I read about IAYC 1998 in the German astronomy magazine ‘Sterne und Weltraum’. Not knowing what to expect, I decided to apply to the camp, for the first time. Of course, quite some information was available on the camp’s website. And although I knew it would be only four hours a day of so-called working group time, I didn’t know what I really should expect. What will this working group time be like? Instructor standing in front of the group distributing tasks and asking questions? Oh well, no, they wrote it’s not like school…
Seven working groups were offered: Astronomical computing, Discoveries in astronomy, Forces, fields and interactions, General astrophysics, Nuclei in the cosmos, Photometry and Sky imaging.
I had chosen Sky imaging. Arriving at the camp, one of the leaders welcomed me and asked me to wait a little, and so I made first international contacts, sitting outside in front of the camp house together with a Slovak and a Czech doing some smalltalk. Getting to know some of the rituals of IAYC made me dive into a very own and very special world, that, once you are inside, keeps you in there, and it won’t let you escape even after the end of the camp. Living together for three weeks is enough time to do a lot of crazy things. Let it be the fact to be in a room together with people from 17 different nations playing games for children aged 6-10. And it’s fun! Let it be the showergame. What is the showergame? Oh well, you gotta go see that yourself. If you would have been in 1998, you would have also seen soccer contests, human knots, rocket building, a fantastic machine and a sexy machine, campfire, singing and quite a number of spontaneous parties.
And you would have seen the scientific side of the camp, besides all this that is already enough to make a summer a lot of fun. In IAYC 1998, I have written down my first double integral before I even saw a single one at school. I learned about image processing. I have seen my first CCD chip there, being the heart of a webcam that was taken apart in order to be transformed into a CCD camera for a telescope. It ended up in a cap of shaving cream, it was mounted on the telescope, and hey, although it showed quite some noise it produced an image ¿ how beautiful is that, how inspiring? Where, if not in IAYC 1998, would have been the right place, when, if not there, would have been the right time to say Windows goodbye (at least part-time) and enter a world of penguins, all of them being very individual, very open, some called Redhat, some Debian, some SuSE? IAYC 1998 was my first mount /dev/fd0 /media/floppy.
Let me tell you a last thing that IAYC showed me: Whatever you learn in your English classes at school, forget it. When it comes to really international conversations, it all reduces down to devices!
My two cents.