A Journey to the West!

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

Pre-exchange preparations

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.


Nyhvan, Copenhagen

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.

 
Manarola,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!

Advertisements

A journey like never before!

By Satyam Mohla,
Electrical Engineering, 4th Year
NTU, Singapore (Autumn 2017-18)

Singapore is an island country in Southeast Asia, just off the Malay Peninsula and 85 miles north of the equator. It has always been on my travel list, for quite a lot of reasons. I have always been interested to come here for many reasons: It has a balance of the modernism of Western Culture and yet has a strong emphasis on South East Asia. I am also interested in finance and economics and so was already aware of the strong financial markets of Singapore


Merlion Park, A symbol of Singapore: Diversity, Aug 2018

Singapore for me was a diverse multi-ethnic country, boasting strong ties to its history and culture. A country that got independent just around the same time as India, Singapore has come a long way to having a high level of development not only regarding materialistic capital but also regarding human capital. The country is young but well developed with leaning skyscrapers, diverse communities and unique buildings. Singapore has many cultures living within it. As a result, there is a very diverse way of life with people speaking many languages and worshipping some different religions. Such a wide range of cultures makes the country very accepting of others. The country boasts of strong Non-Singaporean presence in almost all sectors of Singapore. Also being at a very strong position economically makes it easier for Singapore to invest in foreign relations and foster new ties making the country more and more open to foreigners.


China Town, A Mix bag of Cultures, Aug 2018

This is important when the country-city is a major port in South East Asia, is an important financial market and is home to the coming future. The country is infested with technology in every nook and corner. The founders and leaders of young Singapore made sure that the technological changes are adapted swiftly to the never stopping lives here. From MRT to Buses, the public transport is integrated into one NFC card transaction channel making it convenient for the people to use it. The bureaucratic red tape here is none, for almost every process is conveniently online, making it easier for people and first timers to go thru it hassle- free. I still remember I had applied for my Visa letter just eight days before travel, and I feared the time might be too less. However, everything went smooth, and I reached here in time. All because of the efficient process of the ICA, the immigration authority of Singapore.

Little India, August 2018

I love how the people here have adapted to many cultures while keeping their own intact — a mix of Chinese, Malay and Indian. Of Buddhist, Muslim Hindu and Christian religion. A mix of all the colourful aspects of every culture is reflected here. The same is reflected in the food here too. The main streets in Singapore are busy, colourful and filled with the inviting aromas of street food. It is here where you can devour delicious prawn noodles or a bowl of Wee Nam Kee chicken. One of the biggest things here is the “Chicken Rice”.

What is that! Tryst with Indonesian Cuisine, August 2018

A culture of street food transformed here into organised hawker centres: Lines of small shops where vendors sell specific delicacies. Some of these shops have been accorded Michelin stars! These spots are bursting with local flavours and are irresistible after a long day walking through the streets and shopping in the malls. We didn’t face any cultural differences or shocks however some aspects of Singapore did surprise us. The presence of CCTV cameras everywhere was a little unnerving; even the buses had 3-4 cameras! God, I wonder who watches all the videos. Also the fact that Cars in Singapore are 5-10 times expensive! It’s funny that you can buy 5 Rolls Royce in the US at the same price you can buy one here! Also a funny one, that chewing gum is banned in here! Also, I got to know something about “kiasu” or also know as FOMO: Fear of Missing out. Singaporeans have a big FOMO, and I discovered this when I saw people waiting in queues for hours and Hours! For a wrist bad! WHY? I’d preferable let it go and, I asked my Singaporean guy here as to why were people queuing up? And got to know about this! Another thing worth mentioning here is the humidity we face, it’s so much! So much.

