Namaste India!

Claudia I. '15

University:  SCMS Cochin
Study Period: 
Fall 2014/2015
Academic Level:  Master
   

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You should come to India when you 

  • are not scared of cockroaches, spiders, lizards and mosquitoe
  • are always running late for at least 15 minutes (Indians do too)
  • do not have a problem with different hygienic standards
  • do not mind getting stuck in traffic for like forever
  • are able to arrange with dusty, smoggy and wasted environments
  • want to get to know a country whose bureaucracy is even worse than Germany’s

Does not sound tempting? Well, then continue reading. I am pretty sure that I will change your mind! J

I spent my semester abroad at SCMS Cochin School of Business, Cochin, India. Although I knew that I would most probably experience a “world” which is not even comparable to what we are used to, I had no idea HOW entirely different it was going to be. Cultural clashes were the order of the day and I struggled really hard in between. However, retrospectively all those challenges are what makes a stay abroad attractive, worth it and eventually memorable. You not only learn a lot about the foreign country, but also about yourself. And without a second thought I would do it all over again!

 

Preparation:

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With respect to my preparations, I was in touch with the IS Link office regularly. Also, I was in close contact with Dr. Raman Nair, the former director of SCMS Cochin School of Business (now: Dr. Filomina P. George). I asked him for courses which I could attend, course plans, what accommodation would look like etc. Basically, I asked every question that came to my mind to him. He has been a great help. I recommend planning at least six months in advance since you might want to check for funding opportunities, have to request a student visa, get some health insurance coverage for your stay abroad, get vaccinations, book your flight etc.

 

Arrival and Accommodation:

I boarded my Emirates flight to Cochin via Dubai in the afternoon on September 19th, 2014 and reached Cochin in the morning the next day. With respect to airlines, I can highly recommend Emirates, Etihad and Air India. At the airport itself which is around 15kms away from the campus, I booked a pre-paid A/C cab to college which comes to 550 Rs. A pre-paid cab is in general a little more trustworthy than a non-prepaid cab. First, they know who is going where in that cab since they ask for your name and destination, and second you avoid the pain of bargaining with cab drivers. Anyhow, bargaining is not really needed in Cochin though. You will hardly be ripped off in comparison to places like Delhi. And trust me; you will definitely need the A/C cab when coming over from a much cooler country like Germany. Even though 30°C is still okay, humidity in Cochin will be killing you otherwise. Make sure you carry the address of college with you on a piece of paper as well as a contact number since the cab driver might not know the exact way, so he either has to stop in between and ask people for directions or even call someone in college for directions.

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The welcome in college was very warm. I met Dr. Raman Nair first and then my other faculties and even got a girl from my class assigned to me as a buddy to guide me through the first weeks. However, everybody is very helpful and tries their level best to help you out, no matter what it is. Do not hesitate to ask people for help if you need some.

I stayed in a single A/C room with an attached bathroom in the ladies’ hostel on campus. The boys’ hostel is a ten-minute ride away from the campus, but as a male student coming over to SCMS, you might want to ask for accommodation in the guest house which is also located on campus. The rooms will be cleaned by the cleaning ladies three times a week. Nevertheless, you will bump into cockroaches, spiders and lizards a few times a week. Therefore, you might want to get some cockroach spray in the beginning to easily get rid of the cockroaches at least. ;-) Girls have to be back in hostel at 06.30 p.m. in the evening. For boys, it is 09.30 p.m. during the week and 10.00 p.m. on the weekends. Students usually go home every second and fourth weekend of the month. You might want to go home to a friend’s place then or even go for travelling. For both, you have to fill in a leave form and get it approved in advance.

The amount of money required for mess hall fee (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and hostel fee is 8,000 Rs. per month. A bar of chocolate is around 15 Rs. in canteen, snacks, for example Udu vada (you should try, looks like a mini donut), is 5 Rs. per piece, a bottle of soda (400ml / 600 ml) is 25 Rs. / 35 Rs. and ice cream is around 30 – 40 Rs.

