption, but certainly far away from reality. And so, the academic year started again but in a different way, By the end of October after the national wide testing, we had a reason to be happy about, most people didn’t have the virus and so we were happy that by Christmas it will all be okay. The holiday season arrived and unfortunately things had not changed that much, in fact, they started looking even worse. However, this year we learned to look forward to other things, other than the presents, the Christmas dinner, the days off and the skiing trips. We learned that there’s a present that can’t be found even in the fanciest and most expensive store, and that is health. So, what has Christmas 2020 given us to look forward to? It has given us an opportunity. An opportunity to realize how lucky we are. It has given us a chance to rediscover this amazing time of the year and the reasons why it is so precious. Maybe this year some of us didn’t get to open presents, to go on skiing trips, to eat Christmas dinner and that is a little bit sad. However, some others didn’t get that opportunity. Therefore, if you were one of the lucky ones, that actually got the chance of sharing precious moments with your loved ones even in these chaotic times, then let us encourage you to be thankful. Be thankful for the small things, for those that seem not to have much importance, because at the end of the day, those are the things that matter. Christmas at Corona times looked different from other Christmases. Our faces were covered and the world we knew changed completely. But besides all of that, we are indeed the lucky ones. So, we wish you a beautiful 2021. And now you know there’s always something to look forward to, even if it’s Christmas at Corona times. Stay safe

x

Vanessa Legardi

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TRENDS |

Color(s) of 2021: Gray and Yellow

Pantone color of the year has been announced yet again. For the year 2021 they came up with something special. It is not just one shade of color but two – Ultimate Gray (PANTONE 17-5104) and Illuminating (PANTONE 13-0647). This is the second time Pantone chose two different colors, the first time happened in 2016.

Ultimate Gray is a soft gray, a subtle neutral shade reminiscent of stones and pebbles, a solid foundation that offers stability, steadiness and resilience.

author | Natália Krýslová

lluminating is a bright (not to be mistaken for neon) yellow that’s meant to be warm, cheerful and literally illuminating.

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A combination of these two colors is supposed to made us think that 2021 is going to bring more stability, encouragement and yet brightness and happiness to our lives after we left the tough and sad 2020 behind. It is meant to give us hope. The two colors are very different and yet they go together, a vibrant yellow to a very neutral gray. As Pantone said, they are “practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic”. They are representing happiness supported by stability.

What is Pantone, how is the color of the year chosen and what is it for? Pantone is a company from New Jersey that established a standardized color matching system back in the 1960s. Since then the system of color coding introduced by Pantone has been used by various industries from graphic design and printing to fashion design and home décor. You might recognize the company thanks to their Pantone Guides – sets of rectangular paper sheets that have color swatches printed on them, along with their corresponding color codes. The majority of the population uses these when renovating their homes, when choosing colors for everything from wall paints to fabric colors. The company has been choosing the Color of the Year for over 20 years now. They consider different trends in the society looking at analyses of fashion trends, new artists, new materials, popular traveling destinations, film production, new lifestyles and the overall conditions and moods in the society. The colors of 2021 have been influenced by the ongoing pandemic situation in the world and are therefore meant to uplift people in the following year.

Pantone’s predictions have been so powerful throughout the years that their color selection heavily influences upcoming color trends in the society. From now on you might see a rise in yellow and grey fashion items (everything from dresses to shoes), home décor suggestions, beauty products (from eyeshadow palettes to nail polish) but also graphic design and product packaging.

What do colors mean? According to psychology, different colors have their particular meaning. Even though it might be based on instincts and emotion and is therefore subjective, we could all agree that the color black brings out a different feeling than orange. When we look at the two colors Pantone chose for 2021, they both have their meaning. Yellow is the color of optimism. It is energetic and uplifting. Yellow speaks to the left hemisphere in our brain and helps us with thinking and decision making. It is also related to enthusiasm, spontaneity and positivity. Yellow conveys the feeling of energy and being awake. Seeing yellow objects could positively affect our mood and bring happiness. Gray is a conservative color that is said to be unemotional, neutral. It might make us think of gloom, depression and avoiding attention. Being a neutral color, it is said to be stabilizing, formal and practical. Surrounding yourself with grey objects might make you feel more mature, protected but also low in energy. We might think that gray and yellow are opposites but as we can see they also perfectly complement each other, create balance and peace.

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LIFESTYLE |

author | Romana Kališová

Improve Your Sleep (and Live a Better Life!) What do you do for your health on daily basis? Do you work out every day? Do you eat healthy food? Do you meditate or do yoga regularly? And finally, do you sleep enough? Your sleep routine may be even more important than you think. Lack of sleep can have negative effect on your brain function, it can cause you to gain weight or increase the risk of contracting various diseases (blood sugar and blood pressure problems, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, depression…). Moreover, sleep deprivation affects your immune system. People who don’t get enough sleep may be more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. But after all, it can be hard to get a good night´s sleep in stressful times just like previous months have certainly been. You may have not the power to change the overall situation, but you can implement a couple of habits to make your sleep better. The better your sleep is, the less you experience daytime tiredness and the better you feel.

