Summer Internship with Umea University – Senjuti from Indian Institute of Information Technology

Daily Winner for: –  2nd August 2013

Weekly Winner (Editor’s Choice) for – 1st Aug – 8th Aug 2013Senjuti

Name of the intern: –  Senjuti

Institute: –  Indian Institute of Information Technology

Organization interned with: –  Umea University

This summer I worked in a city that’s only 200 km south of the Arctic Circle – Umea (pronounced Uoo-me-oooh).

Umea is the largest city in Northern Sweden – and still really tiny! You can walk around the whole place in a few hours – and primarily known as “a university town”. Umea University is ranked 297th in the QS World University Rankings, pretty good for a university that’s not yet fifty years old. At first sight, interning at a fairly young university in a doll-sized Scandinavian town seems pretty random. And the process of getting the internship was crazily random but in the end it turned out to be (cliché alert!) “a dream come true”.

I’ve always loved writing and programming. Programming being loved by an order of magnitude less, of course. Smash the fundamentals of the two together and voilà, you get linguistics and Natural Language Processing. Quite by chance I stumbled on to a paper on NLP written by a professor at Umea University that I found really interesting. I wondered if it would be possible to contact him and ask to work under him. What’s the worst that could happen? He’d reject me, I’d move on – being the enthusiastic opportunist I am, I just thought I’d give it a shot. I didn’t really expect anything to come of it. So I wrote to him and he was nice enough to keep in contact and after a while offered me a project at Umea University from May to July.

I arrived in mid-May, from Kolkata where the temperature was in the mid-thirties, and was greeted by snow. Umea in summer is pretty much like I imagine Winterfell to be like in summer. It is also firmly planted in “the Land of the Midnight Sun”. The days were around twenty-two hours long, by the middle of June there was only about half-an-hour between sunset and sunrise (at midnight). Sunset last for hours, you start forgetting about those things you called the moon and stars and you need those fancy beauty-masks over your eyes to fall asleep because at bedtime your eyes are still firmly convinced that its 4 pm!

Its the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to. Most of the time it felt like I was living in an eighties Bollywood movie-set for a romance – mellow light and wildflowers and people in tiny shorts (while I was shivering in my jackets) everywhere.

Umea University is a gorgeous place and everyone in the NLP group was extremely friendly. When I had a bicycle accident – inevitable considering that everyone rides on bicycles and I had last used one when I was twelve – my professor took me to the health clinic himself (thank god for medical insurance, seeing a doctor in Sweden only once comes to 2000 SEK which is roughly Rs 18400). My project was implementing Millstream Systems using GrGen.NET. That’s a fancy way of saying I was chopping up sentences into words and then making graphs with them. The perks of working at the university included free drinks – I became addicted to Swedish hot chocolate and drank practically a litre of it everyday -, ice-cream and homemade cake at fika-time. Fika is the traditional Swedish coffee break at 3 pm and everyone brings a little something for the group to share – bread, cake, fruits. The work was extremely interesting and since the days were so generously stretched out, I had plenty of time to enjoy Umea after work.

Umea has been voted Europe’s Cultural Capital for 2014 and summer is the best time to visit it (unless you’re a fan of hypothermia, sub-forty temperatures and waist-high snowdrifts). I went to a reindeer farm (I’m seriously starting to think Santa Claus’ summerhouse is in Umea), free outdoor music concerts, the Brannboll World Championship (although Brannboll is only played in Umea…) and kayaking on the Baltic Sea. I met a surprising number of Indians and made some Swedish friends. Swedish people in general are extremely laid-back and fun-loving. Admirable personality traits to be sure, but it does become frustrating when all the shops close by 5pm (so that everyone can party in the sun) and you’re at work till 6! Aside from delving in the deeps of Millstream Systems, I picked up a little Swedish and a lot of cooking and how-to-train-your-bicycle know-how.

All in all it was a wonderful opportunity and I’d love to go back to Umea again someday.

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4 thoughts on “Summer Internship with Umea University – Senjuti from Indian Institute of Information Technology

  • October 8, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    Was it fully/partially paid internship? Please share the financials of it.

  • October 9, 2013 at 6:04 PM

    Ah, okay thanks for sharing.


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