Experience Reports

Experience Reports

Manipal, India

When I reached the airport in Mangalore, the next bigger city close to my destination, I had almost no idea what to expect. I had been to India before, so I had some idea about the culture and I found some IAESTE reports in the Internet where I read that usually they have many interns in Manipal. The job offer said I should work with GIS doing some studies about hydromorphology and geology of a river basin. That was it, so I was quite excited about what kind of people I will work and live with and especially how I would get along with the monsoon.

I was not the only one arriving that day, four polish interns chose the same flight and a driver picked us up from the airport (talking almost nothing) and brought us to our accommodation, a student’s hostel, where we soon met some other interns. They called the people from IAESTE immediately, so that Shubankar, a guy from the LC Manipal came to welcome us, even though it was late at night. I shared a room with Klaudia from Poland and we lived in a flat with the other polish people and one Czech girl. The flat was quite simple, without kitchen, but quite spacious and after cleaning we could unpack our stuff. We didn’t have an air condition, but for me it was really okay with the temperature, sometimes even too cold because of the fan and every one of us caught a cold at least once in the summer. But the problem without AC is the high humidity, so everything got mouldy easily (even passports).

In the first month the house filled up more and more with new interns from all over the world and once we counted about 25 countries. It was really nice too meet people from so many different places and talk about the differences, but on the other hand find out how similar we are and that we also share some kind of global culture. In the evening we often played some games or had some drinks at the rooftop and especially in the beginning, when we were only about 15 to 20 people we went out to have dinner together. In August we were more than 50 interns, so it split up in smaller groups.

The people from the IEASTE LC Manipal took care very well about all of us and organized a lot of things; also free time activities like the dinners or weekend trips or a ball. In general, you could always ask them any question, but of course in India everything takes a little time. In August when their semester started and all IAESTE people were there, everyone got a personal buddy.

Like all other interns I worked at the University, so the LC was always close and you always meet people around the campus or on the street. The professor I had to work for was not easily available, which made the work a bit difficult. He was in charge of a lot of administration work. It was also very difficult to communicate with him (after waiting forever), because of language problems and I think he was not sure what work he should give me. He did not tell me clearly what to do and changed his opinion sometimes. That is why I think I could have done more or more useful research. However, it was useful for me, because I got practice in GIS.

In the beginning I had to search for and read scientific papers about hydromorphology and then do some work with QGIS like delineating the river basin and digitalizing some maps. When my professor changed the topic I had to read some more and in the end I wrote a report about 25 pages together with my colleague, another intern form Poland. It was very interesting for me and I could learn something, but I think for three months it was not so much. For me personally it was a really nice experience, because I improved my English, I got to know a lot of nice people and I could experience life in India from another perspective than the touristic one. Moreover, I got to know another university in a foreign country and their people and structures.

And I learned one important thing about India: It never stops surprising you. It is just so big, having so many cultures and so much diversity. I am really glad that I had time on the weekends to explore the country with my new friends there. We visited tea and spice plantations in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, a music festival in Goa, ancient sites in Hampi, one really high water fall; we went rafting in the jungle and hiking in the mountains and we went shopping in Mangalore. Sometimes, we visited some beaches nearby.

In general, three months was the perfect duration of the internship and I really liked my experience – the country, the people, the food and the international atmosphere.

Dushanbe, Tajikistan

Arrival

I flew to the capital Dushanbe. Volunteers from IAESTE Dushanbe helped me to get a taxi from there to Khujand, the second biggest city of Tajikistan in the north of the country, where I was gonna do my internship. That meant 5 hours of driving through the mountains on really crazy streets. There was a great view but sometimes it was quite scary. When I finally arrived in Khujand, Mirzoamir from IAESTE Khujand picked me up and we went to a vegetarian canteen (most likely the only vegetarian place in Khujand). Then he brought me to the apartment, which was his family’s old flat, where I was staying on my own during the next 4 weeks. In the evening there was already a meeting of the IAESTE volunteers in Khujand, where I met the other trainees.