The campus was one of the best I have ever been to. I have been to campuses in the United States, Japan and India and Singapore campus would come out as a modern open campus, with a high emphasis on the concept of open spaces, to promote interactive learning providing that conducive environment for collaboration. The facilities provided here the best, The libraries are so amazing here, with the best of the facilities available. Even, uninterrupted access to the Bloomberg terminal! The education standards are good with emphasis on learning over mugging the subject or just finishing the assignments. It’s a little easier here than at IIT Bombay however, the learning here is holistic, and students are encouraged to work together in a team, learn together and learn many things, not just the academics which is why I believe that NTU students are far better off because of the soft-skills which we lack so much in India. NTU provides what I call a well-balanced education, something severely lacking in the Indian Education System. One of the highlights of this program was the people I met from so many countries here. The friendships I have that are going to last a lifetime, The relationships that were fostered here, between the future leaders of tomorrow. Besides this, one of the materialistic highlights of this program was the F1 race tickets; I was so happy about it. Amazing that was!

Singapore GP F1: No words to describe, Sept 2018

I have learnt a lot in this program, not just how to be the leader but also how to connect to new people from different countries but also. I always saw this as an opportunity to travel, meet new people and make friends, contemplate and understand others thru living their lives, also experiencing history and culture. An insight into new values & opinions, to explore new places and cuisine. Staying in a completely unfamiliar place independently was surely challenging. But I expected to learn crucial life skills from this experience. These different perspectives are invaluable when you are in a position of responsibility in future, and I want to emerge as a global citizen who can transcend national barriers and can make a difference in the society. I had always been a staunch believer of volunteering and giving back to society. I have volunteered a lot in the past. I have worked with the United Nations Environment Programme, Kenya, GIZ Germany, Times of India. And so, volunteering in Singapore was not that big a step for me!   I did two volunteer-ship in Singapore. I was involved in the Community Service Learning Programme for the mentally challenged at the IMH Singapore.

Painted by a mentally handicapped patient we spent time with, at IMH Singapore

We aimed to spend time with the patients to help them engage with the outer world. We conducted social and recreational activities, such as indoor games, painting, drawing etc. It was one of the most cherished experiences had here, we learnt so much about the challenges faced by them every day. I did have inhibitions at first, dealing with mentally handicapped patients. And I guess that is one part of the volunteering, you try to give back to the society and, you still get something back in return: humility, experience, and an understanding about people’s circumstances and their fights in daily life. These patients had very few people visiting them, and they were  so cheerful, for those few hours we spent there.

I guess this is the end? Sad it is coming to end. But we return to our countries beaming with hope, happiness in heart. Taking back my experiences, relations made. I will be resuming my studies for my goal to be change-maker and contribute to my country, India and, to this world.

Satyam

Somewhere in Singapore. Adios! The tears of Separation

Singapore & much more!

By Avineil Jain,
Electrical Engineering, Fifth Year,
NUS, Singapore (Autumn 2017-18)


“The purpose of life after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences” –
Eleanor Roosevelt

As truly said by the Former First Lady of USA, I went to National University of Singapore searching for experiences, and boy did I get them!

The Process of Getting There –

Tired of the hectic and infamous 3rd year of Electrical Engineering, I was determined to go for a semester exchange, because I wanted change from insti, and I wanted to travel. I had no preferences as such, but wanted a funded exchange. I applied for the TFLeaRN scholarship for either NUS or NTU, and due to my high CPI, I got selected for NUS! The procedure is a standard one – searching for courses to match, getting them approved by Faculty Advisor and HoD and submitting it to the IR office. For the scholarship application, we had to submit recommendation letters, a statement of purpose and proof of leadership and community service! Managing all of them, I secured the scholarship as well. The scholarship, along with summer internship stipend meant I could live an extremely comfortable life in one of the most expensive cities in the world! The Exchange Programme at NUS is a world class exchange programme attracting 1000+ students from across the world. All the formalities were a breeze, and I was astonished at the efficiency of management from the University’s side!

The Experience that was Singapore –

To be very honest, I did not read about SG much before going. I was positively surprised by the level of development in this tiny island nation. Towering Skyscrapers in the business district, to one of the best public transport systems in the world, SG has enough to dazzle anyone visiting it for the first time!

