Young Researchers Abroad

‘The Physics Connection – ETH Zurich Students in India’

Subject of Studies and Swiss Home University: Physics, ETH Zurich, Zurich
Host University in India: Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB), Mumbai

Since 2013, new ties between ETH Zurich and IIT Bombay enable students from both institutions to profit from an international perspective and embark on an intercultural journey. Hynek Paul and Jorit Schmelzle, two young Physics talents from ETH, were among the first who could spend some truly educational months away from their Swiss home university. ‘We hope that the interest among ETH students will even further increase,’ Adeline Hofrichter from ETH student exchange office commented and said, ‘So far, up to four students can participate per year.’

For Hynek and Jorit, their eight month stay in India until July and August this year, enabled them to get to know ‘a totally different way of life’ as both were calling it. Asked about their motivation to study at IITB, Hynek said, ‘This exchange program was the best opportunity to continue my studies on a high level while experiencing and getting to know a different culture.’ Another ETH student, Felix Bauer – who will be studying at IITB from January next year – sees it similarly: ‘Going to India has been tempting to me for quite a while, mainly because I imagine the life there to be completely different to what we are used to here in Western Europe. Switzerland is amazing but I also want to experience a world where not everything is so clean, well-organized, comfortable and easy – maybe just to test myself.’

However, after Hynek and Jorit arrived in Mumbai the first thing they needed to acclimatize to was the city’s high humidity. About his first impression Hynek said, ‘Coming from the rather cold winter in Switzerland, I was surprised by the high temperature and humidity. Although I arrived at night, I started sweating immediately after stepping out of the plane.’ And Jorit quipped, ‘You need a few cold showers in between to cool down again. Also, don’t bring any chocolates as a present – it melts before you reach anywhere.’ Furthermore, Hynek admits, ‘I tried to come to India without any expectations. The only thing I expected was Mumbai to be really huge and super densely populated, which turned out to be certainly true.’

Hostel 13

‘My stay in India definitely taught me to be patient and see things in a more relaxed manner. Sometimes things just don’t work out that way you like. And life on IIT campus was pretty easy compared to the “outside world”, where taking busses, doing train reservations, and getting an Indian SIM-card turned out to be quite complicated for foreigners,’ Hynek said. For both of them the acclimatizing process meant not only getting used to the tropical weather but also how to use their skills differently: ‘Being in India taught me to improvise while at the same time staying motivated and focused,’ Jorit added. ‘But the warm welcome at IIT by my buddy, all the fellow students and other exchange students helped a lot to get used to Indian life,’ Hynek explained and said, ‘it was well organised – visa, vaccinations and everything was done on time, which I think is quite important.’ On top of that, all the courses they took at IIT were acknowledged by ETH. For this, they both said that it was helpful to look into the course catalogue and compare the lectures in advance in order to fix a study plan together with a mobility advisor. ‘It might be good, too, to bring along some scripts of your home university to compare the content,’ Jorit advised. The application process itself was ‘quite straightforward’ as Felix put it. ‘The most important thing was to be in time,’ he said, ‘I had to hand in my application about one year before the actual exchange starts. As soon as you know that you want to go there you should talk to the person responsible for the exchange. Then, they will help you in arranging all the necessary documents.’ And now, after being accepted for the exchange program, Felix is looking forward to ‘many exciting adventures and profound experiences’ and feels study-wise well-prepared. Only, the spicy food, he assumes, might be a bigger task: ‘That’s why I recently started adding more and more chili to my meals.’

Interviewed and edited by Kathrin Honegger, Academic Relations & Projects, swissnex India.


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