Free time

In the weekends I always did things together with the other trainees and the people from IAESTE Khujand. Already the first weekend I spent in Tajikistan we went on a trip all together to a lake in the mountains where also the trainees from Dushanbe joined. First, on Friday we went to the lake close by to the city and then we ate Plov – a dish out of rice, carrots and meat and not to forget a lot of oil, very common in central Asia. The next day we all went 6 hours in a small bus on the same road where I was coming from Dushanbe. We made some stops to see a small museum in a town on the way and to eat lunch at a place already in the beginning of the mountains. The temperature drop was quite interesting – in Khujand there were 35 degrees, and in the mountain only around 25. Then we finally got the camp site next to the lake. This place was really amazing. After we arrived it started to rain heavily which was quite a variation from the hot and dry weather in Khujand. After the rain stopped we made a bonfire and then we looked at the stars. There you had an amazing view on the night sky because there was no light pollution. The next day we went on walks around the area and went to a big water fall. Before going back we had to take a swim in the lake of course, but we only stayed inside the water for a few seconds because it only had like 15 degrees – except for a Norwegian girl. The other weekends we spent in and around Khujand. We met a lot for walks in different parks and for dinner, and not to forget for bowling. The IAESTE volunteers from Khujand also showed us different places, for example a traditional teahouse in an area where a lot of weddings where happening. At that time there were at least 10 wedding couples around. In general weddings are THE events during summer. I myself attended even two weddings. I was invited to the first one by Mirzoamir whom I met before in Vienna. I stayed at the table with his aunts and cousins. This was a really interesting experience. Mirzoamirs family is really rich so the wedding was super-big. There was fireworks, a music band with dancers and so on. One of the weirdest things was the fact that the wedding couple had to sit at their own table not in so close proximity to the other guests the whole time except for one dance.

The work

I was working in a milk processing company. They collect milk from very small farms around the area and produce dairy products like yoghurt, cream, pasteurized milk and cream cheese. During the first days I was shown around by the woman who works in the „laboratory“. She is always checking if the milk that was delivered was still good and she showed me how to measure the fat content of a product. But in general there was not much to do in the lab because first of all they didn’t make many measurements in the first place and there were two employees who worked in the lab. So most of the time I only could help in the production – so manual work like sticking barcodes on cups for hours or putting cream cheese into plastic boxes which was quite tiring. After asking the factory manager (the only one who spoke some English) to give me something more to do she just said tomorrow but then nothing happend. After going to her again we managed to ask some IAESTE volunteers to come to the company and translate for me. So they at least explained me the production processes. That was really nice of the IAESTE people. But then there was nothing to do again. So I have to say I wasn’t really satisfied with my internship because I didn’t really learn anything new. If I would have known some Russian maybe the working experience would have been better. Well, at least the rest of my internship was a great experience. Tajikistan is a very interesting country. It’s ex-soviet and muslim which is an interesting mixture. All the people are really nice and welcoming.

I can recommend everybody to go to
Tajikistan and see for yourself!

Tokio, Japan

Preparation and arriving in Japan

To apply for an IAESTE internship, I had to fill out a profile on their website. Everything went smoothly, and I got feedback if something was not right or must be changed. After I got nominated, I had to fill out some paperwork and finish the application with a cover letter. I sent the complete application to my IAESTE contact, and he took care of applying to Japan. Two days afterwards I got the notification that I was accepted by the company and would spend my summer in Japan. The only thing I had to do was booking my flight to Tokyo. Everything else was organised by IAESTE Austria and IAESTE Japan. When my internship got closer, I was contacted by a Japanese IAESTE member. She introduced herself as my contact person, who will help me through my first days in Japan and give me as much information in advance as I needed. She was also in contact with my company, and I got a lot of information about my work in advance. When I flew to Japan, I got picked up by my contact person at Nippori train station. She accompanied me to my hotel and helped me with the check in and she explained to me when and how I have to go to my apartment a few days later. She accompanied me to my apartment and also on my first day at the company to avoid misunderstandings. After that, I was allowed to ask her any questions if I needed advice or a translator.

Living in Japan

In the beginning, everything was overwhelming for me. My contact person helped a lot, but Tokyo alone has 13 million inhabitants. Including the metro area, which in fact is the city, Tokyo has around 37 million inhabitants. I never lived in such a big city before, which made it a massive challenge for me. The public transport system is enormous and even native people had to use their smartphones to get the right connection. Luckily Google maps helped me out, and I was able to navigate in Japan. My first impression was that Japanese people are amicable but in general introverted. They hardly approach someone on the street, which means that you always have to contact them if you need something. Only if you look like as you would look for something or you are confused, they come over to you and ask you if you need help. One problem in such a situation is that I do not speak Japanese and most of the Japanese people hardly talk English. This makes it almost impossible to talk with them, but they wanted to help me, and so we often communicated with Google translate or with gestures. After four days in Tokyo, I moved into my apartment, which was paid by my company. The room was bigger as the average room in Japan. I lived there alone, and I had a kitchen and a washing machine in my flat. The apartment was close to a supermarket, and I only had 20 minutes walk to my company, which was great. Living costs are slightly higher as in Austria, but since I got paid for the internship that was not a problem.

