Gathering novel experiences

Theresa Eggler from ETH Zurich narrates stories about her experience in Bangalore – work, travel and more…

As I complete my Masters in mechanical engineering at ETH Zurich,  I decided it’s time for “one last adventure” before serious adulthood begins. I heard about swissnex India’s ‘India Industry Internship’ program during a lecture at ETH and got hooked right away. Long story short, I decided to join Cyclops from April 2019 to June 2019 for a three-month internship. Being busy with wrapping up an ongoing thesis in Zurich I did not have much time to think about what to expect. I´ve travelled around Asia and stayed in Singapore for a while. But from what people said, “India is nothing like that”. So I took off, excited to see “nothing like the rest”.

I heard a lot about the traffic, the noise, the chaos, the smell (etc.) and when I arrived it was “nothing like that”. Putting all hearsay and prejudices aside, I was pleasantly surprised. The city was so green, I almost felt like I was driving through my hometown in Austria. The first day at my new workplace went great. The team welcomed me warmly and explained to me the most important “need to knows” about Bangalore right away. From my desk I was able to see coconut palm trees, to me, this felt like being on vacation and at work at the same time. While taking photos of the view I could see my colleagues gaze shifting towards me thinking “what’s so special about this view”. Well, coconut palm trees as an office view were indeed foreign to me.

They didn’t only have the coconuts on the trees, they also sell these “tender coconuts” on the street, getting these quickly became a daily ritual of mine. My workplace was located in Jayanagar, which I could reach by metro easily, hence I was happily avoiding the packed streets of Bangalore. The start-up Cyclops is developing eye-tracking goggles to simply diagnose balance problems (vertigo etc.) of patients. My colleagues have a background in software engineering or medicine which made my daily routine super interesting. My part was to model the inner ear (which one can say is the so- called “epicenter of the human’s balance system (vestibular system)”) and relate the head movement to the fluidic flow inside of the inner ear.

While I wasn´t working (on the weekends) I used my time to explore the country and Bangalore itself. Bangalore, the garden city, is easiest to explore by auto (tuk-tuk) (if you are lucky enough to catch one!). It is a modern city where you´ll find billionaire homes and slums. Coping with this kind of inequality is part of the experience of staying in India (and not always easy…). Bangalore is dusty and of course, you´ll find some trash on the street, cows lurking for food in the trash, street dogs strolling around and some street vendors that may not seem too hygienic. But you`ll also find the best mangoes (YES! I came during mango season, which is highly recommended) sold by street vendors, some amazing chards (savory snacks), the smell of freshly brewed filter coffee or chai as well as the smell of south Indian must try dishes like masala dosa or some super hip restaurants and cafés in Indiranagar. I enjoyed these things so much I didn’t bother about the first part anymore.

Other than that Bangalore serves as a perfect starting point for some great trips, just an overnight ride away from the beautiful beaches of Goa or the colonial building of Pondicherry. Besides that I got to see many other places, such as Mumbai, Kerala, Hampi, the Somnathpur temple and, a personal highlight of mine, I got to attend a real Indian wedding in Hubli. Being placed in a work environment with mostly Bangalore/Indian natives and the endless conversations with locals while travelling quickly showed me, that although there are cultural differences, there are way more things that unite our cultures than separates them.

And in the end, like always in life, one has to choose whether to see the similarities or the differences.

I´ll leave India with a much bigger heart and interest in the country than I´ve ever had before. It was truly a unique time that challenged me personally and made me grow. I can´t wait to come back!

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