Exchange Diaries  

By International Relations Cell

Outbound Diaries 2019

Arghyanil Bhattacharjee | Chemical Engineering

EPFL, Switzerland

Research Area: Biodegradable packaging materials

Duration: 2.5 Months

Why do you think Foreign Training is important, how was your experience?
Well, foreign training is important and it’s a nice experience to have, you get exposed to a new culture, you get to travel to new places, and most of the times, from what I have experienced myself and from what I have heard from my friends is that the quality of research and especially how research is done, there is a big difference between how we do it here and how they do it there, so not just the facilities and the equipment that you get there, but the attitude of the people is also different. I wouldn’t say it's better but it’s a nice outgoing approach to have.

What was your FT about?
I worked on developing biodegradable packaging materials. It was in the department of Material Science at EPFL. As we all know all the packaging materials now are BioDegradable to a large extent. It's a project with a social impact and an environmental impact so we tried to develop some new materials for that.

What procedure did you follow to get FT ?
EPFL has two programs, one is summer at EPFL and the other one is E3 which I went for.It’s a new program and this was the third batch of interns that they had. It is a program with less number of steps. You just need to fill out the form, there is no recommendation letter needed. You just have to select three laboratories, three professors under whom you want to work and all the laboratories are open so you can just select three and put them as preference and then they get back to you accordingly.

How did you manage your finances?
They paid my travel fare and the stipend was good enough so that you can stay there comfortably, visit a few places and enjoy your time there.

Did you face any difficulties in the academic level while applying for FT?
I didn’t face any problems personally because the professors were very accomodating. But I remember during my interview, when they asked what is my vacation period, I told them it's exactly ten weeks.They were little apprehensive of having me because normally when you go for research work outside, it takes you one month to accommodate yourself there and get to know everything in the university. So three months is I think a good time to work. But the professors were willing to take a risk and they said, “Okay, we will have you for ten weeks”

How is the work culture there?
The working hours are quite flexible. They don't care if you are sitting in the office the whole day or you are in your room. They just want the work to be done and there's minimal interference
from the professor side like you work on your own. But help is always available at hand. If you get stuck on something, you can ask anyone in the laboratory, they are there to help you.

On a lighter note, how was your stay in the foreign country?
It was good. There were some cultural shifts and differences, a new culture totally and the language was a problem sometimes because it’s mainly French speaking area. But the people were really helpful too, so it was a nice experience and the weather was very good. I visited quite a few places in Switzerland and the rest of Europe as well. We used to go on trips every weekend. They also took all the interns to a hiking trip in the mid of the internship. So there we got to interact with other interns who were working in different fields and overall it was a good experience.

Role of CG for FT?
I would say it has good importance. If you are applying in your second or third year and you don’t have any experience and the professor is not familiar with your work, so that time CG is perhaps the only criteria that they can judge you on. Most of the programs like DAAD, Mitacs they shortlist mainly on the basis of CGPA only.

What would you suggest to your fellow KGPians who aspire to go for Foreign Training?
Well, I would like to tell them that it might be a bit disappointing initially when you start because at this moment there are very few programs. Most of it is done through mailing. So, initially when you send twenty to twenty five mails and you don’t get any reply it’s really disheartening but don’t lose hope, just keep on doing and applying for it. Some may get success on their tenth mail, some may get success on the hundredth mail, some may not get at all but what is important is not to stop trying.