Diversity –

I landed in SG on 31st of July, and from the first day I started making friends. The friends that I made on the first day turned out to be my closest friends and we were a truly diverse bunch! I met people from almost all countries imaginable in Europe, North America and Oceania! Being one amongst 1000+ exchangers had its own fair share of Pros and Cons, the pros heavily outweighing the cons though. After just four months, I have friends from 15+ countries which is truly thrilling!

Food –

One of the best things I liked about SG was the food variety it had to offer. Thai, Vietnamese, Hokkien, Cantonese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Western and Indian, phew… were the cuisines which were available at almost all the public food courts in SG. It was truly a non-vegetarians paradise, and it would be safe to say, I had more meat in 4 months than I would eat in a year here in India! To my surprise, eating out, especially at Hawker Centres was extremely cheap, with prices comparable to India!

Nightlife –

Singapore has one of the best Nightlife a city can offer! With a wide options of night clubs, and Clarke Quay, the quintessential partying area in SG, it was hard not to dress up and go partying!

My favorite place was Ce La Vi, a club on the topmost floor of the Marina Bay Sands, the famous “3 buildings with ship on top” hotel! Cautionary Note: Partying is super expensive in SG, because of the super high taxes the government imposes on alcohol! Yet it did not seem to have any dampening effect on any of us exchangers!

Campus Life – 

NUS is a truly global world class university. The infrastructure was awesome (An Infinity Pool? Count me in!) and the courses were comparatively much easier compared to the rigor a student has to face doing courses here at IITB, which meant I was travelling and chilling much more than I expected! UTown was the most happening place in NUS, and rightly so with its high-rise hostels, gyms, food courts and eateries

My hostel, Ridge View Residential College, is one of the oldest hostels in NUS, and was simply beautiful! Brick Red walls, towering old trees and big spacious rooms meant a comfortable stay for four months. The mess also had much more variety, with upto 5 cuisines available at each meal.

Travel (Best Part about Exchange? Maybe!)

“Travelling leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller”
Indeed, the words of the scholar Ibn Battuta resonate with me as I gained lots of experiences, and stories to tell with my travels to Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia!

Langkawi, an island in Malaysia, where alcohol is duty free, is a paradise. Lush Greenery and stunning sceneries greet the visitor. The best way to experience the island is to rent a scooter, and explored the unexplored areas on the island. I have special memories with the island as I learnt Scuba Diving here, and became a certified PADI Open Water Diver. The experience of breathing underwater is incredible and quite hard to believe the first time one experiences it!


Borobudur in Yogyakarta is an 8th Century Buddhist Temple, and is a true marvel to experience! Mt Bromo, which is one of the most stunning active volcanoes to visit, is a true delight to watch during sunrise. Our experience in Indonesia was surreal, and Arunabh Saxena can testify to our adventures while riding a scooter in the jam packed crazy roads of Yogyakarta!

Halong Bay in Vietnam is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and an awe inspiring spectacle with towering limestone mountains and misty skies. Travelling in Vietnam was sheer delight, and my bucket list includes biking across the country!

My Semester Exchange was extremely fun and an eye opening experience for me. Last few days were quite emotional, saying goodbye to friends who you might meet after many years. The final moments were bittersweet, knowing a journey was coming to an end, but only for another one to start in the future! When I bid goodbye to SG, I knew I was returning a changed person with a completely new outlook to life.

Should You Apply for an Exchange Semester?

I see many juniors in a dilemma when it comes to Semester Exchange. It is sort of true that Semester Exchange is more preferred by Dual Degree Students, owing to strict curriculum adherence and problems of matching labs faced by Btech Students. However, I am a strong proponent for Semex, and would advise every junior to consider it once! If Independence, Travel, and meeting new people excites you, an exchange will not disappoint you. It gives a much broader experience than a University Intern, owning to longer stay and more free time. While some people may have a higher preference for Europe, an exchange even to SG or Taiwan would be a total blast as well!

ISTANBUL – AN INFINITE DIMENSIONS!

