It was one of those warm April nights when my phone lighted up with a new email. And that changed everythi ng. I forgot about my hectic day, the assignments, everything. I just had been accepted for a summer research internship at AGH University of Science and Technology, Krakow, Poland. God, I was so happy that night!Before I go ahead, I’d like to explain how I managed to reach an unheard place somewhere in Poland while people find it difficult to find an internship in India itself. Fortunately for me, Manipal University houses the Indian committee of an international organization called IAESTE that offers technical internships, traineeships and summer research programs for students in technical fields. And I owe a lot to them for this opportunity!
My first day at work was freaky. Department of Mechatronics and Robotics. Working under the director of the faculty. A professor with decades of teaching experience, and a (holy hell) 607 publications under his name. I hope you understand my fright at that time. But I was pleasantly surprised when I first met Professor T. Uhl. We shook hands warmly and talked about how I liked Poland. Quite friendly (as I have already mentioned!) indeed. Although my offer form said Swarm Robotics it was really amazing when my professor asked me what I wanted to work with. He looked pretty surprised when I said Control Systems. He introduced me to Dr. Buratowski (Henceforth Dr. B. I am lazy, my apologies), my mentor, another awe-worthy professor, one of the most amazing educators I have known of. Dr. B introduced me to a junior of his along with whom I was to do my first task. Simulate the control systems of a mono-wheeled robot using a Catia based simulation software and inputting control data values using Matlab to see the simulated output. Holy s**t. I was screwed. I was just a recent second year pass-out from an electronics background; all this was so darned intimidating! Okay, I did not mind learning new stuff, but MATLAB?! Gosh, I passed a lab using Matlab out of sheer luck! Luckily the college could provide me LabVIEW, of which I had some previous experience. The work finally got over! Finally!
It was only then that I was so much relieved that I started noticing the amazingness of the country I was in, in full detail. Poland is beautiful. Oh, and ever more so, especially as the UEFA Euro cup was going on in the same country! Even though there was no match in the city I was in (Krakow), the place was still colored in red and white. POLSKA! Bialo czerwoni! (Poland! The reds and whites) was a phrase heard all over! Thousands of people gathered in the fan zones to watch the match, drowning in a sea of beer when their team won, even more when teams lost. The air was filled with cheerfulness, which surprisingly was the same even when the Euro cup was done with. It was just the atmosphere of the place that changed it all! Work was great! By then, I had started work on my second task review and analysis of path planning algorithms in Mobile Robots. Purely theoretical. Lots of research work. Luckily Prof B. was amazing enough to let me work from my dorm room. That was so amazing for me, especially because of the amazing people I lived with, all interns with IAESTE. Poles, Indians, Romanians, Macedonians, Spaniards, Turks, Hungarians, Hong-Kongers, Japanese, Kazakhs, Ukrainians, SLOVAKIANS, Jordanians…the world was in Krakow, I felt.
It was so amazing, knowing that people from all over the world were ridiculously interested in India, the culture, the people, the food (especially!). It was really proud watching satisfied faces after tasting decently made butter-chicken. And Bollywood, I mustn’t forget about it! With the Indian film industry going overseas in fame, no stones were left unturned in Poland. These people knew all about Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Rajnikant and Hritik Roshan (surprising, but true!). But that was not the best part, here’s the shocker. Guess which Indian song is famous amongst all the countries I mentioned up there? More than Jai Ho, perhaps?! Can’t? Here it is TUNAK TUNAK TUN by Daler Mehndi! Whoa, right?! While more than half of the current generation in India do not recollect watching the music video, almost all other interns there remembered the dance steps and the tune till the end of the video! Brilliant, I must say!
Well, anyways, I seem to be sidetracking a bit. Back to the internship story – All was going great! My second task was over and I was down to my final three. Small reviews. Mobile robots again. It was amazing as it left me enough time to go around places! Meet new people, see new places. Well, I might sound as if the internship wasn’t so technically inspiring for me, but I must state it was! So amazing that it even got me started on two technical papers of mine which I am currently authoring!
God, I am so missing my time back in Poland now. I am kind of ashamed too. Thinking of going back to Poland on the Indian independence day?! That is not something a patriot must ideally think of. But what can I do? These two months changed my life. It changed my total perception of working in a research field. I learned a lot technically, met new people, learnt about new cultures from all across the globe, saw new places created memories to be cherished forever. Life shall go on, new projects, new internships, new paths to follow but summer 2012 will always hold a special place in my heart and mind.