Summer Internship at University of Erlangen, Nuremberg – Soju T Varghese from Karunya University

Soju T Varghese, interned at University of Erlangen, Nuremberg, shares his wonderful internship duration. Soju is a student of Electronics & Communication Engineering at Karunya University. Read his experience in his own words.

MISSION DEUTSCHLAND

Bubbles of excitement started bursting in me right at the time of my visa-processing at Chennai that culminated in my landing in the mighty city of Munich in less than two weeks’ time from then. My departure to Germany was on a pretty short notice, not atleast to digest the fact that I was about to fly to Europe for an internship through IAESTE (International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience). For a person who was not so optimistic while registering as an IAESTE member, it was jaw-dropping and unbelievable! From the time I flew up from Trivandrum till I touched down the same place exactly after 62 days, I was living a dream. May it be for the rich cultural exchange, or my novel experience in being an intern with a bunch of tech-geeks, or my face off with cutting edge German engineering, or for the cities I explored in Europe…everything was too good to be true. And by the time I could realise it was really happening to me, I was back home dining with my mom and dad, carried by the eloquence about my two months of adventures.

That piercing chill I experienced in my first step out of Flughafen München(or the Munich International Airport) was pretty much of a good hint as of how a typical German “Summer” can be. Really cold summer days was one of the ironies that I confronted in Germany. Many times it was tougher than the toughest “winter” nights in South India! The mountainous challenge for a lone-newbie in Europe, of reaching the destination from the airport, which was about 3.5 hours for me by train, with atleast three connections in between was rendered rather easy when the old German couple, whom I met in my flight helped me getting train tickets and gave proper guidance to reach safe. I owe a big to them. Thank God they knew good English! Boarding the state-of-the-art Deutsche-Bahn (the German rail company) coaches that sped on the rails like a storm gave me a different-planet-like feeling right away. I was warmly welcomed to the small, beautiful town of Erlangen by the IAESTE Local Committee members, who took me to my apartment, giving me general tips on my stay there meanwhile. I could define tidiness and aesthetics of a place looking at the streets of Erlangen, so neat to find even a pinch of dust! My apartment was just five minutes’ walk from my work place at Technische Fakultät, of Friedrich Alexander University in Erlangen. I was to work in the Chair for Hardware/Software Co-design, in the Department of Computer Science headed by Prof. Juren Teich, a renowned academician in the field, under the guidance of Mr. Liyuan Zhang. My work was related to image processing using system level design.

Being slightly jet-lagged, I wanted to sleep a bit early, but much to my surprise, it was never getting dark in the evening! I was taken aback only to find that the sun was still out there, as brilliant as in the noon, when both my watch and phone read 9.00 “PM”. I was wonder-struck till the German girl opposite to my room reminded me of school-geography lessons- long summer days and short winter days in higher latitudes. And finally it was almost dark at about 10 O‘ clock, when I dozed off to bed. The next was my first day at work and strictly adhering to time, I was in front of my supervisor’s room sharp at 9.30 AM. I went in stiff-ironed formals, only to invite confused looks of people. Soon I discovered that even the head professor was in t-shirt and shorts and that pretty much explained the reason for the alien-like gazes of people around. Never ever I touched my formal apparels again in the course of next two months, and I regretted carrying extra weight in my luggage up and down, which went in vain. From my experience, the seemingly casual Germans are unbeatable professionals at work!

It was important that I cooked at least something if not much, to cut down living costs. Thanks to the ‘Gandhi’ Indian store, Maggi noodles came to my favour most of the nights! Lunch was always wonderful where I got to try international delicacies in the wonderful dining space of the Mensa (College Cafeteria). My language woes in Germany started off when I first did some petty shopping for foodies and little groceries. I almost spent hours in the supermarket trying to find stuff, since every single label went in German. I either had to type in the labels on Google translate to get the English conversions or I literally had to walk to the attenders every now and then, asking what is what! Otherwise everyone whom I dealt with spoke fairly good English and thus things went smooth. Exploring the splendour of Erlangen, I got lost at least a couple of times in the beginning. Well, the fact is when you are all alone, you don’t really feel lost in the criss-crossing streets, since you never know where you are until you get back home! But that’s one wonderful way to understand the city. It takes a bit time to comprehend even Google Maps, when you are totally new to a city! I remember, if it were not for Google Maps and Google translate, many of my days would have been wasted. IAESTE LC Erlangen has such a nice group of volunteers who were ready to help me with whatever I asked, and always ensured that my stay and work was comfortable. We had this weekly IAESTE meeting in a nearby pub where I witnessed budding petals of friendship. Thanks to my fellow trainees from Manipal and SRM Universities, who cooked to bring in a wonderful Indian cuisine night. Those were the days when I went back to my childhood pleasure of cycling. I was provided with a bike (a.k.a bicycle) from IAESTE, which I used to roam around in a few km radius. Use of cycles is heavily promoted in Germany with separate lanes on roads. For me it was inexpensive, and rather soothing to do sightseeing on pedals than using the expensive public transportation.

Weekends turned out to be the best part of my trip, as me and fellow interns travelled to numerous places with IAESTE LC Munich and LC Freising, at subsidized rates for trainees. I travelled as much as I could in the limited time of two months in and around Germany, including the wonderful hillside city of Salzburg in Austria, the epitome of European architectural beauty-Prague in Czech-Republic, and Berlin- the German capital city. The visit to the fearsome Concentration camp at Dachau in Bavaria, was a scary reminder of the deadly Holocaust during the Nazi-regime. The Englischer Garten (English Garden- one of the largest urban parks in the world) in Munich is where people enjoy nature at its best, with absolutely nothing to intervene humans and the environment. The fairy tale look-alike Neuschwanstein castle situated in a magnificent rugged hill landscape on the Bavarian Alps was one awe-inspiring sight to my curious eyes. Hiking the Alps near the highest German peak was a thrilling experience as well! But the best of all was my trip to the city of lights…Paris! Especially because it was one of my dream cities from childhood and since I couldn’t find company, it was adventurous enough to travel all alone to one of the most sought tourist destinations! Ascending the Eiffel Tower, or taking a peek at Mona-Lisa in Musée du Louvre (The Louvre-one of the biggest art museums in the world), or cruising river Seine through the heart of Paris, everything was as astonishing as the Paris in my dreams or movies.

I observed that the Germans were pretty helpful whenever I was in trouble like getting lost, even if not-so-friendly at first sight. One striking quality that I found in them is punctuality, not just few, but every German is so particular about timings! They uphold their native language and take pride in speaking about their home country. Germans are so much into research and innovations in multi-disciplinary fields, and they have an unquenchable thirst for improving their technologies. No wonder why German Engineering is top-notch with its nuances. My project work was also research-based, and my Chinese supervisor gave me great deal of support in completing it on time. What I admired most is the cleanliness, beauty and serenity of the whole country and the best-in-class public transportation systems. The only thing that may let a fresh Indian down a bit is the living expenses part which is pretty high!

I never realized that my two months’ period was getting over, as time whisked away. As I flew back home I was left with a heart of contentment and an impetus to explore more of Europe and the world! Spending time with people from all around the world, this summer gave me a truly fun-filled and unique international experience. I was an intern, a backpacker, an enthusiastic explorer, all at the same time! All fun aside, that transition from an ordinary guy overwhelmed by the opportunity to a well versed man with a whole new mindset to take up challenges, was incredible! I’m glad to give the whole credits to something that made this possible to me and several others! I-A-E-S-T-E…! Thank You!

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