By Arpit Rathi
Electrical Engineering, fifth year
Boğaziçi University, Turkey (Autumn 2015-16)

Intro – With a lot of faded memories and a lot of cherished ones, I write this article about my experience of semester exchange program at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul more than a year ago during the Fall term, 2015-16. I went there with 3 of my batch-mates (Shubham Singhal, Kashish Sottany & Kanishk Khandelwal) from the same department. And we were the only 4 Indians among more than 400 exchange students at the university coming in from different parts of the world. If you’re someone who is considering to go for an exchange program to Istanbul, this would be a good read.

pic 1

All in one frame!

City– Istanbul has a rich history and the place is full of ancient monuments. It’s a great combo of both architectural & natural beauty and a blend of both western & eastern cultures. If you’re a party animal you’re at the right place. If you’re a spiritual seeker, you’re again at the right place. Not only does it resides people with both modern and conservative ideologies together, but in fact, Istanbul is the only city in the world that embraces two different continents – Europe and Asia.

Transport– The public transport is well furnished and economical with a large number of buses, taxis, metro and trams running through the city, but the most amazing experience is that of riding a Ferryboat. With such a variety of options for intra-city transport, travel is always easy and fun in Istanbul.

Food– Although there are plenty of restaurants around the university serving a variety of delicious food, if you’re a vegetarian, life would be a little difficult unless you know how to cook. But if you’re a non-vegetarian, you’re in absolute heaven!

University– The University occupies a huge landmass that is distributed over 6 different campuses. The main campus is near Bosphorus and has a beautiful scenic view and gives you an additional incentive to wake up and go to school every morning. One of the other campuses that is although quite far, has its own private beach. Apart from this, if you’re an animal lover, you’ll find a lot of cats and dogs all around the campus that enjoys the privilege of being common pets for everyone in the university.

pic 2

The Bosphorous view from South Campus

Students– In the university you’d find people from diverse backgrounds passionate about different fields of study like History, Political Science, Languages, etc. Interacting with them would give you a very different perspective in life and would help you grow as an individual and broaden your horizons.

Academics– All of us registered for a good number of credits. I took 7 courses, most of them being graduate level. Contrary to our expectations, there was a lot of coursework filled with assignments, projects and exams. And there was no getting away from the fact that we were only on a partial vacation. The academic standards were par excellence and the courses were structured really well. None the less we being IITians managed everything quite efficiently and in fact all of us performed a lot better than how we usually did over here.

People (Language) – The weather in Istanbul can be pretty cold with snowfalls but the people in Istanbul are always warm-hearted and welcoming to the visitors. Although the university students speak English as their second language, most of the natives speak only Turkish. Thankfully we have Google Translate for the rescue and we could easily get our way around in shops and malls. But learning some basic Turkish could prove really handy in day to day affairs.

People (Sports) – Turkish people are huge football enthusiasts. The 3 big football clubs in the country namely Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray which have a great rivalry are all based in Istanbul. You could literally feel the energy in all the cafes whenever there is a contest going on. As cricket is for India, Football is for Turkey. Enough said.

People (Culture) – Conversing over a cup of Turkish ‘Çay’ is a widely popular social custom. And apart from Football, people over there like to have discussions on differences in international cultures which are really illuminating. Although, some people might possess strong religious and political views and carry a spirit of nationalism but most of them embrace the differences in beliefs in a positive spirit. As a piece of advice, when it comes to religious or political conversations, diplomacy goes a long way.

Travel & Nightlife– Weekends are always fun as there are numerous parties organised across the city targeted specifically for the exchange students. Also, there are a lot of trips that are organized to some of the most amazing places in Turkey like İzmir, Pamukkale, Cappadocia, etc. which I’d highly recommend to be a part of. Apart from that, if you have time, money and a visa at the same time, it’s not a bad idea to explore Europe as well. Unfortunately for us, we just had the “plan” for that.

pic 3

Me in Pamukkale

Safety– Probably the only dark side of visiting Turkey is recurring terrorist threats. I’d advise you to carefully analyse the political situation of the country once before you decide to go. Thankfully, our visit was pretty much peaceful.

Concluding– I’d like to conclude by saying that for once during your college journey, get out of the game of grades for a while. Have an open mind. Explore. And I assure you that you’d be a lot wiser when you return!

