International Summer School in Chennai

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I’d always found India a fascinating country so when I saw the University of Edinburgh “Go Away!” initiative had organised a multidisciplinary international school in Chennai, South-East India, I knew I had to apply straight away. My initial concern was that I’d have to arrive a day late in India if I were to make my graduation but thankfully Anna University were very accommodating. Also, the VISA and vaccine requirements were more expensive than expected so I was very glad of the Principals Go Abroad fund. So on July 27, 2016, the day of my graduation from the University of Edinburgh, I ended up on a flight to Chennai, hours after posing in my ceremonial robes for photos, off to join a group of students from both Edinburgh and Anna University.

The program was very broad with lectures on climate change, mobile applications, big data, nanotechnology and smart cities among others. The titles of some subjects on the program like ‘big data’ didn’t seem very enticing but turned out to be fascinating. Anna University is ranked 6th in India from over 1000 universities and the standard of teaching was very high. During the week, there would be two lectures each day with a break for Chai (tea) and Samosas in between. This would be followed with a buffet lunch of Indian food and then a lab demonstration in the afternoon. We’d end the day with more tea in the international office and then spent the rest of the day as we wished. At weekends we were taken around nearby villages for tourist excursions and treated to local food at restaurants chosen by our supervisor. He had excellent local knowledge of the best places to go!

I travelled independently through India after the 2 week summer school and really enjoyed it but the time in Chennai was invaluable. When you tell people you are going to India, you’ll inevitably be warned about the infamous “Delhi belly” and tourist scams. After Chennai, I was armed with the advice of my Indian classmates and lecturers and so I managed to avoid these problems.

The clichés of travel broadening horizons are true. However, travel as a tourist can only show one dimension of life in India. Studying in India gave me a perspective I wouldn’t have otherwise. For example, I learned that the agricultural methods that are used in the West do not work in India because cultural practices have led to smaller farms on average, farms that are much too small to accommodate large tractors, which is why draught animals are still commonly used. This is one example among many. I’d tell anyone to go for any opportunity that comes up for work or study in India. I can guarantee it will be one of the most educational and memorable experiences of your university days.

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