Why did you specifically choose India? And why IITM?

I had an opportunity to go to many places as my university in Portugal had many partnerships around the world. I felt that this was the right time to experience a culture so different from ours and IITM is a very big university. I thought, why not go to India for a year?

How did you get to know that IITM had that program that you were interested in?

That was not very difficult since the partnership was very well established. It was very easy to contact my professors and colleagues who had previously been in IIT and they gave me a lot of feedback and so that was an easy choice. There have been quite a few students that have come to IITM from my college. 

Tell us how your coursework here is different from what is done back home.

This is the first year of my masters and as an exchange student, I’m doing courses according to my curriculum in Portugal. I’m doing a few courses in the electrical engineering department, one in aerospace and one in mathematics. I have picked courses that not only interest me the most but also fit better my curriculum back home.

In Portugal we have 3 branches in Aerospace, the space part, the more mechanical part- about aircraft materials, aerodynamics etc and the third is electronics of aircraft, which is about the control systems; this is what I am most interested in. In IITM, much more focus is given on the mechanical aspect in the Aerospace department and that is why I am taking quite a few courses in the electrical engineering department.

Did you have any stereotypes or presumptions before coming to India about the people here or the institute?

I did have some presumptions based on the feedback from my peers who have been to India before. They were mostly about the bureaucracy and the way things aren’t defined beforehand such as coursework and assignments. I was told that I wouldn’t really know what to expect before choosing a course as it was pretty much up to the professor. All of this is exactly what I have experienced, but that doesn’t necessarily mean its a bad thing. I’m used to having predefined coursework back home. Apart from this, I didn’t have any fixed notions about the people before coming here. I have been here for about two months, and I have met a lot of localities and people from other parts as well. They are all very welcoming. They want to get to know me and I want to get to know them.

What are some of the activities that you enjoy doing within the campus in your free time?

I enjoy playing sports and this campus has amazing facilities for example in my hostel we have a volleyball cum cricket court and a badminton court as well. I also enjoy jogging and this campus is perfect for that with the greenery and the wide roads. I have also enrolled in silambam (an Indian martial art) classes this semester and I’m really enjoying that as well.

What all have you explored outside the campus?

In Portugal, I enjoyed surfing as it is near the sea and there are plenty of high waves. The Kovalam beach here is not far, has a surf school and some good waves. Sometimes I go there over the weekends. Other times I visit local places, walk down to a nearby market or just wander around to get a feel for the city because it is very different from inside campus.

I have also visited Madurai and Rameshwaram. I am very surprised to see the dedication with which the people here visit the temples. I met a couple from Gujarat on the train to Rameshwaram. They had traveled for forty hours just to visit the temple. I was impressed with the level of commitment.

How has your experience been with Indian cuisine?

It is very different from what I was used to in Portugal. At first, it was a little difficult because we don’t use many spices, but now I think I can handle it. I enjoy the variety of food in India. The staple food is rice and chapati with vegetables and curry. Back in Portugal, meat is stable diet and there is very less daily consumption of vegetables and wheat and rice. This was a very big difference but it was easy to adapt to because of the mess here. There is also a lot of variety in the mess and I always feel full and satisfied after eating there. 

How is your campus different from IITM?

Our campus in Portugal is a completely different concept from IITM. It’s not as big and we do not have hostels inside campus. It has the engineering departments but not others like the Humanities and Social Sciences Department or the Management Department. It’s right in the middle of the city. I live in a hostel outside so I need to commute about thirty minutes every day to campus and back. There is no supermarket or stadium on campus. It’s purely academic.

What are your future plans whilst you’re in India?

The main reason I wanted to come to India was to explore as I really like to travel. I am going to stay here till May next year, so there is plenty of time to do so. I have been going to different places over the weekend, by maybe a night train and coming back on Monday morning. In between the semesters, I want to make a big trip to North India and visit places like New Delhi, Rajasthan, and Agra. I’m very intrigued by the north-east. I’m also exploring the possibility of going for a trek in West Bengal.

Join Afonso and a lot more exchange students on the 31st of October at SAC for the International Day!

Author – Adriza, BT’23

This article is part of the series – Foreign Exchange. To get regular updates on all our articles, follow us on Facebook at /chennai36 and Instagram at chennai36_iitm