1. Reduce your exposure to blue light. Blue light comes from electronic devices (such as your phone, computer, TV…) and the problem is that it blocks a hormone called melatonin that causes sleep. When it gets dark, blue light completely messes with the body’s biological clock. It basically reduces quantity and quality of your sleep. It’s obvious that you cannot avoid it during the day. But according to scientists, here’s the manageable suggestion: try to turn off your phone and computer for about 2 hours before going to bed. Try to read or spend time with your loved ones instead. 54

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2. Have a pre-sleep routine to calm your mind and reduce stress. This is especially helpful when going through hard and stressful times. But there are many ways in which you can quieten your mind and after all, quieten your body as well. It can be anything: a hot shower, reading a few pages from your favorite book, taking a walk outside, or trying different relaxation techniques (play relaxing music, meditate, try deep breathing, do gentle yoga…). It may release the anxiety and muscle tension and help you fall asleep.


3. Pay attention to your caffeine intake. Drinking coffee may be beneficial in terms of having energy and focus (e.g. when studying), but it may prevent your body from calming down and have disruptive effect on sleep. If you’re able to fall asleep after drinking coffee, drinking it still may not be completely worth it. Caffeine can disturb your sleep, so you wake more often during the night. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, it’s recommended to drink your last cup of coffee 6 hours before sleep (because this is the time the body usually needs to metabolize your caffeine consumption).

6. Create a calming sleeping environment. It’s important to keep your room cold, quiet and dark so your body can produce the melatonin. Try to eliminate external light and noises, open the window before sleeping, keep your room clean and tidy. Make sure that your mattress and pillow are comfortable, that your room is not too warm or too cold and that you’re feeling good in your environment.

4. Don’t eat a lot before going to bed. A heavy meal can prevent you from sleeping or make you toss and turn during the night. But a little snack before bed can help. There are certain foods and drinks that control the sleep cycle. Try warm milk, bread and cheese, nuts (almonds, walnuts) or just a simple cup of chamomile tea. Almonds contain melatonin, milk contains tryptophan, calcium, vitamin D and melatonin, too, that are all helpful in keeping the sleep cycle going.

7. Exercise regularly. Workout can reduce stress and tire you out, so your sleep may become deeper once you add exercise to your daily routine. The best time to do the workout is early morning or afternoon. Avoid exercising before bed because it can have the opposite effect.

5. Have a consistent sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day – even during weekends. The regular sleep schedule maintains the body’s internal clock so you can fall asleep and wake up more easily and naturally. Set a bedtime so you can sleep for about 7 hours every night. The internal body rhythm then causes you to enter a stage of deep, quality sleep.

Sleep is essential for our mental and physical health. Trying to apply all these tips would probably be overwhelming, but you can at least pick some of them and try to make your sleep hygiene better. Sometimes even small changes can make a difference and especially if you feel stressed out during these times, improving your sleep may be very helpful.

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LIFESTYLE |

Care for Yourself or How Exercising May Change Your Life I have a question for you: how have you been feeling lately? Just think about it. Was it all about working on assignments for school? Preparing for exams? Did you get a good sleep? Or has Netflix dragged you into several hour bingewatching? Corona makes people do miraculous things – from gaining new skills to doing absolutely nothing for whole days. And let me tell you this: either way, it is OK. If you got into new activities that is amazing and props to you. But if you feel like doing nothing, that is good too. Unless you start feeling frustrated and demotivated. Continuous lack of motivation may have many negative consequences – from not catching up with things happening in life, to feeling stressed and anxious and in the worst scenarios feeling depressed. Even though the pandemics enhanced this state of mind among people, sadly it had been quite common even before the corona virus stroked. That is why I consider friendly reminders as important. So, how to get out of this selfdestructive spiral, losing motivation and yourself? If you want to attain a good physique, but more importantly fell better mentally, exercising may be a good idea how to start. Exercising has many benefits for your health. Lets mention at least some out of the plenty: - It can make you feel happier. Exercising helps our body out with the production of serotonin which is closely associated with improving states of anxiety and depression. However, it needs to be understood that if you have anxiety or depression it may be sometimes difficult to even get up out of bed. In fact, you do not need to do a whole cardio session. Try to do a little physical activity such as getting around a flat or house. By adding little by little you may 56

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author | Michaela Gajdošová

see some momentary changes in mood which may become permanent after some time. - You may feel more energetic. Exercising delivers nutrients and oxygen into our tissues providing us with more energy, - You may sleep better. This may seem quite logical – you exercise and therefore you invest a lot of energy into some action. However, beware exercising before going to bed. As it was stated before, by exercising you gain certain amount of energy which needs to be used. Exercising before bedtime may cause you a trouble with falling asleep. - It helps with weight control… Which is great if you ate a lot of snacks during several-hour binge-watching of Netflix (we have all been there, do not worry). But keep in mind that exercising does not do all the magic. Eating some fruit and vegetables, nutritious meals and being conscious with what you eat will help you achieve your goals. - It helps with memory. By making your blood flowing into your brain, you deliver oxygen and hormones that help with production of brain cells.

