“Chaotic, bamboozling, intoxicating, crazy, exasperating, wonderful, squalid, beautiful, daunting, overwhelming, and fantastic.”
That’s how Lonely Planet Author Daniel McCrohan describes India. And I cannot find other words that better describe the last three months that I have spent there. I have always been fascinated by the Indian culture but I never really dared to explore India by myself. Thus, going there on student exchange during my last semester of my master’s program at Frankfurt School presented itself to be the perfect opportunity for me.
Frankfurt School maintains partnerships with three well-ranked Business Schools in India, of which I chose the Management Development Institute (MDI) in Gurgaon, Haryana. The Business School ranks fifth in India and is located in the business area called Gurgaon, on the outskirts of Delhi Metropolitan Area. My term started on January 1st, 2018, and ended after the final exams on March 31st, 2018. In my first week I was able to explore various electives with the first year MBA and MBA-HR batch (called juniors) after which I then had to finalize my course selection. The number of exchange students at MDI varies per term. In total we were seven students from abroad. Accommodation was provided to us exchange students in the student dorms on campus. That way, we were directly integrated into student life. Also, every exchange student was assigned to two buddies who were very helpful and made us feel welcome on campus. It was very easy to find new friends. The students were very interested and friendly: Be it organizational questions, translations (to Hindi) or travel recommendations – they were always ready to help – at any time of the day, because “MDI never sleeps” as they say. Thus, it was pretty common to find students working in the Computer Center after midnight or walking around inside the campus searching for a late midnight snack.
There is also a life outside the “campus bubble”, as my friend Paulina from Poland and I called it. Every time we walked out of the campus and travelled around, we again realized that we actually are in India. The extended weekends gave me a great opportunity to explore different places and to get to know India more and more. The country is so fascinatingly rich in culture and the landscape is impressively diverse. Obviously it was a challenge at first – being a blonde woman in India. Media puts the country in quite a bad light – and this is true in a certain way but not applicable everywhere. Sure, I could not walk around as freely as I maybe would have in Germany and I should not travel solo at night, but also being overly scared and precautious is not a solution. Travelling with a sound mind, respecting the culture, and dressing appropriately helps. Apart from that, you have to get used to the traffic “rules”, means of transportation, spicy food, and noise. But once you are used to it then it’s just the way it is –normal. Just indulge yourself into the culture, open up and experience it to the fullest, make local friends, try different kinds of food, and learn some Hindi. People say, either you like India or you don’t. I agree – I love it.
Now you are probably asking yourself “Should I choose India for my exchange?”. It depends on what you expect from your semester abroad: If you already have some travel experience and are looking for something “completely different” in every aspect, then you should! I wanted to experience a new and very different culture, country, and people, and thus I chose to become an exchange student at an Indian University. It was worth it in every way and I am more than happy with my decision.