By Raghav Khandelwal,
Chemical Engineering, 4th year
DTU, Denmark (Autumn 2018-19)
For each one of us, college life is like a transition from teen to an adult. We make friends, learn new things going from one semester to other (crying to pass each one) capturing millions of experiences and memories. Every semester brings something new but for me the last semester; the exchange program at Denmark Technical University will be the limelight of my whole academic life.
Denmark Technical University
The process of exchange starts with a slightly tedious job of course mapping i.e. looking for the courses with similar course content in the foreign university. Once you succeed in mapping your courses, you have to get the application signed by your faculty advisor and then get it approved by the DUGC. After that it goes to the International relations office for approval and nominations. The whole process for exchange in DTU is, in general pretty straightforward.
The Journey Starts
Arriving in Copenhagen, I had to start the journey as a freshie again, making new friends along with understanding new education system. I was excited and a bit nervous at the same time. The exchange program at DTU with more than 800+ exchange students started with an introduction week in which 15 exchange students from different parts of the globe were grouped and were assigned a buddy. Later on, 2 such groups were merged together. The whole week was so well organised with lots of interesting stuff lined up for us. We had presentations about university’s culture, their different clubs, workshops, events, so many interactive games / activities, an amazing race in which we explored the famous spots of Copenhagen and also had a gala dinner and an after party. All these activities and exploring introduced me to so many new and exciting people. This helped in making many good friends just in the beginning phase which would have been a bit difficult otherwise. Luckily, our buddy group’s bonding was great and we hung out a lot even after that week and even used to have lunch together often.
The happiest country of the world – Denmark
According to my experience, Danes are the nicest, happiest and the most eco-friendly people. Part of the Nordic region, it has one of the most socially, economically and technologically advanced societies in the world. There is no doubt why Copenhagen, its capital city, is considered the number one city to travel in the world.
With old Nordic architecture to the new modern architectures, from the thrilling rides of Tivoli to the centuries-old royal castles, museums, beaches and what not. Copenhagen didn’t disappoint me at all. The trademark place Nyhvan with colourful blocks of buildings is a love at first site and the delicious Danish pastries are like heaven on plate.
The only enemy there was weather. Coming from a tropical land, the frequent rains with spine freezing wind can depress most of us Indians. Also it was difficult to adapt with the sunrise and daylight hours. In September it was light and cheerful, with sunrise at 4am and sunset about 10 pm whereas from mid-October with sunrise at 9am, it starts getting dark and dreary with sunset at 4 pm.
I also witnessed my first ever Falls (not the emotional one but the season :P) . Always wanted to experience the transition of the lush green coloured leaves to the beautiful autumn colours of orange/yellow/brown followed by dull leafless stage.
Life at DTU
Academically, life at DTU was different from the academic life at Bombay. The lectures were 4 hours long, with professors giving break every 50 mins. Also, attendance was not compulsory (a reason for travelling more :P). Professors were friendly and we used to call them by their names unlike using Ma’am/Sir we use in the Indian System. We didn’t have any mid-semester exams or a lot of quizzes, instead they have sort of an intensive system of group assignments and projects [some of which required a lot of literature/research reading as well] .These collaboration with students from different educational backgrounds gives a different perspective and develops your thought process a lot.
Fortunately, I got an accommodation at campus village with other exchange students. I had housemates from Singapore, China, Japan, Turkey and Hungary and it was great fun to live with so many diverse people, interacting and cooking with them and also getting to know more about their culture and country. It isn’t quite affordable to eat out in Denmark on a daily basis, so I used to cook my own food. I started as a novice in this department but became a good cook gradually. Going for regular grocery shopping made me realize of the responsibilities that comes along with the independence.
It was also great to have fellow exchange students from IIT as well. There was always a sense of comfort and a feeling of homeliness with those people. We all learned to cook Indian food together, travelled and even celebrated different festivals together including Diwali.
Now, the most amazing part of the exchange, travelling
One of my reasons of choosing Denmark for an exchange was the Schengen visa which allows visit to 20+ European countries. And I tried to explore as much as I could within a certain budget.
The first country I travelled to was Belgium. Oh man! Their fries, waffles and chocolates are to die for. We visited Bruges the ‘ Venice of the north’ where we got the feel of old medieval European culture. Next was an amazing 11 day long trip in the potato week holidays with 5 other fellow exchange students. We travelled from the fashion capital of Milan to the Renaissance city of Florence, the hyped tower of Pisa to the most historical city of Rome and Vatican City. Italy is full of art, architecture and of course, the most famous pizzas. We also wandered around the Hungarian capital Budapest, which for me is the most beautiful city at night. The city is so well lit up, bathing in golden lights. The next stops included Vienna and Prague. The highlight of the trip was an unplanned trip to the picturesque towns of Cinque Terre.
My dream of travelling solo came true with a trip to Spain. I visited some of the most astonishing and bizarre architectural buildings in Barcelona and toured to various shooting locations of the world famous television show Game of thrones (GOT) at Girona (City of Bravos).
Tip: The best way to explore these European countries is by walking/cycling and commuting in the public transport. Take a day pass and just hop on/off wherever you want.
Being a photography enthusiast, the beautiful European localities were a paradise for me. I found immense joy capturing anything and everything that caught my eye.
Girona, Spain Colosseum, Rome
4 months, miles away from home, I made so many friends, interacted with lots of people from different cultures and societies of the world, experienced new things which I would have never thought of, I took millions of memories back home. I knew I was returning a changed person. It had been an unforgettable experience for me, and I will cherish the moments I spent there forever.
Is an exchange worth?
Definitely YES. The opportunity to travel and experience different cultures, in my opinion can make you grow as an individual. There are definitely some trade-offs specially for a bachelor student (mixed up curriculum and possibly internship), but the amount of learning is immense and I bet you won’t regret your decision. My advice especially to my juniors would be, at least consider for an exchange program once. Cheers!