 

A semester in Sweden (And the whole Europe :p )

By Manoj Saini Kataria
Energy Engineering, fourth year
Mälardalen University, Sweden(Autumn 2016-17)

 

The Decision

I never thought that I can go abroad for studies. But I always wanted to learn as much as I can and I found myself in that position when I was in my 6th semester. So I tried first to go abroad for summer internship but I could not. Then I got a mail from Prof. Suryanarayana Doolla for sending two students from my department for semester exchange. I was so confused that should I apply or not but finally I replied him approving for an exchange.

Why MDH?

As I said that I just wanted to learn some things so for me it did not matter where I was going. But after I heard about it I wanted to go to all Europe to experience the lifestyle and weather and to adapt myself to a new culture.

pic-1

The Application 

This is (quite frankly) the worst part of the whole process. But due to my internship in ABB Bangalore I did not participate physically in any application process, my friend and batchmate Rushil Modi who was going with me did it for both of us. Course mapping can test the patience of a saint and I was no saint. Through a whole lot of chrome tabs with the detailed descriptions of courses offered at the 2 concerned universities and infinite hair pulling moments of frustration, I finally nailed down a prospective list of 5 courses out of which I would finally take 2. The road is smooth sailing post that; a couple of signatures, stamps and an application form later I was done with this till MDH sent back a confirmation of the exchange. Once the confirmation arrived, there were a host of things to do regarding the flights, accommodation and visa, most of which MDH guides the student through quite competently.

Problems before going

As I mentioned that I was going through my department professor first time from our university to MDH Sweden. So there was problem regarding scholarship time period. If you will spend 8-9 week before sept 31 then only you are eligible for scholarship (LP program). But we did not know that earlier and my visa also got delayed. So in the end we got to know that we were not getting any scholarship. This news was very bad for me as I had little financial support. As soon as I told this to my parents they were ready to sell our agricultural fields for me but I requested to SBI Bank manager for urgent loan of Rs. 5 lakhs. After requests and persuasion I got the approval for loan. I will never forget him. He approved that loan at the last day of his job in SBI Powai.pic-2

Sweden

You will not believe but Sweden is too good to live for a lifetime. There was no crowd, no pollution and so much comfort with well established transportation. People were so nice there. I joined 2 volleyball clubs there and I got in touch with lots of people. They used to invite me in their homes also. I became coach in one of the clubs to train all Erasmus student. From other clubs, every Saturday we used to go to play volleyball tournament in different cities. I also learnt Swedish dance BUG (similar to salsa) which is amazing.  I also learnt knitting which helped me in time pass during my traveling in different cities. I finally ended up knitting 2 caps  and 3 mufflers.

I also had great experience of flying airplane with my friend.

Festivals

When you are in different country we always look forward to celebrate their festivals and cultural activity. Luckily in my semester exchange I had good experience of Christmas and famous Lucia concert (in the photo the girl holding candle is acting as Lucia). Also I had 2-3 volleyball family who always invited me for Christmas special food and dishes.

pic-5

Academic

There is so much difference in studies abroad and what we have here. I bought lots of notebooks and pens but as soon as lectures started I heard that I have to submit assignment reports by writing on word or Latex. I never wrote earlier all those equations and reports like that. I asked prof to write in paper and submit but he refused. I took 2 courses and Swedish language. I couldn’t follow up with Swedish language and I had to leave it. But I did learn some Swedish. The lectures were 2 hours long with break in between. Attendance was not compulsory at all so I travelled a lot. Regarding the work, even we had no background of coding then also we had to do everything on some software. So we learned Matlab, Ebsilon, TPP 200, PVsyst, Excel, Word, Open Modelica, GAMs, etc. Also they focused more on working by self-based on literature study instead of teaching all that in class.

Trips

I never visited like that in India. I visited 16 countries in only 4 months. All my Sweden professors and friends were asking if I came for travel or studies. In the life if you want to learn something then travelling is the best option. I learnt different cultures, different actions of talking with different people and how a relationship works for all life. There are lots of stories or memories that we got in every country.

pic-6

Coming Back

This the time when you feel sad (for leaving such an amazing place) and happy (to be back to homeland) together.

