For my international experience, I attended a summer school at Anna University in Chennai, India. The objective of this course was to learn leadership skills, and more about environmental issues and global development from a multidisciplinary engineering standpoint. Some of the concerns I had before I left were how well I would be able to adjust to the culture and how well I would be able to communicate without having any knowledge of the languages spoken there.
Before the course, several of my course-mates and I travelled in the “Golden Triangle” to make the most of the opportunity. We landed in Delhi and were instantly overwhelmed with the heat, noise and buzz of the city – there was little quiet from this point onwards! We visited Sri Bangla Sahib Gurudwara in New Delhi, an active Sikh temple, where we tried our hand at making flatbreads in the kitchen, which was equipped to provide free meals for all in the vast dining hall. In Agra, we were fortunate enough to witness the sunrise over the Taj Mahal and in Jaipur, we saw several of the forts and we explored the bazaars in the historic “Pink City”.
Meeting the students from Anna University, we were made to feel welcome straight away and undertaking the course alongside them was an invaluable experience, which has really strengthened the link between our university and the host’s. It was not long after starting the course before Edinburgh and Anna students were no longer sitting on opposite sides of the lecture hall, but had fully mixed. The students made our time in Chennai worthwhile, showing us a Hindu temple, a Tamil movie and Marina beach; as well as accompanying us to Pondicherry and Mahabalipuram – two very different cities with histories quite distinct from that of Chennai.
The Go Abroad Fund greatly helped to facilitate my journey and through this international experience, I have gained a lot of confidence in my communication skills and independence. I have learned some basic phrases in Hindi and Tamil and I am encouraged to learn to learn more language skills before travelling in future. I now feel better equipped to work in an international team, which should prove useful in the world of employment. Visiting the National Institute for Ocean Technology (NIOT) was a highlight of the course and this experience was one of many that truly helped me to find the links between what I have learned in the classroom and the practical environment.
The water shortages in Chennai and widespread throughout India due to the long period without rainfall, showed that there is a great need for technologies to produce safe drinking water in sufficient quantities for a large and ever-growing world population. Seeing this problem, and also engaging with researchers in different fields working on projects such as “low temperature thermal desalination” has confirmed my desire to continue towards a career in which I can apply an engineering skill-set to provide solutions to environmental and developmental issues.