Contributed By: Hari Eswar
During the exchange, someone described the whole thing quoting the Khalid song as “Young, Dumb and Broke”. I thought it was the aptest way to describe this complex emotion you feel while there on Exchange, trying to figure out how to navigate your way back to your host university via the cheapest possible route.
I was in Grenoble, a town in the southwest region of France, conveniently situated in the plains between the alps. When I went there for the first time, the beauty of the town was overwhelming – but I had my doubts and reservations about Exchange.
I was not sure how I was going to manage the whole three months in this place, 10,000 km from home, in this new continent. I didn’t have a plan. A couple of months before this, I was in my hostel room, adrenaline rushing through the naive me, writing down the country’s name beside the dates I was free, reading these “guides” our seniors had prepared and thinking to myself, “simple, yeah?”. There was a lot more to visiting these places than just jotting down countries against dates that you are free.
I was keen on maximizing the utility my Multi-Entry Schengen Visa gave me, I wanted to visit all the countries of Europe somehow. I didn’t have any weight to this objective. I just found the idea of doing this cool.
On Day 1 after my orientation, I set off to take this free train route with 7 changeovers that goes through 4 countries to Brussels. I didn’t have a “back-up” plan in case I miss a connection. And then I got stranded. On Day 1. In Switzerland. Thankfully, I had some people I knew in Lausanne to accommodate me for the night. I needed to plan better and have a back-up every time I mess up.
Europe, I believe, is a paradise for a meat lover like me. If you are a vegan, you will have a hard time finding cheap food. From the juicy Belgian “Mitraillette” to the Spicy Spanish Paella, Europe had a lot to offer. I didn’t shy away from eating at all. If you like to try out different drinks, Europe is a wonderful place to do that. The flavor of the food keeps changing so drastically every time you go to a new country. Every country claimed that their drinks were the best but for me, Belgium won it.
Management. The very core of my post-graduation was tested. Every aspect was tested – you had to learn to manage your time, money, energy and patience. I had to be ready to wake up at 5 in the morning to catch the first connection back home to attend the 9-am-lecture. I had to be ready to travel in over-night trains, without the comfort of your bed. I had to be ready to try and sync plans with other people, so I could visit places with them. But somehow, I didn’t make an effort to learn all of this – somehow it came to me. It came to all of us on Exchange.
On Day 102, sitting in the Paris airport, I thought that Exchange went better than I expected. Traveling through the streets of Rome alone, listening to the voice of Rick Steves explaining how Raphael and Michelangelo were different when you are standing below the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was magical. Before this, you only heard about these things from Dan Brown or Wikipedia articles. Or the faint light of Aurora Borealis in the Abisko cold followed by a double rainbow the next day. The highlight of my trip to Europe was backpacking all the way to Cabo da Roca, Portugal. It was my last major trip before India and the sunset there took my breath away. I didn’t want to leave the place. It is a must-visit if you are planning to go to Europe in the future.
Hari is a student of PGP 2017-19 batch at IIM Bangalore.