Summary

Do not feel yourself that you cannot get this kind of opportunity. My English was very very bad and even then I spent the best time of my life. Your thoughts and views of living life will completely change after that. Please get yourself ready to get this feeling. This is the best opportunity IIT can provide!

I found myself!!

By Shruti Madavi
Energy Engineering, fourth year
Exchange to University of Ottawa, Canada (Autumn 2016-17)

What started as a mere attempt to try my luck became one of the best things that life could offer me. Right from my 1st year I knew quite a bunch of people who had gone for a semester exchange to some or the other country but I had myself never applied for one. The thought of applying struck when I was helping a close friend prepare for his semester abroad. By the time I decided to apply, deadlines for few of the funded – exchange programs were already past and I didn’t want to spend a lot from my pocket. I finally landed up in OMG (Ontario-Maharashtra-Goa) Student Exchange Program funded by Ontario Universities International (It is under renewal at the moment). Under the program, I got into the University of Ottawa.

univ-heading

The Prep

Two things that scared me were the fact that I am a vegetarian and the cold in Canada. To cut down my expenditures, I decided to rent an apartment and cook by myself. Fortunately, I knew how to cook!! Being my first international trip, the pre-exchange period was mostly spent in anxiety and excitement at the same time. As the day came near, it turned into more of anxiety, for all I knew something big was coming into my life.

 

Now that I reached Canada

Adapting to the new climate, culture and practices took a few weeks but was not difficult since Canada is a very welcoming country. This was also reflected in my University which hosted many International students from all parts of the world. The buddies introduced by the University International Office made sure we were adapting in the best possible manner. Activities by the students’ association ranged from Drag Shows to a Welcome Party for exchange students in a pub located inside the campus. I attended almost all of them. During each event, I met a new group of people who later became my friends. Every new person I met in Canada had their own story to tell, own experiences to share. I shared mine. This is when it struck me. All these years, I never made an effort to step up and talk to people. Back in IITB, my group was limited to certain people. Meeting new people and knowing their stories had become my favourite thing. The key to adapt is to have an open mind towards everything. Try to look at things the way people around you see it. Understand their reasons for the same. And you will know, there are numerous perceptions for the same thing.

dinner

University and Academics:

University of Ottawa offers courses in both English and French. Most of my University friends were from Social Sciences stream. Almost all buildings inside the campus are connected with underground and overhead tunnels which made it quite convenient for us to traverse through buildings during snowfall. I did not find much difference in teaching methods except for the surprise elements that IITB professors introduce in many of the courses. Attendance as professors say, are mandatory but never taken during the lectures. You know what happens then. Exams are quite easier compared to IIT Bombay. I took a product development course at uOttawa where our team designed a joystick mouse controller for a client in Ottawa with accessibility issues.

Travel Diaries

Like everyone else, I had also prepared a long travel checklist. While most of the weekdays were spent in lectures and local events in Ottawa, I reserved my weekend for the trips and house parties. I visited Toronto and Niagara Falls in the first week of October. Toronto is ornamented with the most famous CN Tower. The downtown comprising of enormous skyscrapers on the shores gave a mind-blowing view of the skyline from the Toronto Islands. I never thought I would get a chance to see Niagara Falls for real. Thousands of gallons of water per second falling from 70 feet cliff left me overwhelmed. While I was on the boat ride to the awesome falls, it clicked me, “nature can be beautiful and scary at the same time”. The Falls looked more beautiful at night with colourful lights projected on them. Ottawa and other major cities in Ontario have a RideShare system where you can offer or ask for a ride to nearby cities. I had found my cheapest way of transport. I visited a friend from India in Montreal and we made an impromptu trip to Kingston and The Thousand Islands. Amidst all these trips, one of my favourites was solo trip to Quebec City. No matter where you go, you got to take a solo trip. Quebec is the French-speaking province of Canada. A Canadian couple heading to Quebec City offered me a ride through RideShare. Every time I met Canadians, I was introduced to a new culture or practice in Canada. It became a never ending exploration of Canadian culture which was also different in different provinces. Quebec City for example is referred to as capital of New France. Beautifully covered with the historic buildings and hotels, Old Quebec City had drawn out my love for ancient culture. History of French invaders who set up French colonies makes Quebec City quite dominant in French culture. However, I made my way through the city where everything was written in French and very few people spoke English. I felt proud of myself. By the end of October, I had developed immense love for travelling. Thanks to the exchange!