Working for KDDI Total Research Institute

I worked for KDDI Total Research Institute in Fujimino in the Information Security group. On my first day got a welcome meeting, where my colleagues introduced me to my research topic and told me what they expect from me during my internship. Since I worked for an international research company, I worked with foreign people from around the world. In the Information Security group, we worked on one of their main research topics, which was the Internet of Things (IoT). The English level was much higher than I expected from my first days in Japan, which made working and talking with my colleagues much more comfortable. The attitude to work is different to Austria. All my colleagues started working between 9, and 10 am in the morning and stood at work until 9 or 10 p.m. I got my badge on my first day, so I was able to work whenever I wanted. The most significant difference for me, compared to the working attitude in Austria was that most of my colleagues focused hard on their research topic and they hardly talked to each other, except when they needed some advice or wanted to discuss some research results. Personal talks happened only during lunchtime, which was fixed for one hour, were also the light in the office was switched off. What I liked about my internship and the company was, that they gave me the freedom to chose my research topic on my own. As long I would research within the domain they told me in my welcome meeting, it was fine. If I needed some advice or wanted to discuss my
results with them, they always arranged a meeting for us, such that we could talk about everything in detail. This internship gave me a lot of insights how research in a private company works and if I would like this kind of work in the future.

Spending your spare time

From my apartment, it took me about 45 minutes to the city centre of Tokyo. I had a direct line from my home in Fujimino to Ikebukuro, from which most further connections are available. IAESTE Japan connected me with other trainees via a Facebook group, and they organised some special events for us. One of which was a firework festival in Tokyo where the group picture below arose. Other events included a trip to Yokohama, Osaka or Mount Fuji. After some while, we also organised some other activities to Kamakura and Saitama. During the weekend I tried to see as much as possible from the country. The countryside of Japan is stunning, and it reminded me a little bit of Austria. In most cities, you can find multiple shrines, which are beautiful and give you an insight how important religion is in Japan. After I finished my internship, I took the chance to travel to Japan for some days. IAESTE supported me to be safe with my visa and to have a descend travel route.

Conclusion

My internship in Japan was one of the best experiences I have ever made. I liked my internship and hanging out with the other trainees. Getting to know such a different culture will influence me in so many different ways, and I am grateful for the offered experience. I would like to thank KDDI Total Research Institute for participating in the IAESTE trainee program and IAESTE for organising it. IAESTE of helped me in so many ways before and during my internship, which made it such a great experience.

Hong Kong, China

Introduction

My name is Carina Dertnig and I am studying Chemistry at Graz University of Technology in Austria. During this year’s summer holidays, which means after the first year of my master programme, I did a six-week IAESTE internship at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The Support of IAESTE I want to say a big thank you to IAESTE Austria as well as IAESTE Hong Kong. They are doing great work in giving students the chance for international internships connected to their studies. Additionally, they supported me during the whole preparation process as well as during the internship. IAESTE helped to organize the visa for us interns, who came to Hong Kong, and if possible, sent it to us in advance. They also organized our accommodation in Hong Kong and were there for us on site. The IAESTE Hong Kong reception team picked us up at a bus stop near our accommodation on our arrival, showed us the way to our working place, organized some trips and were there for us whenever we needed something. I think all this work is very important, because I felt welcome from the very beginning and knew that I was not alone. The only thing I had to organize myself was the insurance, which is obligatory for an IAESTE internship. I made this insurance via STA travel, where a job as well as travelling are included.

Work

I worked at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University in the Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology for six weeks. More exactly, I worked in analytical chemistry. My main project was the trial analysis of two kinds of samples, fish maw and abalone, which have never been analyzed before in this working group. The main goals were to find out the best method to analyze these samples, including sample preparation, homogenization and the analysis itself, and to get an overview of compounds that can be found in them. To be honest, the work itself was not really my field of interest and I would have preferred to do more chemical work and less work on Excel. However, as you will read later on, I totally don’t regret this internship, quite the contrary. The payment of IAESTE internships is adjusted to the country you are working in and was sufficient for the living costs in Hong Kong.

Accommodation

IAESTE Hong Kong organized the accommodation for all interns, which was a student dorm around 10 to 20 minutes walk away from our working places. In the dorm, we lived in kind of flats with a fridge, an eating area, two showers with a toilet and a sink each, additional sinks outside of the showers and four rooms. There were three double and one triple room. In the room, each person had a bed, a cupboard, a desk and some shelves. Not all people in the flats were IAESTE interns, but as far as I know, the people sleeping together in one room were always IAESTE interns. We paid HK$88 per person per night for sleeping there, which is around 9 – 10 €. Additionally, we had the possibility to use air condition, which had to be paid extra according to our use. In the dorm, there were kitchens, washing and drying machines in every floor. Additionally, there were a lot of extra rooms, like common rooms, sky gardens, a study room, a silent room, a game room and more. I was very happy with the accommodation and it was nice that all interns lived there together, so we could stay in touch easily.

