IGCSP 21-22 | Stay in India, Report by TU students

Wednesday & Thursday, 24. & 25.11.  by Jannis Rebettge

We started our journey at the Braunschweig train station early in the morning. Everyone was fresh and well rested in front of the station hall. Together we sat down in the train to Frankfurt.
At the Frankfurt airport everything went without problems, so we were allowed to enter the plane with face shields and protective clothing. The flight took about 8 hours, but due to the 4.5 hours time difference in India we arrived in Delhi at night. We were welcomed by the brother of the Challenge co-organizer Rishi. He brought us directly to Rishi, who was already waiting for us in front of the airport. Immediately we took the first of many group photos to prove that we had really arrived in India.
After the greeting we took a bus to the bus that should bring us to Pilani. This bus of the model Traveller made a reasonably trustworthy impression, also the bus driver seemed as if he knew what he was doing when he tied the luggage on the roof of the bus. And off we went in the direction of Pilani. The many new impressions were impressive. We were especially surprised about the first cow on the highway.
Our first break we made in a restaurant at the highway. There we drank our first chai and could already taste some Indian snacks. A good preparation for the next part of our trip to BITS. Because when we wanted to start, the engine didn’t start anymore. No problem. Employees of the restaurant pushed the bus without further ado. The bus was running and we drove through the traffic jam in oncoming traffic to the right side of the highway. Now the bus drove for the first time. In the middle of the night the driver got out several times to refill the coolant. For a while the light of the bus did not work, but we drove on. We were looking forward seeing our Indian friends again. After the five hours we had planned for the trip, we had covered about two thirds of the distance. In a small village we stopped. It turned out that the V-belt of the bus was broken. We drove very slowly to a workshop where the bus driver, together with colleagues who had joined us, changed the belt. In this further unplanned break we could admire the first parrots which had their nest above the workshop. After the bus was repaired, the rest of the trip went smoothly.
Arriving at the Pilani campus, we checked into our rooms at Vfast, the university’s hotel. After a short refreshment break, Rishi showed us around the campus. We were all very impressed by the size and beautiful layout, with park, sports facilities, temple and the clock tower. At the Skylawns we were served the first chai on campus. Here also the first Indian students met us, which caused great joy among all. After the chai we went to the New Workshop where our group work should take place. After a very friendly welcome we went to the all night cantine to have our first Indian meal. Afterwards we went back to the Vfast to rest a bit only to have dinner later together with many of the Indian students at the cannot place. Despite the exhausting way to the campus, at the latest now all agreed that the arduous way was worth it and we are very much looking forward to the next

Friday, 26.11. by Nuhy Fahlbusch

The group work usually took place at the BITS Pilani new Workshop, which assembled a lot of different laboratories.
The first difference among the german labs was, to take off the shoes before entering (to prevent dust). During the guided tour it turned out, that the BITS’s labs not only include high tech 3D printer, but also equipment from the medieval times, which was surprising and impressive at the same time. Next up was a long day of group work, which ended with the inauguration, where we met Prof Sangwan who is one of the team leaders of IGCSM.

Saturday, 27.11. by Nicole Unger

On Saturday, our group wrote the first report in the new workshop and submit it right before our lunch. After finishing the report, we went to the ICC, an canteen in the clocktower building. The offered meal was Dosa with potatoes’ filling and two different chutneys. In addition to that, I drank a lemonade. When we ended our lunchbreak at the ICC, the bunch of people of our Indo-German group was having a look at the inside of the clocktower. In the entrance hall, we saw a sculpture of K K Birla, the founder of the BITS Pilani Campus. Also, there was a memorial stone from the initial edification of the clocktower. We took some picture of the entrance hall and the outside of the building.
After this, we went in a group of Germans to the Connaught’s place. There, we had an fresh orange juice with ice cream. While we had this, several people asked us from which country we were. A retired alumni and a group of pupils was asking us. We answered their questions and had a small nice chat to these people.
In the afternoon, our group of exchange students visited the Saraswati Temple at the BITS campus. We had to take off our shoes to enter the temple. When we went into the temple, the BITSians explained to us some possible ways how to pray. Afterwards we took photos of our group in front of the temple.
For dinner, we went to the crazy monkey at the Connaught’s place with a small group of exchange students. Some students ate pasta and pizza, classical western dishes. Whereas another TU student and I ate spicy Indian food. We ordered Paneer with rice and jeera rice. Regardingto our stay in Pilani, this was the most spiciest dish I ate there.