I had become a Canadian by then

Of all the people I met in Canada, almost half of them were through house parties. House parties had become an integral part of my life back in Canada. One thing I miss the most about those 4 months is the house parties and all the levels of craziness we reached in each of them. The most amazing part was that you need not necessarily know the host; everyone was welcome – friend, friend’s friend and so on. Mid of November had already started to trouble me with the cold. However, I loved the snowfall – smooth and fierce. Freezing rains made guest appearances from time to time. Within a week, I had developed a habit of checking weather before leaving home since the temperature varied to a large extent across the day. Fortunate enough to see with naked eyes, I was fascinated by the intricate designs of the snowflakes. My friend, Natalie and I somehow attended events almost every day. If not, we had our own gym sessions. I had become a fitness-freak. But at times, there were days when either of us got homesick (I was more) when we used to go for Pizza..

pic-7

What’s New?

Halloween came with a surprise when our course instructor dressed up as a rockstar. He gave the entire lecture holding a guitar. Well he was disappointed because he dressed up as a rockstar and we showed up in normal boring attire! I spent Thanksgiving with a Canadian family in the countryside. They had made vegetarian dishes just for me. One thing I liked the most about Canadians is their welcoming nature. Christmas however, was on our own. I and my other friends decided for a potluck dinner for Christmas. Being a social work enthusiast, I did not spare a chance to participate in #SlutWalkOttawa to support protest against body shaming and rape culture.

End of an era

The thought of leaving Canada started striking me hard towards the start of December. I bid hardest of the goodbyes to the friends I may not meet ever again, the friends who had changed my life for good. Now when I look back at those 4 months, I think applying for semester exchange is one of the best decisions I made till now. Not because, I spent 4 months with awesomeness but it introduced me to my own self. It made me bold enough to express what I feel and be confident about it. It gave me a better understanding of my beliefs and my aspirations. I look at life through a whole new lens now. This is what semester exchange does to a person I guess.

Amidst all the people I met in Canada, I found myself

Cheers to new life, new me!

Four months of bliss-Danish diaries

By Moin Khan
Chemical Engineering DD, fourth year
Exchange to DTU, Denmark (Autumn 2016-17)

Going for an exchange was something I had never thought of until the starting of my sixth semester at IITB. At that time, I was trying mainly to procure a univ intern in an area related to my previous research experience, so that I could build upon my interests. After finally succeeding in getting one at NUS, I started looking at options available for me to explore in my seventh semester. I had spoken with past exchange students and also a friend of mine who went on exchange in the same semester, and figured out that this was something that I could really look forward to. I already had plans of converting to dual degree as I believed that doing a year-long project would help me decide whether or not to go for a PhD later. After making up my mind, I started searching for universities and having a look at their course catalogues.

During course mapping, my focus was to match at least a couple of core courses, so as to save myself from the pain of doing them later. While searching the DTU course base, I was quite fortunate in getting a lab course mapped too, which happens quite rarely to be honest. In addition to this, DTU offers a scholarship to exchange students in collaboration with Novozymes, an enzyme industry in Denmark. One is eligible to avail it provided he/she is willing to take up two to three courses in industrial biotechnology. Having some previous background in biology gives you an upper hand, in case of a lot of applications. I had a sound experience in bio related research due to my project at IITB and later at NUS, so getting the scholarship was not much of a problem. The scholarship that I received pretty much covered the expenses of my stay in Denmark, including flight, visa and travelling across Europe. All exchange related queries are handled by Vanita Singh, MSc admissions officer at DTU. She is quite helpful and guided us smoothly over the three week long application process, starting from submitting department approved course map to finally receiving acceptance and scholarship approval letter.