 

Studying and college life

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At SCMS, classes are held per trimester. The one trimester (term V) will last from mid of September until end of December and the other trimester will last from beginning of January until end of March (term VI). You can either come over for one or two trimester(s). Between April and August there is no opportunity to spend a semester abroad in Cochin. There will be no holidays in between. Classes start at 09.15 a.m. and end at 04.35 p.m.

I decided to attend the Systems & Operations specialization courses which were part of the Post-graduate Diploma in Management (PGDM). Other than that, there are four common courses per trimester. I attended the following courses during my stay:

Term V (September –December)   Term VI (January – March)
Project Management (3 Credits)
IT-Business Development (2 Credits)
System Analysis and Business Modelling (3 Credits)
Managing Quality and Productivity (3 Credits)
World Class Manufacturing (2 Credits)
IT Services Management (3 Credits)
ERP (3 Credits)
E-Commerce (3 Credits)

 

For each module, there was at least one test, two exams, one presentation and one assignment per trimester.

 

Major differences and challenges

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While Germans tend to be very straight-forward and belong to a low-context culture, Indians are the total opposite. They are more of a high-context culture which means they do not always mean what they say. Sometimes they may say “Yes, no problem”, however they have quite a few doubts. In contrast to us, they would not ask them right away though. On the other hand, Indians are very open-minded and curious and bombard you with questions in the beginning. Don’t get irritated by some of their questions. I was often asked whether I was married (I am 27 years old right now). In India, still, most marriages are arranged and all my female classmates would get married soon after graduation from college. Most girls are married by the age of 25 then.               

Whenever I visited friends, I also got to meet their family and neighbors. Indians host guests very divinely and are proud to have you as a guest. You will always be offered chai (tea) or even food. It is considered rude to deny drinks/food when being offered them. Especially in the South of India, people eat with their right hand as the left hand is considered impure/dirty and used for going to the toilet. Always wash your hand before and after having food and never use your left hand – not even for ripping apart the bread, if possible. Food in general plays an important role. The first thing my friends usually asked me when they met me was “Did you have your food?” instead of “How are you?”

Indians are very respectful towards elder or superiors who are ranked higher in terms of hierarchy. Also, the educational system in India is not aimed at working independently very much. People are used to be spoon-fed. They generally tend to need clear and precise instructions.

 

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Being in India as a woman

My friends and family were shocked when I told them that I would go to India for my semester abroad. They said things like “Will you be safe? So many girls are raped over there! They do not respect women! You probably cannot go out on your own!...” I must say, even I felt a little weird after coming here, but I have never felt unsafe. Of course, people, especially men, stare at you as a white girl/woman. Just try to ignore this. The more confidence you show to the outside, the better. I never went out in shorts, tops. I always wore Kurtis and Leggings and a Shawl. You will not be allowed to come to class in Jeans anyways ;-) Most of the times when I travelled alone, I went by Rickshaw in Cochin and other places, like Bangalore, Delhi, Agra, Mumbai. Nevertheless, I always had my GPS on to make sure the guy is going in the right direction if I did not know the way. In busses, women sit in the front while men sit in the back.

My male fellow students and colleagues never gave me the feeling that I am less worth as a woman than a man. They have always taken great care of me and were highly concerned about my well-being. I always felt very comfortable with them. Please do not think that all Indian men are perverts or even rapists. This is definitely not true! Indian men over here treated me lots better than my male friends and colleagues at home (sorry to say that!).

Conclusion:

Coming to India was one of the best decisions I could possibly ever make. I liked it so much that I decided to stay for one more year and do an internship in Bangalore. Indians are so much fun. They have an awesome sense of humor. The best piece of advice I can give you is: Be open and curious and if communication becomes a barrier or people give you blank stares, just smile (and shake your head like an Indian). You will be surprised to what extent a smile can break the ice! However, never trust a stranger, especially if your gut feelings tell you not to! Your instincts are most of the time right.