I had started the process of mailing in September itself. Luckily, I got a reply from one of the very first few emails I sent (Yes, this does happen to people :P). My professor was actually impressed by one of my course projects and a point related to aeromodelling in my CV.
My work there was related to topics like snow height detection, increase in temperature in Europe, heatwaves (topics related to climate change). It was very interesting for me since I was working with lots of image-based and qualitative data sets that needed to be extrapolated to mathematical models. The professor had assigned a post-doc student to supervise my work and he was very helpful with everything.
There wasn’t ever a time when I felt like a fish out of water, even on my first day there. I tried to interact and introduced myself to almost everybody in my vicinity and tried to actively seek help and their friendliness meant that I was often taken out for lunch.
At ETH, there was a very casual academic environment. We used to call our professor by name and the interactions were quite informal, to say the least. There were obviously deadlines for the work to be done but there were no compulsions or micromanagement of individuals. We were free to work (even the postdocs) on our own pace and follow our interests.
I lived in a rented room, in an apartment with a common kitchen and bathroom. My neighbours were from diverse backgrounds like there was this girl from Sri Lanka in the room next to me. I also interacted with a professor from IIT, who lived in the same building as mine. In general, my interactions with people in Switzerland were very impressive. They were quite friendly and always eager to help out.
Out of all the cities I’ve been to, Zurich was my favourite! I still miss shopping at the supermarkets there and the Central Zurich area, which is the main tourist attraction. The food in the old town area was tasty but expensive, so I preferred to shop/cook and eat at local supermarkets. Food tends to be a major expense in Switzerland.
Language-wise, German is the first language of most of the people there, but English is still understood by a majority of people and with the help of some basic German words I had learnt, the language wasn’t an issue at all.
A Memorable Experience:
Just when everything seemed to be going well, I ended up fracturing my foot a month into the intern. The doctor advised 6 weeks of bed rest, funnily I just had 4 weeks left in Zurich. I was crestfallen because I had a lot of wonderful places left on my wishlist to visit. I still travelled around locally through public transport, though with two crutches and a cast on my foot. It was a great experience, with random people stopping every now and then to help.
It’s worth putting in timely efforts into getting an internship because it’s going to be an amazing learning experience. It’s also important to not get disheartened and stop altogether if you are not receiving positive replies yet, just keep trying.
I became much more independent as a person. There were times when we were travelling to unknown places and exploring on our own. Having had that experience, I feel quite confident to be on my own now. All in all, living in Zurich and travelling around in those 2 months left me with great personal development lessons and confidence.
Interviewed By: Sakshi Mirge