To Europe, To Us, And To The Times We Spent – IIM Sirmaur

“Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times.”

How many times have we heard and read about Europe and all its fairy-tale places? How many times have we wandered off to those magical lands in our reveries, evoked by the travelogues and the countless movies and travel shows only to be snapped back to reality by a honking car, a shrieking hawker on the streets or our pinging phones? The endless examinations to get through; the piling sheaves of paper on our desks needing attention; a spotless office attendance record just to get our leaves encashed; or just the lack of opportunity and/or resources to spare for that holiday which hardly manages to make it to our list of priorities. For we can always take that trip later, right? Or is it because it is easy to encage our wanderlust as that is what we’ve been doing ever since and now are a pro at it? Maybe both. Fortunately for us at IIM Sirmaur, amidst all our deadlines and examinations, that trip to Europe did happen!

I was part of a group of 38 people who were in Europe for a month for an immersion programme during March-April 2017. We had most of our classes at the International Center for Promotion of Enterprises (ICPE) in Ljubljana – a most beautiful city and the capital of Slovenia. The course was designed by ICPE, in partnership with the Josef Stefan International Postgraduate School and IIM Lucknow.

Excitement knew no bounds from the moment we set foot on Vienna on the night of 8th March. March 10 was the day of our orientation at ICPE and the beginning of what eventually turned out to be the best days of our lives, so far! Classes for 5 days a week (no exceptions!) and then we donned the hat of explorers on the weekends!

The curriculum was designed to incorporate almost every topic of import to the global manager – eco-technology, public finance in the EU, intercultural communication, CSR, monetary policy in the EU, foreign exchange markets, money and capital markets, international taxation, leadership, Circular Economy, etc. – spanning over 5 weeks. These were interspersed with workshops, live demonstrations, panel discussions and role-playing exercises. This also offered us a most opportune platform to learn from and interact with professors from Bournemouth University (UK), Brighton Business School (UK), University of Ljubljana, University of Maribor (Slovenia), etc. and network with scientists, philosophers, lobbyists, lawyers, economists, former ministers and ambassadors, and businessmen. Industrial and Institutional Visits to the EU House, Pipistrel, and the port of Koper while in Slovenia and the Austrian Parliament, the Headquarters of the United Nations and the IAEA in Vienna were icing on the cake! And on weekends, some googling and a journey later, we found ourselves in entirely different countries with Google Maps in one hand and a camera in the other.

Slovenia caught me by surprise! A small, young country that is hard to locate on a map at first glance. A nation with a little over 2 million people but with such great potential! Yet strangely, it has never been one of the names that instantly pop into our mind when we dream or speak of Europe. We stayed at the heart of Ljubljana and the place was always bustling with happy (and pretty *wink*) faces! The concoction of the modern and medieval European architecture of the city proudly represents the blend of the erstwhile Yugoslav city and the present-day capital of Slovenia that Ljubljana is. The Triple Bridge, the river Ljubljanica that flows underneath and the scores of restaurants, cafes, bakeries and pubs that line both sides of the river, accentuated by the Ljubljana Castle and the Julian Alps in the distance, make the place even more inviting. The weather was cool and the people warm and welcoming. Notably, Ljubljana has also earned the recognition of being the ‘European Green Capital’ in 2016 and for the right reasons!

I AM partial to Ljubljana. But not mentioning how Nature has blessed ALL of Slovenia would be sinful. The coastal towns of Piran and Portoroz by the Adriatic Sea are simply picture-postcard materials. I haven’t seen skies or seas any bluer than in Piran. The Bled Castle towering over the idyllic Lake Bled, often symbolising Slovenia, and Bohinj could easily be crowned winners if Nature held a beauty pageant. Not to mention the swathes of rolling green valleys, the quaint yet picturesque towns dotting the countryside, the fresh air, and the sunny days and chilly nights as winter gave way to spring. And it was not just Slovenia that we explored. Courtesy its central location, moving around Europe was easy. Munich, Zurich, Rome, Venice, Capri, Milan, Madrid, Barcelona, Prague, Salzburg, Budapest, Zagreb, Dubrovnik – you name it and we’ve been there!

Europe was an experience; a testimony to the saying ‘Not all classrooms have four walls’. Lessons are not just in textbooks. Learning is not just through lectures. As much as it is important to get our fundamentals right and build on them in a typical classroom setting, it is equally important to be able to apply them at the right time in the right manner in a real-world setting. Europe for me, rather for all of us was a lot of classroom learning, but a lot of travel too. It did a world of good for us as we saw new places, took in their cultures, picked up bits of their languages, met new people and felt the inherent goodness in them. Once this happens, you no longer remain who you were before you had set off. Moreover, not only as managers of the future but as global citizens too, it is vital for us to understand the world we live in and what it is gradually shaping up to be. And the international immersion programme did a very good job at that!