Leaving Prague airport on a Saturday night last month, speeding past beer billboard after beer billboard as I made my way towards the city centre, I felt that mix of apprehension and excitement that comes with facing into the unknown. I was there to attend the EACA International Advertising Summer School 2017 (run by the European Association of Communications Agencies every year), not knowing anyone and not really sure what to expect from it all. One week later however, as I made the same journey in the opposite direction my feelings had changed considerably – while I was sad to be leaving the beautiful city of Prague and the great people I’d met, I was also feeling inspired and motivated to go back to Ireland and apply all the things I’d learned to my day to day work.

The week kicked off with an introduction and briefing session with McDonald’s Czech Republic, the client who we would be pitching our ideas to at the end of the week. We then launched into the first of many great sessions with this year’s trainers, looking at the future of advertising and topics such as the creative battle between AI and humans (we’re still winning for now!). Other sessions from the week made us think about how even something as ordinary as toothpaste can change the world through great advertising, or had us putting on improv poetry performances to better understand how to really connect your content with your audience.

Once classes were over, our evenings were left to us to explore Prague and work on our pitches. At the beginning of the week we were put in groups, with each group having a mix of people from different countries and different disciplines to ensure all bases were covered. It was strange going from complete strangers on Day 1, to a fully functional pitch team 4 days later but without a doubt the tight deadline brought us all together far quicker than expected and it was such a satisfying feeling when we finally cracked our idea and everyone got behind it 100% (give or take a couple of sleep deprived outbursts along the way!). While a lot of our time was spent working in classrooms or in hotel lobbies late into the night, we tried to get out and see Prague as much as we could, having ‘brainstorming sessions’ at the riverside bars and doing ‘market research’ at the main sights. One of the great draws of the course for me was the added benefit of getting to visit a city that’s been on my list forever, and Prague certainly didn’t disappoint!

On Friday, all 60+ of us gathered together again to present our ideas in front of a panel made up of the client, the creative agency and other industry experts. All week the sessions had been designed to help us think about this final presentation and while it was a great experience getting up and pitching our group’s idea to the judges, it was just as interesting listening to the other teams and seeing how they had applied what we’d learned that week and also the influence of everyone’s individual backgrounds on their pitches. The course was an amazing learning experience, both reaffirming things that I already knew from my own experience in the industry and opening my eyes to elements of advertising I’d never even really thought about. I’m super grateful that I got the opportunity to participate in the 2017 course, and for anyone considering applying for next year I’d say 100% go for it!