DAAD Diaries: Siddhant Chandra
Another senior student from the Department of Civil Engineering, with ambitions to participate in world-class research and development at some university or laboratory abroad. I am Siddhant Chandra. A loyal fan of books, food and travel. The feeling I get from the very thought of visiting new places, meeting new people, trying out different cuisines, all the while building unforgettable memories is ineffable. One gets to experience a plethora of feelings. And what more, I love to cook too. Courtesy? Mom!
Experiencing a plethora of feelings? O yes! A million memories, thousands of experiences, hundreds of realisations, 11 European countries, immense travelling, so many new people, and ultimately, lots of learning. These made me richer than my stipend could. That moment when you see people on roller skates and fancy skateboards to people on wheelchairs, all treading the same route to work in exactly the same way, I knew what freedom is all about. Germany taught me a lot about personal independence. That moment when you are on your cross-country car ride and you see vast wind and solar farms, extending till the horizon throughout your journey, I understood what being ‘technologically advanced’ actually means. I have seen working women and single mothers carrying their crying babies on their way to work. I have seen people aged 6-60 years all experiencing a thrilling ride in city festival fair. Germany taught me that though life is tough and complicated, it deserves to be loved and enjoyed. Truly loved! One needs to know how to truly belong to oneself first. It taught me the importance of immediate action at times, about transience, about decision-making, about handling different people, about tolerance and exuberance and what not! It made me experience moments so beautiful that even as I say this, my throat literally chokes up.
How did I get there? Through the DAAD-WISE scholarship. DAAD stands for Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst and WISE for Working Internships in Science and Engineering. With the minimum application eligibility criterion being a CGPA greater than 8.5, the DAAD-WISE program can fund your stay in Germany for a maximum of 90 days and a minimum of 60 days. Why would somebody want to live in such beautiful a place for less than that after all? The application requires a form to be filled and sent, along with just one recommendation letter from a faculty, who may or may not be from NITT. The only prerequisite for having a happy and truly fruitful stay in Germany is your interests in the area of work i.e. your project. I might come across as slightly boring here but believe me-it’s true. Tips for project selection:
- Identify your area(s) of interest
- Identify universities and professors working in those field(s). That’s pretty much it. You are done with your university cum professor cum project selection!
The final list of the applicants who have been awarded the scholarship is announced generally by the first week of February. Having been awarded the scholarship and having duly accepted it, you are now expected to work on two very important tasks: One, visa application. Two, searching for accommodation. The success of the former depends on that of the latter. But once you have mentioned that you have been awarded with the DAAD-WISE scholarship, visa processing takes not more than 3 days. Trust me, with so many things to be done in life at NITT, this is quite a big relief!
The application phase begins with shortlisting universities/research labs/professors/projects followed by sending a mail to each. This in itself is the first major obstacle in the entire process. The only key to overcome this is: HARDWORK, SINCERE WORK and NO PROCRASTINATION WHATSOEVER! The second major obstacle in the road to Germany is getting an accommodation. The key to overcome this: CLEVER WORK, PROMPT WORK AND DEDICATED WORK. The experience gained from NITT’s Facebook work culture will help you a lot with this one. Once these two roadblocks are dealt with, the road to Germany is pretty much clear!
Now, I would finally like to talk about my project, professor and university. The project was titled “Tendon Systems for Seismic Protection of Ancient Column Structures” with the reference structure for my project being The Temple of Neptune in Paestum, Italy (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). I worked at the Institute of Steel and Composite Construction, Faculty of Structural and Earthquake Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Kassel, Germany. The research team included my host professor (Head of the Department at the University of Kassel), a Professor from the University of Salerno in Italy, two doctoral students from Vietnam and Spain, two ERASMUS exchange masters students from Italy and a DAAD-WISE scholar (me). My project was additionally being funded by an organisation called the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft). Our team had nicknamed our project “The Neptune Project”. Classy,isn’t it?
A typical work week includes dedicated work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday at the University. That’s pretty much about the ‘work’ week. Apart from this, the off-campus life during the internship has much to be talked about. Germany has an excellent culture of strictly no work during weekends. Almost every place in Germany remains closed on weekends. And as we say, “In Rome, do as the Romans do”, we did the same. In a nutshell, we enjoyed the weekend to the fullest. Backpacking through 11 European countries, watching Roger Federer play, enjoying the world’s largest zoo, the world’s largest auto museum, Europe’s largest waterfalls, the world’s highest suspension bridge and many more such things. All this was possible through meticulous planning during the weekdays and the execution of those plans during the weekends. Furthermore, there are opportunities like preparing for competitive exams during your free time, attending German classes or attending International Summer University courses. The only thing one needs to do in order to make the most out of it is to remain active and alert to such opportunities because these can prove to be really highly enriching.
Given that I am a major foodie, I can’t bring this to an end without a shout out to some of my favourites!
From croissants and paninis to vadas and bondas;
From tarts and cheesecakes to kesari and payasam;
From wursts and spaghetti to chettinad chicken and idiyapam;
From Lindt and Herren to Cadbury and Nestle;
From tortelloni and penne to idli and paniyaram;
From pesto and Knoblauch mayonnaise to podi and coconut chutney;
From doeners and pancakes to shawarma and oothapam;
Oh India! So much I love you.
Oh Germany! How much I miss you.
Danke Schoen Deutschland!!