Having said about my initial enthusiasm and application procedure, it’s time to write about the real part-experiences! Getting into a new university somewhat made me feel like a freshman again, in the sense that you make new friends all over again, finding your way to reach places and exploring a completely different set-up. Add to it, the buddy programme at DTU which is similar to the student mentorship programme we have at IIT. The buddy groups are strategically formed and includes exchange students from different parts of the world. Each group is taken care of, by a senior student from DTU and he/she makes sure that we don’t have any problem in adjusting to a new place. My group had people from every continent and the introduction week at DTU was a lot of fun with a whole set of new friends, exploring a wide range of activities planned by DTU. I had an amazing buddy group and we continued to hang out throughout the semester. I was also shocked by the intense party culture over there, and the fact that the college campus itself had a few bars :p People don’t really need reasons to celebrate, and some parties are organised by DTU itself.

1

I was allocated accommodation within the DTU campus, so I saved time and money involved in travelling back and forth for classes, unlike a lot of students who live quite far away. The place where I lived was like a global village which mainly hosted the international exchange students. The place was divided into several containers with each one having 10 rooms, the residents sharing kitchen and laundry facilities. It isn’t quite affordable to eat out in Denmark on a daily basis, so everyone used to cook their own food. I started as a novice in this department, but became a pro cook gradually :p Going for shopping regularly and planning everyday meal was an added responsibility, something which you are least bothered about in your home university. There are a few Indian stores in Copenhagen, so getting necessary food ingredients was not a problem, though they sold everything at very high prices.

img-20161106-wa0012

Speaking about Denmark, I feel that it is one of the best countries to live in with the people so nice, everything so beautiful, and things working out quite hassle-free and peacefully. I loved the biking culture over here and most of the people using public transport, which speaks volumes about how much people care for their environment. I used to bike my way to places as far as 15 km, just because of the fact that the journey itself used to be very enjoyable, with fellow citizens riding alongside on a separate biking lane. During August and September, the place was all green and warm with daylight till 10 pm. With time, the colours changed from green to yellow to orange to red, and finally no leaves in December. By the time I left Denmark, the weather had become all grey with occasional
snowfalls. My dream of having a snowy Christmas, however did not come true :p .

Studying at DTU was quite different as compared to what we have here. Here, more focus is laid on working in groups which promotes team-work and creative thinking. Courses did not have mid-term examinations or quizzes, which made life a bit easy. But it was compensated by assignments which involved extensive literature survey, and made us think beyond the course textbooks. The professors were very friendly and always eager to help, with the lectures being easy to follow. Some courses had all their weightage assigned to end term examinations (the assignments and groups being just for learning), something which I did not appreciate, as I wasn’t used to working hard for something which would not earn me any credit :p

Coming to my travel diaries, I managed to set foot in 10 European countries and was
amazed how different they all were in so many aspects. We started with attending la
Tomatina in Spain, and ended with celebrating Christmas in Prague. We made the most of a long Autumn break, doing a 7 day road trip in Iceland, followed by visiting Italy. Apart from this, I travelled to other countries like Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Hungary etc on extended weekends (I had off on Fridays, so used to ditch classes on Monday to make a 4 day trip :p). I had developed interest in photography in my third year, and travelling made me explore my hobby to the fullest. I found immense joy in navigating my way through Google maps, and capturing anything and everything that caught the eye. I could write endlessly about my travel experiences and meeting people on the way, more on that later sometime.

This exchange programme at DTU changed me in ways I never expected to see within
myself. It enabled me to witness a world so different from mine, showing how large and
diverse the planet is, which was indeed an enriching experience. Living for 4.5 months n a
different country has made me independent, contrary to the initial nervousness, and I
believe I can now live anywhere in the world by managing my resources. It has been an
unforgettable experience for me, and I will cherish the moments that I spent here forever.