ADVENTURES IN A PHOREN LAND- MY CANADA
Airport Scene (near the security check) – People hugging each other, crying, senti talks, promises of meeting each other and all other memories were flooding my head. That moment I realized how precious this journey was, how amazing the talks were, how productive the summer was and overall how valuable the people were. I am Ayushi and currently pursuing my Final year in Civil Engineering (or, can be called “The Core Branch”). Though an ardent lover of adventure and sports, I am driven by Mathematics and Science. Enthusiasm, passion and independence drives me. I do what I like to do and I do it right (Hopefully)!
Travelling abroad for something I loved to do have always been a dream to me and this opportunity was provided by both DAAD and MITACS (though, I chose the latter). Meeting brilliant people from all over the world, learning about new lifestyles and cultures, working with amazing scientists and finally hanging out with “Desi” friends have given me a broader perspective of life. I feel richer and so much more mature after the great “North American Summer”.
So, it was 9 months back when the results were out and since then every day the thought of this place had been on the backdrop of my mind. MITACS scholarship requires the applicants to have a minimum CGPA of 8/10, though they consider many other factors for selection, unlike other programs. The typical duration of the internship was of 12 weeks (every day made its count!). MITACS generally look for the career objective, research experience (the most important one), recommendation letters and obviously your technical Skills. These features need to be present in the right proportion, though we can’t really predict what it takes to make it to Canada!
In general, research rationale should be written like a HR SOP (Why you, Why Canada etc.). Achievements should be more related to academics (as told by Mitacs professionals). Research experience should be well described and it should show the capability of a student to work in lab environments.
Based on the above factors, an initial shortlist is made and sent to the chosen professors. Depending upon the professor, interview (or questionnaire) is conducted. The final selection is usually done by MITACS and in this case, research rationale is given due importance. There are generally two rounds of selection process, one released in early December and the other in Mid-January. Visa-processing for Canada was quite easy. At the age of 19, getting the 1st stamp on the passport gave me goose bumps.
Finally! Bonjour Montreal!
The flight landing at Frankfurt, Germany (transit) made me finally travel overseas and I landed up in “phoren” land. Frankfurt was plainly amazing. It was the most organized and beautiful airport one could see or probably I would say this because this was my first international destination. Everything there felt like a fairytale; things which never existed before, places which I never dared to dream and people, whom I probably would never meet again. Finally, I arrived at the destined place, “THE MONTREAL”.
THE INITIAL ROADBLOCKS
It was a chilly afternoon when I landed there. After hours of jet lag, flight delay and the chaos to follow, reaching the residence was actually a herculean task. Although my mentor helped me settle down for a while, I was not able to believe that I actually landed in the exact opposite diametric point from my home country. There was a time when I felt so out of the place with not knowing a single soul in such 3D movie types to a time where I have made the best of my memories. From not knowing how to cook a single type of food, my friends have started calling me “Chef” or “Microwave King”. The place has given me enough memories to last a lifetime! No wonder I feel so prosperous today.
My project was to work on finding the correlation between two parameters in a mining backfill in the famous Research Institute, Ecole Polytechnique De Montreal (The French one!). The project was both experimental and also involved numerical calculations. The project was so innovative and the brainstorming session with the professor working on different problems gave me immense happiness.
The lab work was so independent that the work hours used to vary from midnight to early morning or the usual 9 to 7 job. The project was difficult in the beginning which made the week taxing and hence the weekend spice was badly needed. Exploring some adventures; Skydiving, Kayaking (Drowning in The Deepest River was one hell of an experience), Rock Climbing, Ice Skating, Hiking and Roller Coaster Rides constituted our typical weekend. Friday night till Monday Morning gave me the true definition of enjoyment.
Cultural Shocks ( Ahh!)
Having spent nearly 3 months in Canada, I am filled with surprises and shocks. Few of those are :-
(a) People are workaholics. If they say “Work hard, Party harder”, the hard here is being very punctual unlike we Indians think it as. We should learn the commitment towards work from these people.
(b) Traffic Rules- Yes. It is not the place where we can cross the roads anywhere at any time. Zebra crossing is actually followed and it takes time here to understand these “not so acquainted rules”
(c) Extremely organized and polite– People here are extremely organized in anything and everything they do. Living in the French speaking province of Canada might seem to be problematic but everyone is helpful and polite; they try to render help in whatever manner possible.
(d) The world is fully automatic here. From getting your clothes dried (Unlike the dryers in India), elevators, debit cards facility (in every small shop) , to the organized work space, each and every thing is mechanical. Life is much easier here.
(e) The cleanliness– Extremely clean roads, people in fact have the habit of keeping the wrappers in pockets unless they get a dustbin. And they put in appropriate dustbin (Recyclables and non-recyclables) unlike the ones in India.
(f) Everyone is supposed to be independent here. The work is given and the steps are supposed to be thought, analyzed and presented. No step by step guidance will be provided.
(g)Everyone is equal here (equal respect to all professions, genders, castes, creeds etc. etc.)
(h) Everything is closed after 9 pm here (Except a few shops (24*7) and it is being followed with great punctuality.
(i) No ‘jugaad’ concept as followed in India. I have not seen corruption, bribery or theft till now for this case.
(h) Smoking and drinking is allowed publicly. And also PDAs.
Au Revoir Montreal
Simultaneous preparation of Graduate School coupled with the other project (DAAD in my case) became hectic for last few weeks. Niagara Falls which I would rightly call as “Paradise on Earth” is one of the most beautiful things I could ever see on this planet. The right amount of WORK and FUN made my expedition a success. Montreal will always remain close to my heart. I would advise all juniors to make the most of this opportunity, if selected, by gaining lots of international exposure, research facilities and self-learning of this experience. LASTLY! I LOVE MITACS, I LOVE CANADA and I LOVE MONTREAL!