“Nothing is Illegal in Europe”, I had heard this line many times, and it was to see this Europe that I signed up for. I packed my bags and left New Delhi on the morning of January 1st for what was going to be a defining three months. In what can only be labelled as irresponsible behaviour I left to the airport after having attended a party on campus. I hadn’t packed my bags and worst of all I didn’t pack my shoes. Eight hours and a lot of sleep later I had realized that I was going to land in Frankfurt at the peak of the European Winter wearing slippers. Thus started my exchange program by nicking a pair of socks off the flight and wearing a jacket that was hardly helpful even in the Delhi winter.
Everyone told me that the most unsettling thing when leaving the country was the loss of support system - the friends and family. Nonsense! The most unsettling thing is finding empty streets at six in the evening; it’s the lack of noise and the absence of people around you. And it takes some getting used to. But once I got past the cold, the lack of people and the generous use of ‘Bitte’ (which is the most abused word in German), I started travelling, meeting people, partying and learning. I started having fun. My ‘Euro Trip’ had begun.
There are two Europes. One is the “Nothing is illegal” Europe, and the other is the “snobbish, steeped in history” Europe. For anyone planning to go there, I sincerely advice you try both. Be it the tour of the Communist controlled Berlin or the pub crawls in Prague, the mandatory walk along the Seine or trawling the Red Light Districts of Amsterdam, the Opera in Vienna or the concentration camp at Dachau, the serenity of the Neuschwanstein Castle or the creeps at the catacombs under Paris, try them all. If you meet someone who says “Let’s take the next train that comes in and let’s get lost”, hold onto them, they are your ideal travel partners. If you are ever lost in a town, don’t hesitate to ask a local for direction, you will be very surprised when they whip out their iPhones and google the place for you. When someone stops the car for you to cross the road try not to laugh; be ready to tip generously or you will hear what my friend was unfortunate to hear “I don’t want your money, keep it!”; realise that you are a tourist and produce your passport as and when asked, do not confuse security for racism; eat a lot of greens or struggle the way I did. Be ready to explore, dream and discover.
I attended classes at the Saarland University. The course was structured very differently from what we see in India. Typically only one subject is taught in a week, and the entire week is spent in discussion and debates on the topic. I attended five different courses and in my class were students from eight nationalities. It was a very interesting experience to work with them. They had different working styles, different social perceptions, varied academic backgrounds and in some cases severe language barriers. My friend from IIFT who was an ace in college, managed to ace there as well. The Germans nicknamed him ‘The Professor’ because of his speed with numbers. It was a classic case of the grass being greener on the other side, I was in awe of the freedom of thought that their system encourages, and they were in awe of the speed and competitiveness that our system promotes.
These were three months that I did not want to end. But like all good things this one had to. The summer and an internship awaited me, and with a heavy heart, a considerably lighter wallet and enough stories to last a lifetime, I responded to the last call for passengers flying to New Delhi..
- Srivathsan S.
Srivathsan is a second year MBA (IB) student at IIFT. He is a mechanical engineer by education but a traveller by passion.
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