I was eager to make the best of an exchange semester in France by integrating myself into the Toulousain lifestyle. My exchange college was the Institut national des sciences appliquées de Toulouse (part of the Federal University of Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées).
Although the first month was hard, the challenge of adapting to the place and the language barrier kept me going. To get out of my rut and try different things, even when I didn’t feel like it, I said “yes” to every experience that came my way. The times where I had to adapt to difficult situations are the moments I fondly remember.
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The main language spoken was French and so, initially, I had some difficulty adjusting to academic and social life. I was surrounded by many polyglots and being a good English speaker was not met with much approval among the French.
The social life in Toulouse was relaxed, yet there was a party scene because of the huge number of students there. This made it the perfect student city.
I also experienced my first rugby match in Toulouse. Toulousains say that a visit to Toulouse is incomplete if you do not watch rugby here.
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With regard to my course in civil engineering, I found that the French university faced similar problems to my home university, the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, in providing practical experience to students. In Toulouse, this was overcome by organising various sessions in collaboration with industry, to keep students informed of the latest developments. The focus there was more on working in industry rather than on research.
Most of my courses were based on climatic engineering and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems. The faculty in Toulouse strongly believed that India had a huge market for HVAC systems and were excited to collaborate with Indian universities on this. Many of them had attended a conference in Hyderabad to discuss the future of HVAC in India.
The courses in Toulouse focused on groupwork and team skills. It was easy to coordinate work because each member of the team had a strong sense of personal commitment. I visited a chemical dyeworks to understand how its thermal power plant functioned.
Everyone was also required to participate in a physical activity component of the course. As civil engineers often work on site, it was a good idea to focus on physical fitness.
All in all, it was a great experience to meet people of different mindsets and ideologies. My exchange was made more enjoyable by my classmates with whom I could discuss any topic under the sun.
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Indian student Shubham Gupta reveals the best things about studying in France while on a semester abroad