/ S’ko’s world tour // Stop #3 : INDE – CALCUTTA

⌘  The st12316550_902069373203631_5539169147566818427_nudent’s presentation in a couple words

After a year in a SKEMA French campus, I quickly left to the campuses in Raleigh and in Suzhou. After my gap year, I came back to Paris but could not dream of anything else than to leave again. And that’s why I decided to spend my 4th year in India and Suzhou again. I really wished to gain a maximum from the opportunity the school offers us of studying abroad and choosing your course however you wish to do it. That is a great experience only Skema offers you, and that’s the school’s real strength.

⌘  Why this destination?

The Indian Institute of Management of Calcutta is a very impressive college shining in whole Asia, and even in the whole world (in 2014, the Financial Times had ranked it 13th in its Non-European Management schools. But it wasn’t the school’s prestige that led me to India, it was more my attraction to this country. I am fascinated by the country’s beauty, its culture, the sensuality it exhales, the colors, the incredible temples, the Hindu mythology, the cuisine there, the Maharaja Palaces, the paradise beaches…

India is a country French people have many prejudices on: insecurity for women, poverty… It’s true European media broadcasts on rape stories, but I do not feel endangered here. And yeah, there is poverty, but certainly not misery. It’s actually all the opposite, I was actually very warmly welcomed and I was put at ease right away! Indian hospitality is very well-known, it’s in their culture to treat guests as kings.

An exchange in India offers the possibility to travel in many places with various landscapes: deserts, forts and palaces of Rajasthan, incredible temples, fishermen villages or colonial cities of Tamil Nadu, tea plantations, elephant reserves in Kerala, heavenly-looking beaches and big parties of Goa, treks in the Himalayas and sights of Mount Everest, tiger reserves and relics of the British empire in Occidental-Bengal, etc… (And yeah, I was lucky to see all that!)

⌘  Which are the steps to go study there? / Any need of a visa?

SKEMA asks us to have a certain TOEFL score because the whole course is done in English and they want to be sure we survive.
Other than that, steps are basic: you just need an easily and quickly obtained visa.

⌘  How did you live though your arrival there?

It was great! We live on an incredible campus (in a forest home of many birds, squirrels and many other animal species, surrounded by 7 lakes), everything is really gorgeous, so I didn’t have to look for accommodation. We were welcomed right away by the “exchange students” deputy, who organized parties for us all along the semester, introduced us to other students, and helped us in any way possible. He did everything possible to make our life easier, and quickly became a good friend.

The things that have impressed me the most are:

  • The hospitality, we aren’t used to be welcomed so much by total strangers
  • All the trips I did! And particularly the Rajasthan.
  • The country’s poverty, which isn’t weird at all. It can even be very pretty when we see the way that part of the population, living with so little, can be so smiling, welcoming and colorful. We come back much more humble from this trip, and not traumatized at all, like some could fear.

⌘  What can you tell us about the way of life there? And about the university?

The campus isn’t located in the center of the city, so it is a little tiring because we can’t leave between two classes. But that’s also a positive point, because we are shaded from the noise and infernal traffic jams. This place is splendid, I was really surprised and it’s a real pleasure to live in such an environment, mostly because with that climate, we really feel like being on summer holidays for the whole semester. We are housed and fed on the campus, and the fees aren’t really high, so there are no budget problems. The rooms are kind of perfunctory, but the atmosphere there is so great we actually never stay home very long: we all meet every evening to have a pint or go out.

⌘  How is your student life organized? And the classes there?

As I was saying, we were very close with other exchange students but also with the couple friends we made among the local students. We always eat together, go out together, play pool, Ping-Pong, etc… We are really free and there are always parties going on, the university doesn’t have any restrictions concerning this. But we can also go out in the city to clubs or bars. Indian students live during the night and really know how to party. Another great aspect from this university is the amount of holidays we have! By managing well, I got a month of holidays to visit India in October.

The amount of classes is imposed by our university, so by SKEMA. I needed a class corresponding to “globalization” and I was free to chose anything else. Unfortunately, since we were many exchange students, I could not get accepted to each and every demanded course. There are every kind of class: some have very good levels (and even sometimes way too requiring) and others are jokes people take only to enjoy their stay here. Everything depends from what you are looking for.

⌘  Which are the differences between studying in France and studying in India?

There isn’t really a difference concerning the classes in themselves, but of course, the culture is different. For example, Indians tend to live and study during the night, way more than we do. The first time my work group asked to meet for work at one in the morning, I was really chocked. It is also very interesting because certain classes adopt an Indian point of view, Indian questionings, and Indian insights. That’s really a good way to understand the country.

We also have the possibility to take classes on ONG management (which is very important in the Indian culture), marketing towards poor populations, or sustainability… Very enriching classes.

⌘  How did you find the accommodation?

Each and every student is housed on the campus. There are several “hotels”, each with its cafeteria (there are also shops and restaurants on the campus). I was lucky to get a room in one of the most luxurious hotels, with a splendid view of the lake: The Lake View Hostel. My room is simple but correct and clean: a bed, shelves and a mirror. However, toilets and showers are shared but clean.

⌘  What is there to do and see in India?

There are so many things!! The Taj Mahal, camel rides in the Thar desert, boat rides on the backwaters, the Hampi temples, the Goa beaches, the romantic city of Udaipur, etc…

Plus, India is very cheap! For a basic meal, we spend less than a euro, for a taxi trip to the city center, two euros… dresses cost two euros, beer, less than that, and we can spend a night in a Rajasthan hotel for three euros. Nothing is expensive!

⌘  What have you most and least liked in Kalkuta?

Like everywhere, there is always a moment where you can’t bear the food anymore (even if it is very simple to find occidental restaurants), but it does go away after a while. The Indian administration is complicated, you need ID pictures with you for any submission to anything, you need to sign contracts a couple times each, etc…

⌘  What did you learn from your exchange in India?

  • The will to come back! Maybe to work, but definitely to visit.
  • I met great people from the whole world, from every university. People who come study in India are adventurous, curious, eager to discover new things or meet new people. They are interesting and open-minded, that’s also what has enriched my experience here.
  • The occasion to really speak English, not like on Skema campuses.
  • New perspectives

⌘  Any tips to those who also wish to leave for Kalkuta?

Do not go there with a biased mind, and be ready to leave every cliché we have on the country. Do not expect the same comfort you have in France, it’s not the right country to find it.

For girls: you can dress as you wish on the campus (skirts, shorts, longshoremen…), but in small cities or temples, people aren’t used to meeting tourists so you need decent outfits (do not show your legs and you need at least a scarf on your shoulders). It isn’t a question of security, because nobody would attack us, but of respect.

⌘  Would you recommend this country for a university exchange?

Definitely! For the trips, the atmosphere on the campus, the culture… It’s an outstanding experience!!