Name of the intern: – Rakesh Sridhar
Institute: – IIT Madras
Organization interned with: – DAAD
I did my internship at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany during the summer of 2011. It was an academic internship where I worked on a research project. Apart from the work, there were 7 things which made my internship truly special:
1.) DAAD: DAAD is the German Academic Exchange Service. It provides scholarships for doing a 3 month internship at a German University. If it was not for DAAD, I wouldn’t have gone to Germany and hence, its the first best thing to happen. Also, DAAD organized an all-scholars meet in Berlin which had all the 140 odd Indian scholars working in different parts of Germany to converge at the German capital for a weekend of fun, frolic and in my case “Wolf” (Yes! The game which we never stopped playing during the whole weekend). Since it’s an all-India affair, it ought to have Indian food and I did have my first Rotis in Deustchland.
2.) Karlsruhe: I never knew that there was a city with that name before applying there. So, it’s understandable if you don’t recognise the name. For the ignorant ones, Karlsruhe is a university town – which means the town is developed around an ancient university. It’s the home of Karl Benz, the inventor of automobiles and Karl Drais, the inventor of the two-wheeler (don’t ask me why all of them have “Karl” as their fist name!).
3.) My guide: When you do a Eurotrip along with a research intern, its very challenging to balance the two. If you end up having a strict guide, you can probably forget crossing your university’s compound! But my guide was a stark contrast. Usually, when we apply for internships, some professors reply while some don’t. My professor called me from Germany! That was my first ISD call and I was tensed. Instead of interviewing me, he advised me to ask DAAD for more cash because he felt visiting a museum would cost more! And once I landed there, he told me to have good cultural exchanges and advised me to go on the Student Union’s trips! And the best part was the send-off. I went to the lab on the last day of my office to bid goodbye to him. I was told by his Secretary that he was in the US then! With a heavy heart, I packed up. Luckily enough, he was in my Skype chat. I sent him a message saying, “I’m leaving.” He replied saying he too felt bad that he couldn’t be there but appreciated me for doing good work.
4.) People: Though most of the DAAD scholars made groups of 10+ and went around Europe, I was a never a part of such big groups. Though it is very safe as a group, you miss out on the fun of meeting and mingling with people from diverse backgrounds. And it did work for me. I met and travelled with people from all of the following countries: France, Iraq, Srilanka, USA, Romania, Turkey, Greece, Chile, Columbia, Nepal, Mexico, Tunisia, Russia, China, England, Australia, Poland, Lebanon and a lot more! It’s a great experience to meet and discuss things with people from such diverse backgrounds. From discussing about cars with a Frenchman to drinking beer with Germans to speaking about Saddam Hussain with an Iraqi to discussing biology with a US Professor to trekking with Polish construction workers, I did all sorts of crazy things!
5.) HaDiKo: HaDiKo is the student hostel I lived in. This is the closest you can get to an IIT hostel anywhere outside IIT. Complete with the ‘wing’ culture, it had everything in it similar to an IIT M hostel. Infact it had more – A ‘working’ washing machine, a vacuum cleaner, a kitchen, and a BAR! Yes, every hostel has a bar! So, it was hardly any problem for me to acclimatize to the new home. It was very easy to strike a chord with my floor mates and I made some forever-friends there. My floor had 15 inmates from about 8 countries which gives you an idea of the cultural exchange. We drank beer, we played cards, we discussed Bollywood, we cooked and we did a lot more together. It was fun!
6.) Eurail Pass: Eurail pass is a train pass which allows you to travel in most of the European trains at a minimum cost. I bought a 8 day, 5 countries, second class pass. Though I paid for second class, the Dutch man at the Amsterdam counter had a strange way to mark that in the pass. He underlined 1 instead of striking that! And the consequence – Every ticket checker in every train I travelled in, requested me to move to the first class coaches! And you get free food sometimes in the first class coaches. So, I travelled all over Europe in first class comfort!
7.) Adventures: This is my favourite part. It’s a bare minimum to travel to at least 10 countries if you are a DAAD scholar. And hence, most of us did see so many countries. But, my Eurotrip stands apart mainly because of the kind of adventures I ventured into:
- Skydiving: Jumped out of a plane from about 2500m above ground! I never dreamt of it because I never thought I would get a chance to do it. But, I did it in Germany.
- BMW ride to Black Forest: Though it may seem so easy to say, “What’s the big deal in renting a motorcycle to go around?”, consider this. I was just 19. I didn’t have any idea about the region, the language, the road rules, etc. And to add more complexity, I was riding a 260kg 1200cc bike without any riding gear. As though all this is not enough, there was my personal aim of doing 200kmph on a motorcycle before I turned 20.
- Nurburgring: We rented a Peugeot and went to the NRing race track. They have an option for tourists to drive a car around the Nordschleife which is quoted as the world’s most dangerous race track by many a magazine! With lightning fast Porsches racing alongside us, those 20 minutes on the track were as scary as anything ever can be!
- Black Forest trek: A week before leaving, we went on a trek to the Black Forest. It was quite an experience going through the dense forests which reminded me of the movie “Anaconda”. Nevertheless, those 15kms were a lot of fun.
- Ducati: Though I rode just an entry level Ducati, it was a great feeling to ride something as exotic as a Ducati.
It was a very special way to end my Eurotrip and the internship!
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