Tomas Heger is a third-year undergraduate student at King’s College London, currently completing a BSc in Economics and Management. He has been volunteering with FCC since January this year, helping out on various projects. When the COVID-19 crisis struck, Tomas was advised to return to his native Czech Republic and managed to make it back on one of the very last flights available before the country closed its borders. Tomas talks here about his experience of volunteering with us and how the pandemic is affecting his studies and his plans for the future.
Why did you choose to volunteer for FCC?
I had always thought that I would end up working in finance, however, during my summer holidays, I worked for a healthcare company and this experience, combined with my passion for longevity research, led me to re-evaluate my future endeavours and set me on a path towards work in the health and social care sector. Although I now knew that I wanted to continue my studies with a health-oriented Masters degree, I wasn’t certain whether it should be in health economics, policy or management and therefore trying out these fields first hand felt like the right choice. This, combined with my natural inclination towards data analytics and research, led me to FCC, where I saw an opportunity to not only learn the ropes of policy research from the unique perspective of a non-profit/VC firm but to also utilise some of my knowledge in data analytics and to further improve my understanding of the health and care sector in the UK.
What has it been like?
While working at FCC, I was able to participate in numerous projects, ranging from the valuations of NHS radiological datasets to brainstorming possible options for data markets in the UK and more broadly thinking about the impact of old age on the future of health and care in the environment and the economy. My work at FCC has predominantly involved researching the current data valuation techniques, data markets and possible future options for the monetisation of these datasets. This work provided immense insight into these topics and has further solidified my resolve to apply myself in this sector.
How has the COVID-19 situation affected your studies?
Soon after COVID-19 related restrictions started to fill European newspapers my university acted quickly to move all remaining teachings online and allowed all students currently living in the UK to return to their home countries and continue their studies via the internet. The Czech Republic was one of the first countries to close down its borders and impose strict regulations on travel within the country. Not knowing how long the crisis might last, I choose to fly home as soon as possible. Fortunately, due to all the teachings moving online and the format and timetable of the exams being reassessed, I was able to leave and take the assessments at home. Some of my exams have been converted to coursework and the remainder are now 24hour take-home assessments. Also, since the university realises that this crisis might negatively affect our results this term, there is also a safety-net policy which will compare my first term results to these online exams and (if I understand correctly) adjust the new grades if they differ too much.
Unfortunately, my graduation ceremony has been postponed indefinitely and thus the end to my undergraduate years will be a diploma arriving in an envelope in the post.
An interesting comparison can be made with the Czech Republic, where the universities are struggling to fully utilise online learning and the exams, especially the final year exams, are still planned to be held in person as they are usually oral as compared to tests in the UK.
What are your plans for the autumn?
My current plan is to continue my studies at Imperial College London doing an MSc in Health Management and this is still going ahead as planned. However, the situation may change. Who knows whether teaching might get postponed or maybe even moved online? Luckily Imperial has an abundance of experience with online courses.
How is COVID-19 being handled in the Czech Republic?
Shortly after the 12th of March, the Government imposed severe restrictions on the movement of individuals, imposing more severe measures almost every day for the next few days. Today, most shops are closed as well as borders to foreigners and movement within the country is severely restricted to only essential trips. Furthermore, it is illegal to go outside without a mask. On the other hand, the police have been advised not to interact with civilians on this and, therefore, it’s not really the laws that help contain the spread of the virus but responsible citizens who are rational enough to wear masks and limit their movement. This can also be illustrated by the fact that the majority of the population manufactured their own face masks and started wearing them before the law mandating the use of masks was passed.
Since then, however, many of the restrictions are being loosened and, while the state of emergency has been prolonged till the end of April, it is starting to look likely that life might return to some semblance of normality soon. Let’s hope so!