Sunday, 28.11. by a TU student

Sunday was our day off. Since we had a lot of input already, intensive work and everybnight something to do with the BITSians, we all appreciated this little break. Still, some of us got up early for a yoga session while the rest was enjoying their sleep. Later some of us tried playing cricket, but this time with daylight support and thus good vision of bat and ball.
I went outside the campus to explore the neighborhood a bit and visit the garden and the Shri Ram Temple close by the campus. Soon it turned out I had to pose for a lot of selfies with the locals. All of us had great fun doing it. Connections in the first place seem easier to establish than in Germany. People are generally interested in you, where are you from (first and most asked question), what you are doing and for some reason if you are traveling solo. When back on the campus I continued to try different Indian meals like mashed samosa with freshly made orange juice at different redis.
In the evening we continued doing that guided by our Indian friends, exchanging our different experiences with food, people and activities of India. I was surprised when I found out eating icecream even during Indian winter in Pilani is so popluar. In the evening it was too cold for me to eat icecream with joy 😀

Monday, 29.11. by Siddharth Singh & Nicole Unger

Today has been assigned for the group work as we had whole day to work on our task. However, despite of planning the work for whole day in advance, the execution could not happen. We encountered a new problem called as “Surprise Test culture” in BITS where students get to know about the tests only a night before, so BITS team members were absent from group work till lunch. As a result of that, first half of the day, TU BS students had to work alone wondering simultaneously about the contrast in exam system and difference in challenges faced by students in both universities. Although everyone showed up after lunch as promised and we made up for the lost time by working late at that night in JINGEL Lab, which was even better than any other team building exercise.
After we ended the groupwork in the new workshop, I was working on assignments for my master program. Also, I had an meeting at 8:30 pm Indian time. Siddarth and me had diner at the VFAST. After we finished eating, we went back to our rooms. Then I continued to work on my assignments.

Tuesday, 30.11. by Lorena Vrbanac

My major is “Production of energy by renewable sources”. One of the reasons I picked it was my passion for environment and its preservation. Despite of that, when I first saw dirt roads, dogs, birds, and chipmunks living in the university campus of BITS Pilani, my first thought was: “They are underdeveloped.”. That changed instantly when Mr. Shyamal Kumar in his lecture of sustainable business models said that he was so happy to see so many birds have returned to BITS Pilani. In that moment I realized that all of that doesn’t make them underdeveloped, it makes them more sustainable, eco-friendly and on the right path to something everyone should strive for. Cohabitation with nature.
When I thought that was enough revelations for the day, we had an Inter-Cultural workshop held by Prof. Devika and Prof. Pushp Lata. That lecture thought me a valuable lesson. I realized that despite different religions, countries, ways of living and thinking, deep down we are all the same. Just a bunch of young students with great aspirations for the future. Indo-German challenge just enabled our paths to cross in that brief amount of time and to make our understanding of different parts of the world little bit better. I am so glad I was given an opportunity to be a part of that incredible experience.

Wednesday, 01.12. by Jannik Kronemeyer

The first of December was the last non-travel day for us in India. For some of us the day started rather early, as we went birdwatching, which is best done in the early morning hours. We met a passionate bird enthusiast, who worked at one of the institutes of the BITS-Pilani and showed us the huge diversity of birds all over campus. Afterwards we went to eat some breakfast. This was followed by preparations for our return flight the next, as we all had to get PCR-Tests done. This was fortunately possible on campus, so we did not have to go to the local hospital. Once we were done we headed for a quick lunch at one of the countless redis, before going to the JInGeL-Lab at the New Workshop building. There we got to hear a very interesting lecture about blockchain technology and its very varied application possibilities, which was especially relevant for us as it was central to one of the groups at the Indo-German Exchange. While this was a very informative lecture, the highlight of the day came in the evening, as we were invited to a farewell party. Since this was to be the last evening, this party was held at the beautiful inside lawn of the VFAST-Hostel. There multiple fire pits were prepared, which created a nice atmosphere, as well as an amazing buffet to choose from the delicious Indian food we got to know during our stay. As we ate, we enjoyed talks with everyone that was involved from the Indian and German side of the project and reminisced a little about our time there. This evening was concluded after a playing a game of Kabaddi, a more contact heavy variant of tag. All in all it was a very well rounded way to spend our last day in India.

Thursday, 2.12. by Siddharth Singh

Well, realising that it’s our final day here, waking up this morning was a bit hard. We checked out from VFAST hostel early in the morning and left for the final joint feedback session at JINGEL Lab. As expected in our feedback, everyone wished a longer stay in Pilani and wanted a longer stay for BITSians
in Braunschweig. After the session, the attempt to take the group picture with Zexu and Aichaa joining the session online was a bit fun.
With sharing our calendars to set up online meetings for further project, we left for some lunch together at Connaught Place where me and Benjamin could enjoy some extra food due to some mix up in ordering the food together for the whole group. There, some students from last year’s IGCSM program came to meet us with some gifts. (fortunately I had some extra chocolates for them).
In afternoon, as we were about to leave VFAST, to our surprise, all BITS participants were there to see us off. It was quite an emotional moment, as everyone stayed till our vehicles left the BITS campus.
Unlike the inward trip to pilani, we travelled in two separate vehicles for a safer transport to the airport. Luise and one of the TU students stayed to explore India a bit more. But another happy surprise was still waiting for us. On the way to airport, the restaurant manager of Mannat Dhaba, where we took our journey break from airport towards Pilani was so happy to see us again. I left the rest of the TU BS participants a few kilometres before the airport in Gurugram to meet some of my previous work colleagues as I also stayed a weeklong in India to visit my hometown near Agra- the city of Taj Mahal.