But before you do quick and sudden changes, I will provide you with some tips and tricks:

Firstly, you need to start slowly. Do not rush into making huge life changes. There are 2 amazingly simple rules which can make changes in your progress: the 20 second-rule and 2-minutes rule. The first one says that if you want a habit to stick, you need less than 20


seconds to get it done. Let’s say that your main goal is to exercise at least three times a week. Keep in mind that each new habit has certain “micro habits” in it. For example, starting working out requires you to prepare gym clothes, some food, water and moving to the place (if you choose to work out at gym). If you want to make it easier, and therefore more likely completable, prepare the clothes a day ahead. When you will see them, the only action you will need to do is the put them on and get moving to achieve your goal. The second rule concerns your viewpoint on your new habit. It may be tempting to dream big, set high goals and aim for exercising an hour every single day. Now slow down your horses. They may seem motivating in the beginning, but when life hits you and sets up a lot of challenges, your goal may be too overwhelming to achieve and you lose your motivation. Instead, start slowly – for at least 2 minutes a day. Ideally, try exercising every day at the same time. The purpose is to make the habit stick so after some time (approximately a month) you will do it automatically. Another benefit of this rule is that even though the objective is to do the activity for 2 minutes only, usually you end up doing it for a longer period. This provides you with higher self-esteem and trust in yourself. Do not forget to track your changes. You can jot down what type of exercises and how many sets you did, how your body measurements have changed and so on. Keeping a track with these changes make you feel more motivated because you see the progress you have done already. So, are you going to give it a try and challenge yourself? If yes, then hooray and all fingers crossed. You decided not only to get moving but also to take care of yourself. And that counts mostly.

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CORONA LIFE |

How Dizis Helped Me Through Lockdown

Television series have always been a part of my life. I’ve been watching them since I was about seven or eight years old. The first series that I watched was with my mom, even though it was a Korean period drama, it stole my heart and lead me to a place full of intrigue and manipulation. It became the “thing” for me and my mom to do together. As lockdown came barging into our lives this summer, I needed something to distract me, not only from school and the world burning around me, but also from my own feelings. Naturally I looked for shows to watch. As all the production companies stopped working, not only in Europe, but in the US as well, I needed to find a country that produced shows despite the pandemic. I knew for sure that I didn’t want to re-watch anything, so I looked for genres that were completely new to me. An unknown territory, that was considered “lame” by the others around me. Those are dizis – Turkish drama/rom-com/comedy series, its episodes are around 90 minutes long, making it a one-of-a-kind industry in the whole world. Of course, there is a language barrier involved in watching these kinds of shows, but I discovered a whole new place full of bad translations, probably made by a group of over-excited girls, just as lonely and desperate to escape as I was. Dizis are shows that are made with very strict RTÜK {Radio and Television Supreme Council} 58

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perspectives

restrictions and fines, which may be given for explicit content. That’s why the producers and writers have to find clever ways which don’t involve kissing, or any other kinds of sexual intimacy, to show the impeccable chemistry between actors. In these situations, actors are able to show wide range author | Nikoleta Nagyová a of emotions without there being any touching involved. The audience has to find ways to decode the various meanings of scenes involving a t-shirt hanging a little low off the shoulder, or holding hands in bed in the morning, while looking into each other’s eyes. These scenarios show a new kind of expression of love and passion. Many people say that these innocent scenes make them feel more than a sex scene shown to create the illusion of intimacy between actors. Yes, there is a sense of longing for those kinds of scenes, where the actors kiss each other often, but after some time, you get used to it. You will be waiting for the kisses and when they come, they will make you feel like something very special just happened. They hold more power than the kisses in the Western shows and films. All in all, watching a new genre has opened my eyes to a whole new world of love for television. These production companies produce a feature film every week. Twitter is blowing up with every episode, with every cute or funny scene that resonates with people spending most of their time locked up inside their homes. I know girls from Brasil, Italy, the US or the Czech Republic who are watching these shows, all sharing the same opinion, that Dizis are a true lifeline in times like these. When everything is uncertain and the only thing you know for sure is that you have to get in front of the TV because your show is starting.


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A big thanks goes to the whole Perspectives team for making this issue happen! Be sure to keep a lookout on our social media handles for what we planned next. Thank you for your support! perspectives.ed@gmail.com | issuu.com/magazineperspectives/ | perspectivesfifuk.wordpress.com perspectives |

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Profile for Perspectives

Perspectives - Corona: The Struggles And Calms It Brings... And Not Only That (March 2021)  

So long, yet so many stories... We bring you long-awaited issue of our student's magazine. :)

Perspectives - Corona: The Struggles And Calms It Brings... And Not Only That (March 2021)  

So long, yet so many stories... We bring you long-awaited issue of our student's magazine. :)

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