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Ashish Nanda is a 3rd year Undergraduate pursuing a B.Tech in Engineering Physics
My internship selection occurred early in the November, which also had the advantage of making our IC happy given that 10% of our batch(4 of us) were set in one go. Seven months later, I am currently in the middle of my internship at the University of Luxembourg as part of the Physics and Material Sciences group.
Pre Intern – Getting there
Selection for the intern was based on our resumes and an interview. The interview was informal in tone ending with a general discussion about Physics with the professor. An important takeaway was that it’s important to be clear about what you wish to do as an intern because the professor structures the project based on your interactions. Discussing after the interview, we decided that the guy who spoke about seeking childhood inspiration from Feynman should probably be treating us all soon(he hasn’t yet..). Air tickets and accommodation were provided by the University along with a stipend which is sufficient for living expenses with a little to spare.
Intern – The part right now
My work right now is on transport in quantum billiards, using semiclassical approximations. A large chunk of the work assigned involves running simulations followed by reading up on theory. And then repeat. The amount of work you take up and the pace with which you go about is left to you. There is flexibility in work timings and also a number of coffee breaks to keep you going. The eye opening part of the intern for me has been working with other members of the group. These are people who are genuinely passionate about the science they do and can usually be found discussing/arguing beside the whiteboard in the hallways.
While the University is smaller than insti right now, they have aggressive plans for expansion with new infrastructure coming up and good funding for research as compared to the rest of Europe. Not all fields are viewed equally by the University however, with a preference for Applied over Theoretical Physics. Which means that the University is a great place for working on projects in Solid State Physics or Quantum Computing rather than fields like Astrophysics etc. However, the professors are flexible about the work you do with options to change the topic at hand.
The City – Daily life
It’s not an exaggeration when I say that it’s easy to mistake a bus driver for a banker here. The people in the city are affluent which is highly visible in the clothes they wear and the cars they drive around. One consequence of this for us has been a marked shift in our dressing and grooming after getting here(which should last for the duration of our stay here). Luxembourg has ambitious plans for the future and you can see bigger and better buildings coming up nearly everywhere you go in the city. This is seen in the university as well with a newer and more technologically advanced campus coming up which the department should be moving into next year.
French is the main language spoken in the city and with the older generations you are reduced to pointing and miming to communicate. Even the groceries in supermarkets are marked only in French which means that when Google translate fails to give comprehensible results, you can make mistakes like picking up potato wedges instead of chicken nuggets. The younger population speaks English though and are friendly which makes speaking with them easier. The City is pretty small both in terms of size and population, especially when compared to Mumbai. This translates into virtually no crowds anywhere and cleaner streets. But there are downsides as well with most shops closing early and people getting home by 7 in the evening leaving the streets deserted at night. However there are great places to let your hair down on weekends with a decent number of places to party or chill as you like.
The University provides accommodation at various residences spread throughout the city. Neighbours at the house are friendly and helpful if you need them. Cooking/Learning to cook is essential and for me, progressing from boiled eggs to making a complete lunch felt awesome to say the least. This was a common sentiment among all my friends interning abroad which meant our Whatsapp groups were filled with pictures of all we had cooked for a few days rather than the places we stayed at. Brussels, Germany and France all share boundaries with Luxembourg which makes them the first places to strike off your list. Ridesharing services have been our best bet so far with faster travel compared to trains and for getting to know new people.
The trip from here
Other than the work done, this has been a great place for me to get a picture of what getting into academia will entail and to get my thoughts about my future in order. Exposure to a different culture is better experienced than read about and the city has offered me that. Learning to live on my own in an alien place with different ideals and views about everything has been an interesting and fun experience.
Great place, great people. 10/10 would recommend
Bring spices from home though. Lots of them.