Internship at ETH Zurich, Switzerland – Ashris from IIT Kharagpur

Internship at ZurichWhat could be more blissful than interning at one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Well, it sounds wonderful but there is hell lot of work to do. Ashris who never travelled alone before, this time went overseas and lived best moments of his life. Not to forget he worked hard besides capturing the serene beauty. 

I was on the seventh sky when I was accepted for the summer internship at ETH. I really wasn’t expecting a call for research profiles aren’t the forte of Architecture students. These profiles demand a high CGPA which wasn’t something I could boast about with a meek 8.24. It was my previous research experience in the relevant field of Computational Design that got be selected for the profile, I believe.

When I was done with the celebrations, the obligatory status update and the visa procedures, it finally sunk in that I’ll be travelling to this whole new country while two years back my parents wouldn’t let me travel alone in a train to my hometown.

Finally, equipped with loads of stuff from my parents a long list of advice, I had headed on to Switzerland. Zurich was a magical beautiful place. Having known it was a developed city, I was expecting it to be like the big ones like New York and Chicago. Zurich turns out to be a very humble city with development and nature coexisting together. Lakes, vegetation and scenic alps no wonder make the city the tourism capital of the world. At the place of my accommodation, there was this valley of a large green mountain that was covered with clouds. There were cows with bells on their necks and apple trees laden with apples. It simply was like those fairy tales one reads about.

I was staying 10 kilometres away from the campus, since ETH does not have on-campus accommodation. I was sharing my room with another friend from IIT Kharagpur. 4 other friends from IIT Bombay were staying in the flat. We bonded very well, over ready to cook dinners and train journeys. I was working in the Chair of Information Architecture where they primarily work on exploiting Computation to automate processes in Architecture and devise tools to help Architects and Planners to design smartly. My project was collaboration between ETH Zurich and Bauhaus University. We had to establish a relationship between Architecture and Psychology: i.e. confirm mathematically with strong correlation whether certain set of spatial dimensions of spaces around people induce awe, happiness, feeling of being lost, confusion, etc.

This would help Architects and Urban Planners to take control of the spaces around them to control moods of people very strongly. Also, with the incoming of Oculus Rift and other virtual reality technologies, the field of digital tourism is not a farfetched idea. I was also involved in 2 other projects which happen to be classified and hence I cannot mention about them here. As a part of my project, I had to learn diverse set of skills, especially statistics software which I had never used before. I was working with MATLAB, OpenCV, R and 360 degree video making tools like Video Stitch. What really amazed me was the work culture which is the right balance of organized discipline and having fun when time permits. I could come into the lab at my convenience and work till I wish to.

Having said that, Switzerland’s cost of living will scare the hell out of a new visitor. I was caught into the ‘conversion depression’ where I used to convert every price into Indian Rupees and then be shocked about it for days. The worst feeling was when I wanted to buy mangoes and I found a single mango costs 300 rupees. (The mango was imported from India, ha ha)

But with time and after I received my stipend, things were lot bearable. I can’t speak enough about Swiss beauty here. People wise, I realized how big a difference population can make. Since everyone there is educated and lives in sparsely populated places, they have a strong sense of privacy. Things happen more orderly and people, in general and friendlier. Weekends were the time we used to travel to the countries nearby. In my entire stay, I had been to Paris, Milan, Venice, Berlin and Munich. It was fun experience travelling with my friends from IIT Bombay. Travelling solo was something I experienced in my Milan trip. European transportation system is quite extensive and actually, confusing. Nothing like Mumbai Locals of course, but quite so. Most of the commute was via trains, so they form an integral part of the memories I have of Zurich right now. Things went pretty well, my project was almost done and a beautiful farewell dinner marked the end of my internship. My colleagues at the chair were super friendly and also had made gifts and a wonderful hand written card for me.

My supervisor had been super friendly to me, helping me with all the doubts and confusion. We talked about my future goals and work interests. He narrated experiences from his life and I realized the confusion about careers and the aspirations are country blind. 2.5 months later, I was back in India with lots of memories from Zurich. I had got a letter of recommendation from my Professor for the work I had done. I was pretty confident of pursuing research in the future after my experience and the internship definitely helped me cementing my aspirations and goals.

It truly has been a memorable experience.

If Ashris’s experience motivates you, you can view the latest international internship.

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