Free Time and Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, the weather is very hot, humid and unpredictable. The city itself is very beautiful, contrary, as there are a lot of nature but also a lot of skyscrapers, and there are so many things to explore. Even during my internship I couldn’t see everything, though we did trips almost every day. This brings me to the part of free time. We were a very big group of interns from all over the world who worked at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. There were people from USA, Thailand, Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Macedonia, Spain, Serbia, Jordan, Taiwan, Slovakia and more. We had a WhatsApp group altogether, where we always communicated and planned our trips. We all got very close to each other soon, as we were in the same situation, going to a new country without knowing anyone. We really used every free time we had to see new parts of Hong Kong or even somewhere else. Most of us went to Macao, which is another special administrative region of China, we slept a whole weekend in Lantau Island, which is a part of Hong Kong, we went to a firework, to sightseeing attractions, to a horse race and much more.

Conclusion

I can really recommend such an experience with all my heart. I am so happy that I was brave enough to go to Hong Kong alone. However, I never really felt alone, as we were such a big and nice group and also had the IAESTE Hong Kong team who cared for us. If I am honest, the work itself wasn’t really my field of interest. Still, the internship was an awesome and important time and even if I didn’t learn so much in chemistry, I learned a lot for my life. I got to know a different culture, I improved my English skills, I learned how to trust more in myself, how to cope with unforeseen situations and to be more self reliant and spontaneously. I earned additional soft skills and organizational skills. I have become friends with really great people from all over the world and I have made priceless memories with them in Hong Kong. Some of us are already planning a reunion in Europe right now. I can only recommend a unique experience like this one and I would always take this chance again.

Doha, Qatar

Travel

I was going by Emirates with one stop in Dubai. The flight was one of the cheapest and with a acceptable stopping time in Dubai. Additionally I was able to take 30kg of luggage with me. The company organized a driver for me from the airport to the accommodation and back to the airport at the end of my internship.

Accommodation

I lived in Mesaieed, a small worker city in the south of Doha, the capital city of Qatar. The accommodation was the QAPCO club, which was owned by the company itself. I had my own room with a separate bathroom and a mall entrance room. I was allowed to use all the facilities the club offered, including the gym, swimming pool, restaurant, football and tennis fields and billiard tables. The club is offered to the employees of the company to give them a possibility to relax after work. I was allowed to order all meals to my room and everything was paid by the company, so I didn’t need to pay for any meal there.

Work

I worked at the QAPCO plant in the south of Mesaieed. The company’s main product was polyethylene, which was produced out of the natural gas in Qatar. We were picked up every morning by a driver who brought us directly to the plant. We also had a driver back to the accommodation every working day. The working week starts on Sunday in Qatar and ends on Thursday. We had to work four hours per day where we had to visit different departments and workshops. We did not have any tasks, the purpose of our training was to learn and to understand the working process of the company. Therefor we were offered several lectures and we were allowed to enter the plant with different departments and observe them during their work. The whole training was lend on to a course of Qatar university. The students there have to do an internship like that and have to hand in reports about their work, what we didn’t have to do. My supervisor from the HR department was really motivated and wanted me to have a good time in Qatar.

Free time

The company changed the accommodation from Doha to Mesaieed just a few weeks before I arrived, but they didn’t offered a driver for that. Due to the poor public transport we had to pay taxis or private drivers to get to Doha. IAESTE in Qatar organized two meetings, one at Souq Waqif, the old town of Doha and the other one was a safari trip to the south of Qatar with some Japanese exchange students. All the other program was organized by our own. We met a lot of students from Qatar university, who picked us up several times. The most of the times we  spent our free time in the QAPCO club, but if we were in Doha we had shisha at Souq Waqif or we visited a juice bar or a hotel. We also went out to a club once, but the alcohol there is very expensive as well as the entrance fee to the club. For me a big highlight was the World 9-Ball Championship, which took place in Doha during my time there. I visited it several times and was able to talk to all the stars of the scene.

Conclusion

In the end I can say, that my time in Qatar was really good. Although the work was not like expected, I met a lot of interesting people and created new friendships. Discovering this muslim country teaches me a lot about understanding different cultures and religions. Qatar is a very international country due to just 15% of the inhabitants of Qatar hold the Qatari citizenship. The company offered us some documents so that we can read about, how we should act and dress in public.